Sunday 18 November 2012

What I like about Milan

It is now 8 months since I arrived in Italy's second biggest city. I am now used to the routines, idiosyncrasies and officious bureaucracy of the place. I am enjoying my job, and it is very handy living in the centre of Milan.

I thought that now would be a good point to list what I like about being here.

Things I like about Milan

1. The transportation is quite efficient. There are buses, trams, metro and suburban trains. The taxis don't cost so much and there is even something called a radio bus which is a minibus you can call and get it to pick you up at unscheduled stops and destinations. There is also a bike sharing scheme (like the Boris Bikes in London) and a car sharing scheme (like Zip Car), so between all of these it's not too difficult to get around.

2. The compactness of the city means that many areas of the city are within walking distance. Before I got my folding bike I used to walk to work - something I'd never be able to do in London.

3. There are plenty of events going on - whether it's the routine "happy hour" in most of the bars, a book festival, a film festival or fashion week, there is always something to do. Because of the city's compactness it is quite easy to reach those places.

4. The car free days that they have once a month. One Sunday per month central Milan becomes closed to motorised traffic, apart from trams, buses, taxis, emergency services, and elecric vehicles.
This makes alot of difference to the atmosphere in the city. The authorities usually put on events like making the museums free, have an open market, or stage a mass participation running race or bike ride. It certainly makes Milan a pleasant place to be.

5. Hidden beautiful courtyards and churches. Most tourists flock to the Duomo and the Castello Sforzesca, the most famous tourist attractions in Milan. But there are some other quaint churches and squares that are less well known. The small squares near the St Ambrogio church (behind St Ambrogio tube station) are very pretty and have cute cares. It is true that Milan is not the prettiest of Italian cities! But there are still a few very old cobbled streets and ornate monuments. Another nice area is a the zone between via Torino and Corso Magenta, where there is an outdoor bar/cafe close to some ancient ruins, nestled among the trees.

6. The Navigli. Near where I live are the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese. These two canal ways (navigli) which were previously the main trade routes into Milan are now more ornamental than commercial. The canals start from the Darsena channel in Central Milan and run all the way out of Milan to other towns like Pavia, and out towards Varese where they join into tributaries of the River Po. 

The great thing is that the navigli have cycle paths all along the way so they make for very pleasant bike rides out of the city. Another Naviglio to the northeast of Milan runs out towards a national park close to the hills near Bergamo.
If you are not cycling the Naviglio Grande and Pavese are trendy places to hang out due to the numerous cafes, bars, restaurants and independent shops.

7. Easy reach of Lake Como. Milan very much a working city. Ask anyone what brings them to Milan and invariably it will be for lavoro - work (or maybe to study, in order to improve job prospects). There is a smattering of folks who are born and bred in Milan, but many people are from somewhere else. 

So naturally, Milan is one of those places that people escape from as soon as they get a chance - at weekends, during the ponte (long weekends associated with public holidays), or as soon as the weather is fine. My personal escape route is a train from Cadorna station to Lake Como. I am just a 20 minute walk from the station, and it is a 1-hour train ride to Como where I am treated to one of the most lakes in Europe, and lots of walking trails and beautiful cycle routes through the mountains to lovely towns like Lecco, Cernobbio, and Bellagio. I feel very blessed to be able to have this regular route away from the hustle and bustle of this city.


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2Wheel Chick said...

Thanks Trevor, glad you find my blog interesting. Your travel blog looks good too. I'll give you a follow. Maria :)