This past week was quite busy. Between studying, exams, a group project presentation, and preparing for my trip, I didn’t have a whole lot of spare time. But when I got a text from my best friend from Frankfurt School that she would have a brief moment in her busy schedule to visit me in Milan, I knew I would just have to make the time.
Elisa is the friend whole invited me into her home and gave me my first taste of Italy on my birthday the year before last, showing me around Venice and the region of Friuli. When she admitted to not ever really exploring Milan before, I had the opportunity to reciprocate and show her what I had discovered in the last couple of months.
Milano really doesn’t seem to have the greatest reputation amongst Italians that aren’t actually from Milan. While Italians, in my experience, are more than a little biased towards their own region and city, it seems that Milan frequently strays from the realm of indifference to that of disdain.
Milan is not beautiful like other Italian cities, rather, it looks very European and sometimes even more generically modern than “European.” What it lacks in Italian charm, I feel it more than makes up with it’s attractions and sheer variety of architecture. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has come to Milan and left unimpressed by the Bosco Verticale or complained that every building looked the same.
Aside from the shallowness of architecture, the city itself is admirably clean, the gardens well-kept, and transportation punctual making life in the city quite possibly the least stressful of all the major Italian cities. In addition, Milan has something that no other Italian city can rival which is a bustling international population bringing to the city any food or product you could ever desire.
Lastly, Milano seems to have a stereotype among Italians as being a particularly rude city with bad service. While I cannot claim that it compares to traditional Italian hospitality, to say that it is rude is a bit of a stretch for me. In fact, I think it’s very funny that the worst service I’ve ever experienced in the city has been in the presence of Italian friends, especially those not from Milan. This leads me to believe that perhaps the stereotypical distaste for the city precedes my Italian friends and leads to a different treatment than the foreigners who just know the city as one of the worlds fashion capitals.
While here, I took my friend to Parco Sempione and Castello Sforzesco (Sempione Park & Sforzesco Castle), wandered around the neighborhoods of Brera and Navigli, showed her around Bocconi University, briefly stopped by Duomo (the cathedral in the city center), and walked around the Bosco Verticale (vertical gardens) and UniCredit Tower. She was only here for about 24 hours total but I think I managed to give her a good impression of the city and some of the major sights.
In the end, I think I managed to convince her that Milan is not all bad and she now concedes that the city is OK; not anywhere she would want to live but not horrible either. To me, indifference is a success and I will wait patiently by the mailbox for my medal from the City of Milano for my contribution towards the city’s improved reputation.
It will be very interesting to see if these claim still stand in a couple of weeks when I come back from my backpacking trip around Italy. Since I feel I’ve seen enough of Italy and Milan and have done lots of research, I think that my claims are well founded and will not change with my travels however I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you love or hate Milan? Let me know in the comments why so that others can get some more points of view of the bustling city.