I’ve never heard a truly glowing comment about the city. It must be tough, competing for its share of the spotlight in a country full of stars. Venice, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast–they leave little room for others to shine.
I’ve been to Milan once, out of pure traveling convenience. I spent all of four hours eating and drinking in one square block of the city before catching a cheap Ryanair flight. I’ve waited in line to renew my Spanish residency card for longer than I’ve experienced Milan.
But every city deserves its champion, and luckily I live with an Italian in Barcelona who studied for four years in Milan. I spent nine days in Italy, partly with Diana, over the winter holidays, and while we didn’t make it up north, she’s told me so much about the city that I’m thoroughly convinced I need to give Milan another shot. And you might want to consider it, too.
In Diana’s (translated Italian to Spanish to English) words:
Why I love Milan and You Should Too
Northern and Southern Italy have a rivalry, and finding a southerner who will admit to liking Milan is harder than finding good pizza in the U.S. (Just kidding. Kind of.) I’m from Toscana, the central region, so I need slightly less convincing, but when I first moved to Milan to study at university, I didn’t like the city at all. It’s really expensive and posh, and at first glance, difficult to enjoy on a student budget.
About a year and a half into my time in Milan, I came to love the city.
It’s At the Forefront
Milan is on the cutting edge. It’s the leader in Italy for new developments, and since it’s at the northern end of the country, it’s easily affected and influenced by its European neighbors. If there’s a Pablo Picasso exhibition coming to Italy, it will show in Milan first, not Rome. Biannual Fashion Weeks, Design Week, World Expo 2015–it’s all happening in Milan.
Milan may have the reputation of being posh and stuck-up (especially among other Italians), but it’s also an incredibly modern and open city. Many young people and foreigners move there because it’s where all the jobs are in Italy, so there’s a lively and international feel to the place.
Milan is also a central travel hub, and really close to a lot of other great destinations, both within Italy and bordering it. You can easily take excursions to the Alps, the lake country, the sea, or other countries surrounding Italy.
Discover an Affordable Milan
Sure, Milan is expensive, and I paid much higher rent than I do in Barcelona. But if you do some digging, it becomes affordable. There are cheaper places to stay in Milan, if you head farther away from the ultra high-end Moscova district. Also, the Italian tradition of the aperitivo, sort of like your American happy hour (she laughs), was born in Milan. While it’s now caught on in the rest of the country, I’ve had some of the very best Milan—all-you-can-eat buffets for just the price of a drink.
[Ed. Note: I tried the aperitivo in Florence, and came away knowing only how NOT to approach the Italian aperitivo from hereon out.]
Rome may house Italy’s ancient culture: Columns, The Colosseum, crumbling monuments. But Milan showcases Italy’s modern culture. The city is non-stop art, fashion, design, and music. And food and drink, of course, because this is Italy we’re dealing with.
Coming up: Diana’s pointers for HOW to love Milan as much as the rest of Italy.