Majestic, marvellous, magnificent, Milan.
What have you heard about Milan? Has it been positive or negative?
I was once told that it was a city full of cold people, freezing weather where there was nothing to see or do. “Go to the Duomo (Cathedral) and then go home” said Antonio who had lived there for ten years. As advised I went to the Duomo but as I had booked accommodation I stuck around for two days.
I arrived from Catania and pleasant December temperatures of 20° C. At the airport of Linate I took my first breath of -1°C Milanese air which froze the inside of my lungs. It would be a long two and a half days.
The website boasted of 96% reviews for Ostello Bello, Milan. Nowhere can be that good; there had to be a catch right? There was, it costs €30 to stay in a 6 bed dorm. I reluctantly paid the over inflated fee.
I arrived hungry and tired at about 10pm to see a smiling receptionist greet me. The barman asked if I wanted a free “welcome drink”. Of course I did. The receptionist then furnished me with a large plate of hummus, tomato salad, tuna and warm bread. Hostels are regarded as 1 Star but this was 5 Star fare. I was immediately energised and prepared for anything, even Milan.
Walking away from the centre, down via Torino, is the direction of Navigli meaning “canals”. Before getting there, you pass Porta Ticinese and Basillica San Lorenzo. Here during the summer, many young people hang out and enjoy the open space. This is also the area to find a decent cheap meal.
The 19th Century Porta Ticinese in Piazza 24 Maggio, Zone 6, Milan.
There is an imposing structure ahead in Piazza 24 Maggio, called Porta Ticinese. Once past this I was almost at my destination, Navigli.
It was a Tuesday and it was winter; bear this in mind before reading on. Navigli carried with it a reputation for beauty, luxurious food and drink and of course canals.
These canals were originally used to transport building materials to construct the fine Duomo. Later they became a chic location to take an aperitivo and get bitten by mosquitos.
Sadly though, in the winter they are merely the lonely, barren haunt of the lost man. I had found my way here but I had arrived two seasons early. It was vuoto not a person in sight. Giving up almost, I finally spotted Zog, and the music drew me in.
Ciao caro! Cosa posso offrirti?
Like an old friend I was greeted by the smiling barman. I took a beer and looked at the strange decor. I quizzed the barman and discovered that Milan was a weekend town and that nothing was happening in the other “lively area” Corso Como or any other part of town. I stayed where I was and got another beer.
Leaving the bar and going back out into the below zero temperatures, I stopped to look and wonder what it might be like here in summertime. The lights illuminated the canal and the streets glistened with the December frost. The chill entered my bones once again and so I had to keep moving.
Christmas wishes at the entrance to the canals
Daytime: Fruit and veg markets with Porto Ticinese in the background
A dazzling array of fresh fish and seafood
Don’t be put off by negative stories of Milan, you need to see it for yourself. It is wise though to choose well the time of your visit. Midweek in winter is not ideal from a socialising point of view; although the people are still going out, you may struggle to find out where. Be prepared to spend some money; it is Paris without the passion. Overall I liked Milan, but then crucially, I had no great expectations from which to be let down.
Back to the Gaff
Scandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland
Back to the Gaff is a book by new author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life. Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.
Ebook and Paperback available: