This morning, we were scheduled to take the morning train to Milan, the business centre of Italy and fashion capital of the world (or so some say). We had breakfast once again in the hotel restaurant before checking out and walking over to Termini railway station where we would board another Eurostar Italia. Unlike the train which we boarded from Venice, the one departing from Rome at 8:30 am in the morning had less people and were made up of mainly business passengers. The weird thing was that with much of the train empty, the 3 of us were assigned seats not in the same row and facing another group of 3 persons. Seating arrangement in the train was a 1-2 abreast though in some rows, the seats face each other with a folding table dividing it. The 3 passengers seated opposite us were sibling from America and they would be alighting in Milan with us. Like the Venice-Rome service, snacks were provided along with beverages. Otherwise, the scenery on the way to Milan was pretty boring and with the high speed of the train, I spent most of the time relaxing by reading. It was a relatively fast trip since this was a non-stop direct service between Rome and Milan. In fact, we arrived at Milan before lunchtime and went to find a luggage deposit booth at the station since we would return to the same station tonight for our overnight train to Milan. With out suitcases taken care of, we headed out of the station towards the Centrale Metro stop, named after the railway station.
When we were there that morning though, there were several gypsies who were ‘manning’ the ticket booths who will bother you once you are making your ticket purchases. They were basically asking for donations, an action which I totally loathe and wouldn’t bother. I don’t see the point of giving to people who would otherwise have the capability to serve the society. Given that the vending machines have menus in English, I don’t see the need for their help since I am perfectly fine myself! My Dad gave them some loose change though and we let it pass at that. The metro in Milan was suprisingly better than that in Rome, though both still lags far behind those in Germany. We alighted at the Duomo metro stop, where once again upon exit of the station, several African males were trying to push for ‘free’ friendship bands. It doesn’t take an idiot to know money will somehow be involved later on. Though irked by the scammers around Milan, the Duomo or Milan Cathedral doesn’t disappoint. This cathedral is one of the most amazing structures amongst religious places of worship and the intricate statues and countless spires around the roof is what makes this a landmark of Milan!
Shoppers who come to Milan would be pleased to know that the Duomo is located beside the Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II which has Milan’s most famous export, the Prada boutique as well as the Louis Vuitton store. Inside, there’s also a food court, several eateries, a bookstore and a McDonald’s. We had lunch in one of the restaurants where we ordered 2 pizzas to share again. The food wasn’t that expensive considering the venue was nice and the indoor al-fresco seating was great, allowing people watching yet shielded from street traffic. Having filled the stomach, we headed out to do what we came to Milan for! First of all we visited the Prada store in the Galleria which is perhaps the flagship store for Prada. The rest of the boutiques are located mainly in the streets around Via della Spiga and we left the Galleria to Piazza della Scala, a square with several commercial buildings around it. From there, we took a right turn towards Corso Giacomo Matteotti to reach Via Monte Napoleone. Most of the fashion houses have shops stretching in the direction of this street towards Via Sant’Andrea and Via della Spiga. Amongst these, the Via della Spiga has got to be the best shopping street. First of all, there are no traffic on this cobblestoned pathway and the quaint buildings along the street was very well maintained, which was expected. After all, luxury boutiques shouldn’t look too shabby, isn’t it?
One difficult part shopping here though is finding a restroom. Though the boutiques might have restrooms, they are usually for staff only. And unless the staff is nice enough, most probably it is difficult to get access to one, or maybe until you’ve purchased something here. Otherwise, there are some hotels here, and the staff at Four Seasons was kind enough to allow us access to their lobby washrooms. It was a gracious welcome when we were asking for directions to the washroom even when we weren’t guests there. This level of service attitude gave me such a great impression that I might just stay here when I do come to Milan again!
Staying at the Four Seasons Hotel also meant staying right in Milan where all the action is. Shopping in Milan was nice since the weather when we were there was cloudy and thus cool without rain. The shops were also larger and had a larger selection to choose from compared to Rome. Milan, though is perhaps famous for shoe-shopping. Not only were there The Original Car Shoe boutique, but there’s Tod’s, Hogan’s and several other Italian brands which makes really great quality shoes! Besides luxury shopping, the young will still be entertained with great shopping as well-known US brand Abercombie & Fitch have their boutique here as well! Their store was located along Corso Giacomo Matteotti after the junction with Via Monte Napoleone. It was a great 3 storey boutique decked out with a great ‘clubby’ interior and definitely a place to visit for the young and young-at-heart! Needless to say, we shopped till the evening before we headed back towards the Duomo, stopping by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for some gelatos and a toilet break. Surrounding the large Piazza Duomo just outside the cathedral are also several shops and should have places to have dinner but since we weren’t keen on more exploring, we headed back to Milano Centrale.
Our idea was to search for food in the railway station as most of the central railway stations in Europe thus far had extensive F&B stalls serving passengers till late at night. However, the Milano Centrale, it seems had just re-opened not too long ago after a complete make-over of sorts. It is worth noting that the facade of the train station is also worth a look for its grandiose design. Not to mention the Pirelli Building opposite the station which is perhaps one of the most famous skyscraper in Italy. Thus not all of the stores are open. Not to worry though, as the area around Milano Centrale is home to several hotels and restaurants including a McDonald’s fast food restaurant. We chose an Italian restaurant and once again ordered pizza and a spaghetti vongole, since my parents can get use to these for meals. The great find was that this restaurant do serve the amazing tartufos that I have been craving for since having them at Roma Termini station. It was more tartufos after dinner and a really great way to end the day in Milan!
The Centrale train station is well lit up and night and it was a nice walk towards the station, where we retrieved our luggage and went on to find a restroom to wash up before the night train so that we may retire in the chamber. Restroom entry is charged on a per person basis, though the place was very clean and well maintained. After washing up we went to walk around the train station as our night train have yet to arrive and the departure information board have yet to display the gate to wait for our train. There were still crowds inside the train station as several night trains depart from Milan, and we met travelers from India waiting for trains to Switzerland and a couple on honeymoon waiting for the same train as ours.
Milan is definitely lives up to its reputation as a centre of fashion and shopping is really great in this city! With its neater urban architecture, better public transport infrastructure as well as a wonderful train station, Milan is a more contemporary city compared to the capital Rome. Though besides the Duomo, the next most famous attraction is Leonardo’s Last Supper which we did not get to see. And thus visitors might not find much to enjoy within the city besides its range of shopping.
Must visit in Milan: Without a doubt, the Duomo or Milan’s Cathedral. The exterior facade of this cathedral is truly mesmerizing and captures one’s imaginations with its intricate spires rising out of the roof of the cathedral. Not to mention, that the centre of shopping in Milan revolves around this area as well, so tourists should certainly make it a starting a point for all visit.