Three weekends ago, my friend and I decided to plan a somewhat last minute trip to Milan and Bologna. We booked our train tickets and hostel the night before leaving, and a friend of my friends had given her a list of restaurants and spots to see in Milan. We planned to spend Friday and Saturday night in Milan, and to leave Milan in the afternoon to have dinner in Bologna before coming back to Florence.
We arrived in Milan around 10:00 and arrived just in time for breakfast/brunch at a place called That’s Bakery. It is an American style bakery with cupcakes, brunch dishes (eggs, French toast, etc) and American coffee. We both ordered an open-faced sandwich topped with ricotta, prosciutto, figs and honey (delicious) and two coffees. We decided that we would check into our hostel later because although we had looked up the distances between all of our desired destinations prior to arriving, none of them were really matching up once we’d arrived. We also wanted to try and make the most of our time.
After lunch we walked…a lot…up a few main streets recommended to us, with no definitive sense of direction. After wandering around for an hour or so, we decided to check out Milan’s Duomo. There really are no words to describe this church. Other than Florence’s Duomo, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite as spectacular as this. Milan’s Duomo was built in a gothic style as opposed to Florence’s. The detail is absolutely exquisite…we were in awe. As a result of this, we decided to sit in the piazza for the afternoon people watching and looking at the Duomo (yes, we thought it was that amazing).
After sitting for a while, we decided to grab a bite to eat at another recommendation from our list, Luini Panzerotti. This eatery is famous for what are essentially pockets of fried dough filled with various sauce/cheese/meat. We split one with spinach and ricotta, and another with red sauce, olives, cheese and some sort of meat. We also ate a Gorgonzola polenta cake…heavenly.
While our first day in Milan does not sound super exciting, I definitely took a lot out of sitting in the piazza, people watching and relaxing. I think a big part of studying abroad is observing the different people around you, locals and tourists alike. Sometimes I like to go to a local restaurant by myself in Florence for dinner and quietly observe the other people in the restaurant. It may sound strange but it’s a totally different experience eating in a restaurant surrounded by people speaking another language. I find myself paying closer attention to hand gestures, mannerisms and facial expressions.
Additionally, planning the last minute trip to Milan/Bologna with a rough set of plans and sense of direction was a great experience. Things didn’t always go as we’d expected or planned (some of the places we wanted to go were way farther from each other than we had anticipated), and we ended up walking a lot more than we’d thought we would, but we had a great weekend.
We also had planned to go out to dinner in Bologna before taking the latest train home to Florence. We arrived in Bologna with a list of restaurants and addresses, but what we didn’t know was that many of the restaurants are closed from 4:30 to 8:00. We ended up finding a restaurant on TripAdvisor with very good reviews that was open, but was booked for reservations. The owner of that restaurant was incredibly helpful and understanding and gave us a list of good local/authentic restaurants nearby. We finished dinner just in time to literally run to the train and board two minutes before departure. It was thrilling to say the least.