And in all honesty, Milan has never been on my list of places to visit in Italy.
But I am not one to miss an opportunity, so when the chance presented itself, I took it.
On my trip to Italy last November, I flew in and out of Milan. I could have chosen to fly into Rome. But for this trip, Milan suited my plans better.
And maybe I had been missing something.
Why only a day? Actually, I had two nights, but I arrived late afternoon and was weary after travelling. I had been in Florence for six nights, Verona for six nights and Bologna for five nights enjoying my first solo trip.
I was ready to go home.
By the time I arrived late afternoon by train from Bologna and walked to my hotel from the station I was ready to put my feet up. I enjoyed a late dinner at a restaurant close to the hotel and headed to bed early.
Which left one full day. What to do with a day?
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Global Greeters are volunteers who are passionate about their home. And they are happy to show you around the places they love best, for free.
You book the service, and when they find a greeter, you organise a time and place to meet. You can also indicate what interests you – for me that was food and architecture. Or you can leave it up to your greeter to take you to all their favourite spots.
This is not a guided tour – more a walk with a friend who is showing you around their hometown.
The service is entirely free, and you are not allowed to tip. I offered, and I offered to cover the cost of the food Fabio bought, but he would not hear of it.
I highly recommend booking a Global Greeter. It is a unique way to explore a new destination from a local perspective. It’s refreshing.
My Milan Greeter
I met Dino and Fabio from Milan Greeters. Dino met me at my hotel, we caught up with Fabio and then headed out for coffee and pastries.
Fabio very generously bought mouth-watering Milanese pastries for me to try. Then there was coffee, and lunch from Zia Esterina Sorbillo that we lined up for – crazy popular.
I have yet to work out how the Italians manage to eat pastries filled with cream with such finesse. Me? I bite into it, and cream squirts out of it. Clearly, I need more practice.
The food was not the only highlight. Although Fabio pointed out famous landmarks, he was more interested in showing me different areas, off the tourist path. The buildings and architecture were amazing. Diverse and ranging from traditional to artistic, post-war and modern-day.
We stopped to see the flamingos at Villa Invernizzi. Yes, flamingos! In the middle of Milan is a backyard filled with flamingos. You need to peek through the fence and hedge to see them, but there they are.
You would be forgiven thinking they were enjoying Italy’s hot weather, but there I was on a cold December day looking at flamingos. It was just a little strange I have to admit.
Want to know the most unusual and interesting thing I saw on my walk with Fabio? The Bronze Ear of Casa Sola-Busca.
Before the days of doorbells, this bronze ear was used as an intercom of sorts – a horn that you could shout into to announce your arrival. The “ear” was created by master sculptor Adolfo Wildt and maestros Lucio Fontana and Luigi Brogginiin in 1930.
I thoroughly enjoyed being shown around this area of Milan. Big cities are not my favourite places but getting off the main streets and seeing an array of buildings dating from medieval times to modern was fabulous.
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Main Milan Attractions
After Fabio dropped me back to my hotel, I needed to put my feet up for a while.
Fabio had been not only generous with his treats of coffee and food, but also his time. It had been a great morning – four hours of exploring Milan.
Later in the day, I headed back out to see some of the main sites of Milan. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, and as I should have learnt from my time in Verona, Sunday is a family day.
And it seemed that everyone and I mean everyone, in Milan, was out walking, shopping, catching up. It was packed. It was hard to walk. Difficult to take photos and impossible to take in the rest of Milan.
To be honest, the only main attractions I saw were the Milan Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Christmas was approaching, and Milan was transforming. The Christmas tree was being decorated in Piazza del Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was packed with people wanting to see the stunning Swarovski Christmas Tree.
The Galleria is stunning, but unfortunately due to the number of people I wasn’t able to spend any time here enjoying it.
The streets were beautifully lit, strung with Christmas lights. But for someone who hates crowds and big cities, it was not a pleasant experience.
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Did I change my mind about Milan despite a busy Sunday evening?
For now, I am happy with my short stay.
Maybe one day I will go back and experience more. I will time it better and not go exploring on a Sunday afternoon/evening.
My friend Sandy, from Global Wanderings, had recommended a walk in Parco Sempione. I would add that to my list.
And I would go back to see the Last Supper. I was unable to buy tickets on this occasion. Next time I would plan better and not leave it to the end of my trip when I was tired and ready for home.
TIP: Book your ticket for the Last Supper as soon as you know you are going to Milan. There are limited-time slots, and they sell out quickly.