Exploring Milano

After Spring Break, I quickly realized it was crunch time.

Milan has so many incredible things to see and do, and it hit me that I had only really seen the big touristy things – the Duomo, the castle, The Last Supper, etc. Before I left for my study abroad semester, I had promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those people who traveled so much they never really experienced their host city. After being gone for most of the month of April, I realized I had become one of those people and I vowed to do my best in using my final month to explore Milan.

Step one of my exploration of Milan was trying new cafes, since I thought I should take advantage of the fact that I was living in a country with incredible coffee. A group of us quickly became attached to Botega Caffe Cacao, a cafe in the Brera district that had an upstairs seating area with outlets and wifi, making it the perfect place to spend hours studying. They have these amazing drinks called Cremosinos, which was some wonderfully refreshing mix of espresso, cream, and chocolate chips.

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As addicting as the Cremosinos were, I had to change it up sometimes. Thanks to a recommendation from Julie, I found my way to Ca’puccino, an adorable restaurant in near Porta Venezia that let me occupy a table all day. I also had to try Bar Luce, a cafe in the Fondazione Prada campus. Fondazione Prada is an exhibition space led by Prada for the promotion and art and culture, and Bar Luce was designed by film director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) meant to emulate the typical Milanese bars of the 50s and 60s, along with a ceiling resembling the Galleria. When I went to Bar Luce it had just opened the previous week so it was incredibly crowded, but it was still cool to be able to grab a cappuccino there and walk around the outside of the Fondazione Prada.

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As much as I love Prada, I had to give my favorite Italian designer some love too. This is the 40th anniversary of Armani, so Giorgio Armani unveiled an exhibition space called Armani Silos. It opened at the start of the month with a bunch of celebrities present (Chris Pine, Cate Blanchett, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hilary Swank, Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan, Sophia Loren, Tina Turner, etc.). Armani Silos is basically a museum to showcase the last 40 years of Armani designs, and it’s laid out so that each floor focusing on a common theme in Armani’s collections – black with primary colors, the evolution of jackets, etc. Since I had just finished up a project on Armani for my fashion class, it was really cool to actually see all of the things we had researched.

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A lot of the other things I did were kind of spur of the moment –  take a detour to walk by the Borsa (Italian stock exchange – note the middle finger statue haha), get take-away lunch and eat at the Colonnes (Colonne di San Lorenzo, which are Roman ruins near Navigli), or take a quick look at the frescoes of the Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore types of things.

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Of course there were some larger excursions too. The Pinacoteca di Brera is an art gallery in the Brera district (duh). Entry is free on the first Sunday of every month so I took the opportunity to explore one of the best collection of Italian paintings. Didn’t really know what I was looking at, but I tried my best to act cultured.

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The Triennale di Milano is a design museum (Milan is not only a fashion capital but a design capital as well!), and was basically the opposite of the Brera. Because of the Expo, most of the exhibits were centered around food, and let’s just say it was really really weird.

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A trip was also made to the Cimitero Monumental (Monumental Cemetery) on the north side of the city near Garibaldi. It’s known for it’s beautiful tombstones and impressive monuments.

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I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in the last month. That being said, there are still so many churches and museums and other things in Milan that I never had a chance to visit. Milan isn’t known for being a touristy city (and it certainly has made living here easier, so I appreciate that), but there are still plenty of hidden gems if you look hard enough. Glad that I eventually figured out that looking harder was worth the effort, and now I feel like I’ve gotten to know this city so much better. Couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend the semester!

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