March Madness in Milan
March 27, 2015

In an effort to prevent millions of photos from disappearing into a black hole forever, I have decided to start a #lastyearthisday series (Today is Easter, so it’s very symbolic 🙂 )

First up, Milan.

Sukanya and I flew into Malpensa airport last year around 10 in the am. Our ultimate destination was Croatia but tickets to Milan were cheaper, so we decided to fly into Milan, explore the city for two days and then hop onto an overnight bus to Zagreb.

Quick tip: If you are looking for cheap tickets from North America to Europe, I suggest looking for tickets to Milan and then taking a low-cost airline/train to your intended destination… and thank me later of course.

Anyway, Sukanya flew in directly from India and landed at the international terminal and I got into the domestic terminal. When she asked an airport official how she could get to the domestic terminal to see, he told her “Impossible Immmmpossible” and walked away. She found her to me nearly half an hour after. I think this was a good sign that our trip was going to be pretty crazy that weekend.

We took the Malpensa shuttle to the town center. Once we got there, we tried to find our way to our Airbnb, which may sound like a simple enough task considering that the host had given us detailed instructions, but it ended up taking us FOUR hours. We booked tickets on the wrong bus, our phones died before we could find the exact address and even when the phone had charged the data signal was too weak, we tried to ask locals for directions but nobody understood us and vice versa. Finally, we met a group of Bangladeshi expats and when they discovered that Sukanya spoke their language (Bengali), they were overjoyed and helped us find our way to our Airbnb. Phew!!

Note-1 to self: When holidaying in Italy, knowing Bengali >> knowing Italian (jk lol)

Our seemingly nice host picked us from the bus stop and took us to this little coffee shop below his building and bought us macchiatos (espresso with foamed milk, yes please). After a crazy day of losing our way and lugging our 22kg bags through the cobblestone alleys in Milan, the luscious espresso was a godsend.

He then took us to his apartment, which had the most wonderful balcony overlooking many Milanese rooftops.

We sat there, basking in the crisp spring sun, nibbling our puff pastries. Our host had promised to cook lunch for us but never delivered so we were glad we had been greedy and bought one too many of these fried goodies.

Note-2 to self: You better have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

He introduced us to his super weird girlfriend who either hated us or suffered from a special case of resting bitch face. We asked them for recommendations for a casual and affordable wine bar and took an Uber to the place they recommended. This “budget bar” turned out to be a really fancy rooftop bar and the kind of place from where you would have to make an emergency phone call and say “Mom, I had to sell my kidney, I drank a glass of wine”. Perhaps we were lost in translation or perhaps they misunderstood “budget”, oh well! We excused ourselves from the bar by faking nausea and ended up in another touristy part of town.

The night went down with over-priced bad pizzas and many glasses of cheap wine and grappa.

We were slated to take a walking tour the next morning but incidentally, this was the very day Italy had decided moved their clocks one hour ahead. Thank you for your impeccable timing Italy. As luck would have it, we missed our tour in all the confusion. We drowned our sorrows with many cups of cappuccino and fresh flaky cornettos at the adorable Ottimomassimo cafe, close to the Duomo.

Note-3 to self: When in Italy, you can always count on coffee and cornetto to lift your spirits.

We then walked over to the Duomo and spent many hours admiring this breathtaking cathedral.

and befriending a few locals, who may or may not have taken a shit on me. But let’s not dwell on specifics ok?

Speaking of the Duomo, there is a legend dating back to the 16th century, when the daughter of a craftsman making the stained-glass windows of the Duomo was getting married. One of his apprentices, who used saffron to color the glass, wanted to serve “gold risotto” at the wedding banquet, by adding saffron to white risotto of course. The guests loved the taste and the golden color of the new dish and the addition of saffron to rice became widely adopted.

We decided that, even if we couldn’t see the Last Supper in Milan, our last supper (lunch in this case) there would be a risotto a la Milanese. Locals told us that El Brellin served the best risotto. After hustling through two buses, one train and a lot of walking, we made it there by 3:01. Le sigh.

Note-4 to self: When in Italy, grab lunch before 2 pm or 3 pm. Or stay hungry or lower your expectations (like we did).

Because there will always be touristy restaurants that stay open throughout the day dishing out sub-optimal food. Refusing to give up, we went to one such place where I did get to order a Milanese risotto. I can only imagine what the real deal must taste like because that by itself was pretty good.

My uncle always says “the reward is the journey and not the destination” and I completely agree. Even though we didn’t meet the Milanese nightingale Bianca Castafiora or see most/any of Milan’s best, we got a whiff of life in this vibrant city, laughed our heads off, made some pigeon friends and witnessed some adorable dog-cuddles. 🙂 10/10 would do it all over again.

Until next time Milano.

Have you been to any city where you couldn’t do anything you set out to but still enjoyed every minute of it? What did you think?