MAGICAL MILAN – by Shruti Amriwala , CEO , Mishutana Travels
Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region (known as Lombardia in Italian) , located in Northern Italy. Till now I have had the pleasure of travelling to Milan twice . Milan , known locally as Milano, is the city of the two big Fs – Finance and Fashion . Since childhood I had a deep desire to visit Milan because I was awestruck after reading so much about this stylish city. I was invited to Milan by Mr Alessandro Mancini ( CEO of the travel boutique company Mancini Worldwide and Founder of the digital platform Connect2Italy) and his colleague and co-founder of Connect2Italy, Mr Vincenzo Pizzolante , along with Miss Francesca Donati from Promos Italia , as a part of the BUY LOMBARDIA ,2019 event which was being hosted by Promos Italia.
Apart from being known as a prominent business center and for its humongous contribution to the fashion world, Milan has its share of art and historical museums, whether it’s the 15th century citadel Sforezesco Castle which has a special chamber dedicated to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and also houses the ‘Rondanini Pieta’ – the last unfinished work of Michaelangelo, or the Santa Maria delle Grazie which is the home of the world famous The Last Supper (which I have been unable to view personally during my past 2 trips to Milan, a childhood dream which I strongly intend to fulfill during my next trip to Milano city), or the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Technologia which in English translates as the National Museum of science and technology . Apart from the world of art, Da Vinci has also made a huge contribution to the field of physics and technology which left me amazed. A visit to the National Museum of Science and Technology is a treat especially for engineers and engineering students. And as if the museums weren’t enough, you have the Brera district of Milan, consisting of sidewalk cafes, restaurants and boutiques located in cobbled alleys , which is also an individual neighborhood dedicated to art works from the 15th century. The Pinacoteca di Brera gallery ( Pinacoteca meaning Picture Gallery in Italian) was founded in 1809 by Napoleon Bonaparte and is known as the ‘Louvre of Italy’. It also consists of an elegant 10 feet high statue of Napoleon Bonaparte, which is spell binding.
At 15 minutes walking distance from Brera district is Porta Nuova which is the main business center of Milan .One cannot miss the twin residential skyscrapers Vertical Forest, located in the center of Milan (measuring up to 110 meters and 76 meters in height respectively) ,designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri, at Porta Nuova . It consists of a vertical green, forestry patch on the entire skyscraper from the bottom to the top, hence it is an architectural marvel. Tourists who have seen it dream of purchasing residential or commercial property on the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) someday.
The Teatro Alla Scalla which is the famous Opera House located in Milan city center, and the Milan Cathedral/Milan Dumos are other important points of sightseeing which should not be missed. The energy of the Piazza del Duomo is electrifying because here you encounter fashion designers, artists, models, tourists, fashion photographers , art students etc at one place , at this particular Piazza . After getting on the top of the terrace of Milan cathedral one can experience a tour of the roof tops of the Milan Cathedral, and enjoy aerial views of the Piazza del Duomo. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II which is a shopper’s paradise , right next to the Piazza del Duomo , consists of boutiques of all the major designer brands such as Prada , Versace etc and has various dining options right from the high end, sophisticated 152 year old Savinni café & restaurant(which has its own exclusive gelato counter) , to
McDonalds’ to the famous pizzeria Spontini which serves a giant slice of pizza, cut into smaller pieces and topped with authentic Italian toppings. The Galleria is the oldest shopping arcade in Milan, and it looks exceedingly beautiful during the months of November-December when it is decked with Christmas decorations . An exquisite Swarovski Christmas tree is put up every year during the Xmas season at the Galleria Vittoriale Emanuel. At 2 kms distance from Duomo, is the Navigli district of Milan famous for its night bars and restaurants . Its’ a colourful place which gets lively post-sunset. It also has a canal running through the middle of the district , thereby resembling a Mini Amsterdam . You may hit the night clubs or enjoy a meal at one of the quaint restaurants at Navigli. So if you like to enjoy the night life of a city , then please head to Navigli district ,because it has the best night clubs in Northern Italy.
