City Break to Milan
With the end of our first year at university nearing, myself and one of my best friends Xian decided that a holiday was needed after our exams. After scrolling for hours looking at trips away, ranging from Rome (after the Lizzie McGuire movie) to Dubai (Xian’s favourite place) to Canary Islands (all inclusive and good weather) we found Hotel Viu in Milan and instantly fell in love. The 5* hotel automatically caught our eye with its luxurious and modern decor (which is a must for the both of us) and the rooftop pool was the biggest catch of all. After a few minutes of repeatedly saying “do you want to book it?” to each other, we booked our trip to Milan and all that was needed now was to survive exam season.
Sunday 3rd June soon came around and we both woke up early to catch our flight to Milan – Malpensa and after several inconveniences at London Gatwick we got on an hour swift flight and soon touched down in Italy. Purchasing our Metro tickets we headed to the platform only to be told that we had not validated our tickets. Fast-forwarding an hour we arrived at Cadorna station and was welcomed with some Italian sunshine, which we proceeded to walk in (in hope of seeing more of Milan) despite wearing all black and wheeling our suitcases to our hotel.
Now to be completely honest, I did not instantly fall in love with Milan after being up since 5am it was clear both our energy levels were low and we wanted to quickly settle into our hotel room so we could have a classic power nap to get us through the evening of exploring. Upon arrival to our hotel (which not only was in a bizarre location for a 5* luxury hotel) we were greeted quite abruptly and it was clear it was not a miscommunication due to language barriers but rather because we were younger guests, who knows? However, if you are thinking of staying at this hotel it was only one member of staff who acted like this and there were many other members of staff who were lovely. After an unexpected deposit of €400 we were told to sit tight and wait for our room to be made ready for us, understanding the situation we sat tight however soon realised many other individuals/groups were being taken up to their room before us despite just arriving. However not wanting to be rude or cause a scene, we sat tight until our room was ready as we were told.
Once we entered into our room all of our frustration disappeared as the rooms were truly as gorgeous as pictured. Not only were the beds extremely comfortable, but the beautiful bathroom and the variation of light settings (which childishly fascinated me) were to die for. Wanting to make most of the beautiful sunshine we headed up to the rooftop pool and was amazed by the views that it offered. The rooftop pool pictures featured several times on my Instagram (courtneybekahx) due to how breathtaking they were and upon arrival waiters promptly came over to serve. Despite this, still to this day I am still unaware why small bottles of Coke/Lemonade etc costed a staggering €8 which is extortionate when in central Milan the price is approximately €4/5. Nevertheless, we soaked up some vitamin D and went and got ready for our first meal.
Now being gluten intolerant I am normally prepared for the adaptations I have to make for meals out i.e. burgers without buns or gluten-free pasta etc. However, after researching restaurants prior to my trip and seeing the various options, it was safe to say I was disappointed upon first impressions. Locals struggled with what gluten free was and I soon learnt that ‘senza glutine’ is significantly more understood. Our first evening meal was at Bioessezi if I am correct and we were highly disappointed to find that our pasta seemed undercooked. I have an understanding that Italians cook their pasta ‘al dente’ however this pasta seemed slightly too firm. Nevertheless, it offered a gluten free option for me and normal for Xian therefore due to our tiredness we accepted that it was not the best and headed off for an early night where we stopped off at the Fontana di Piazza Castello Sforza, which became a regular spot for the both of us.
After being picked up in a Jaguar with a gentleman driver who opened and closed the doors for us, our trip to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II seemed to make day two off to a positive start. Walking through the Galleria I was amazed at the architecture of the building and the luxury vibe is given off due to the high-end designers ranging from Louis Vuitton to Gucci to Versace to Prada. Unfortunately, despite living like luxury in our hotel, our student budget could not stretch us that far but a girl can dream right? We followed Italian tradition and attempted to spin on the bull’s balls which are meant to give you good luck, once again a girl can dream.
Once again food became an issue which slightly damped my mood on this trip due to Xian not being gluten intolerant, therefore the lack of options really did make me feel an inconvenience at times. However, I am lucky enough that Xian is more accommodating and at university checks the allergy list before I even get chance too. Just outside the Galleria down a side road, we came across a restaurant that was very accommodating and used gluten-free macaroni pasta as an alternative. This was one of my favourite meals in Milan, the pasta was full of flavour from the fresh tomatoes and mussels and I would definitely recommend to anyone if only I could remember the name! Finishing our day by strolling back through the Castello Sforza grounds back to our hotel, we proceeded to have a lovely evening of watching the sun go down by the Duomo.
Finally, the long anticipated day came of visiting the Duomo di Milano, for entry inside and the lift to the top it cost €16 and was worth every single euro. Not only was the inside absolutely beautiful, I had the opportunity to light a candle in memory of both my brother Thomas and my nan, which really made the day sentimental to me and although I’m not religious, lighting a candle really did mean a lot to me. While the inside of the cathedral was stunning for the architecture and stained glassed windows, I was amazed by the detailing of the building itself and the views from the top were beautiful, which definitely got some good photographs to share on here.
Now I have no shame in this next adventure at all which was to McDonald’s as every country offers a different menu and living as students I and Xian are both often taking late night drives there, back at university. Believe it or not, they offered a gluten-free burger which is non-existent back at home and bacon and cheese fries which were delicious. I had no shame in spending all of my spending money on food throughout this trip.
Seeing as we had such a beautiful day at the Duomo, the day had to be finished off right, therefore, we headed to a 5* restaurant called Maio, which gave us a beautiful view of the Duomo as the sunset. Dressed up glamorous (a huge contrast to our Portsmouth attire) we sat down and indulged in a cocktail, veal starter and risotto alla Milanese, which despite was not what I expected, it still was tasty. We finished our beautiful break the next day by eating lunch outside the Duomo Piazza and had a relaxing browse through the shops and looking at all the Givenchy, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga bags, we could not buy and decided to have a relaxed night in by ordering room service and having a beautifully cooked sirloin streak brought to us in bed.
My first impressions of Milan may have been disappointing at first, but it is safe to say my love for Milan has grown and while I may have expected more originally, the beautiful architecture was everything I expected and more and I look forward to hopefully revisiting Italy soon to experience other places.
Until next time, Ciao Milano!
Courtney Bekah x