During my first trip to Milan, I was put up at the jazzy boutique hotel NYX ,located in downtown Milan opposite Milano Centrale station . I was given a deluxe room on the 11th floor which provided picturesque views of the Milan city center. It has a restaurant and bar which share the common name – CLASH . “CLASH” – the restaurant , has bright interiors and offers American finger food and Italian cuisine. The “CLASH” Bar is a plush bar and a fun place to relax even if you were unable to make it to Navigli to enjoy the night life. The breakfast hall at hotel NYX was not an ordinary hall but had electrifying interiors and a divine breakfast buffet laid out. There could not be a more fun way to begin your day than relishing a scrumptious breakfast in a plush breakfast hall, with polite hotel staff to attend to you. I would describe Hotel NYX (Milan) as a fun place but unfortunately , I only got one night to spend at this hotel ,as I had to leave for the picturesque town of Salo the next day. I wish that next time I get a chance to spend at least 3 nights at NYX Milan to enjoy this upscale hotel in a more relaxed manner. During my second trip to Milan , I stayed at the UNA Hotel Expo Fiera Milano . It is a four star Hotel located close to the exhibition center RhoFiera Exhibition center where the BIT Milano event is held annually. The Fiera Milano Exhibition center is a sprawling venue for MICE and Congress events which covers an indoor area of 345,000 sq. m. and 60,000 sq. m. with several meeting booths /rooms , free wi-fi ,multiple canteens and refreshment facilities. So coming back to UNA Hotel , it has two restaurants and a bar. The hotel rooms were spacious , the staff was helpful & polite , and the food was delicious. This hotel is ideal for business travellers.
During my second trip to Italy , I didn’t get a chance to indulge in sightseeing and touristy activities since the hotel at which I was put up was away from the city center , and after a day full of meetings I wasn’t feeling adventurous to explore the city . But being in Italy, you may skip the shopping and sight seeing (due to lack of time) but you cannot stay away from their impeccable and delicious cuisine. Indians love travelling to Europe, but Italy is a huge hit amongst the Indian community, one of the reasons being the – mouthwatering Italian cuisine which the Indian population is very familiar with. I have been treated to the Milanese risotto/ Saffron risotto which is a sophisticated dish ,just like city of Milan itself. It is made from risotto rice grains ,milk ,cheese and of course saffron which is the reason behind its rich yellow colour .
Although I am a vegetarian , I have tasted both the types of lasagna – the tomato and aubergine lasagna which tastes amazing ,(but please make sure that you are not wearing anything in white or pastels while eating it if unfortunately you happen to be clumsy like me :p ) and the pesto lasagna which is rich in taste, layered with vegetables ,cheese and contains nutmeg powder ( Highly recommended dish but not the ideal dish that one should have during lunch time because the nutmeg powder might be responsible to make one feel drowsy. Hence it should be avoided during lunch unless ,you have time to catch a quick siesta post lunch :p ) What could be more perfect than eating a freshly baked cheese margherita pizza straight from the oven or a piping hot Italian minestrone soup topped with melting parmesan cheese and bruschetta bread(which is not only a treat for the taste buds but also a visual treat due to the colourful vegetables) on a wintry evening in Milan. The fusilli pasta in arrabiata sauce ,with a tomato – mozzarella salad as an accompaniment (by the way , it consisted of huge bulbous chunks of mozzarella cheese J ) was another delectable combination which was served to me in Milan, and it shall be one of the most memorable meals I have enjoyed in Italy.
When I think of Milan, the word ‘sophistication’ comes to my mind. Even before I had visited Milan , I always had the image of Milan in my mind as a sophisticated city ,which got confirmed after my frequent visits. I have personally visited Paris (in France) twice . Paris is known as a “Fashion Paradise” ,but yet Milan has a refined, sophisticated feel and is therefore close to my heart. Milan consists of commercial business districts , shopping districts (such as Corso Buenos Aires , Corso Venezia etc), famous museums & art galleries , lush green parks & gardens , and the Navigli district which has the most exciting night life in Europe. It can satisfy the taste buds of all ranging from cute local cafes and pizzerias to high end Michelin star restaurants which serve specially curated meals , accompanied by the finest wines . The Armani Hotel Milano located in the chic district of Quadrilatero della Moda district , is the pride of Milan .Whether you are a fashionista , a business traveller or a tourist , Milan is a versatile city which can entice and win over your heart. I can’t wait to get back to Milan, and you too will feel that way after your first trip to Milan. We are waiting for Italy to open up again so that they welcome Indian tourists and travellers since the Indian market is huge , and Indian travellers have always had a soft corner for Italy. In spite of multiple visits , the magic of Milan doesn’t seem to wear off and my familiarity with the city makes me feel as if I share a close connection with this city. So here’s me looking forward to my next trip to Milan – Ciao , Milano! A presto 😉