A Blurry Night Walk in Milan

Literally before we knew it and enjoyed a few more breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, we were in Italy! Most of Europe does seem like a huge space with no physically perceivable limits! Italy is a book too large, vibrant and diverse to even get a feel of in a day and that was how long we were supposed to be there for. I knew whatever the outcomes of that brief trip might turn out to be, I sure owed Italy a longer visit somewhere down the line. As we were travelling somewhere near San Marino and the scenery seemed to be changing, I was thinking about how Italy should forget me a quick cheeky peek at its beauty…I saw it as a rehearsal of something bigger and that was going to be a different story so bear with me!

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My first impression of Italy could well be summed up with one word and that is HOT! Up to that point, I’d been feeling comfortable in the Mediterranean climate even though I guess the temperatures were soaring at the time. As we got off the coach and technically set our foot on Italy to have a quick meal in a roadside café, I found it physically challenging to breathe… I even started doubting if “something bigger” was coming at all… I mellowed out a bit when I saw something very Italian – pizza and pasta! Now we are talking! After struggling for a bit to make ourselves understood to an Italian who didn’t seem to speak any English, we were sitting happily munching on our surprisingly cheap and quite large pizzas! That’s one thing off our bucket list of things to do in Italy… But a brief gastronomic experience was pretty much it… Ah, and the word HOT! Well, it was just a rehearsal, never mind that! I’d always had a feeling Italy needed to be taken slowly but slowly wasn’t our style, on that trip, anyway…

We were back on the road driving for a few hours to the suburbs of Milan where we were supposed to stay for the night. Milan! So we were staying in the suburbs of somewhere hugely fashionable and glamorous… Or so we thought… I think one of the purposes of travelling is bridging the gap between your previous, probably biased perception of a place and what it would seem like to be while you are actually there. Of course, our knowledge is like your luggage we take with us and the thing with it is that it’s not as easy to sort out as our hand luggage, but it’s amazing to see it transform through the course of your travels and it’s equally fascinating to see our hand luggage grow as well (even if it seems too heavy to be carrying at a time). But you wouldn’t mind that when you come home to unpack it and feel an urge to pack it again! So when our tour guide offered a trip to Milan as an optional activity for the night, we opted for it even though it wasn’t originally on our itinerary. Good things always come to those who… travel! My imagination took over and I was wondering what Milan would look like at night because you might have noticed I have a fascination for cities at night… It might have to do with me being a night owl… I need something to stare at with my eyes wide open with amazement at night… Here we were in Milan… There was no glamour there yet as we arrived to a rather deserted part of the city which looked a bit depressing with its gray and dull streets… No, Italy and dull shouldn’t mix! Well, we saw one man standing at a balcony and one of the ladies in our group seemed to be particularly interested and the tour guide made a comment that she should remember that house in case she wanted to come visit him later that night because our hotel was just close by! That was funny and I was wondering if this Italian would have minded a Russian girl turn up in his doorway… Someone was already embracing Italy! Sometimes Russian ladies can be ridiculous but we don’t really have decent men here so some of us can be extremely easy for foreigners to lead on…

We arrived at our small hotel and had some time to change before we set out for a tour of the city. I walk into the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror to see how two days of basking in the Mediterranean had given me a very intense suntan! That was very passionately sun-kissed skin… Well, now I looked more Italian, it’s bellissimo! I put on the same dress I was wearing on my final day in Paris and I’m ready to explore Milan. I hope I won’t be a fashion disaster. As we drove by streets of Milan, I had difficulty realizing where I actually was because dull kept being the word for the moment… Was that the financial and fashion centre of Italy in disguise? Was being dull a new trend of the season? I never cared much about fashion anyway… I saw signs for the city centre and was hoping for things to get more exciting. The streets were still deserted, were people busy at work sorting out finances at this hour? Was that why people in the South of the country never liked people in the North for not being able to live it up and enjoy la dolce vita? It looked like even I was better at that… Anyway, where were ever cheerful tourists? Making money on their holiday? Things still not getting any more upbeat, we arrived in the city centre to meet a local tour guide. I caught a glimpse of a fountain and what looked like a bit more lively area than what we’d seen so far, so not all was lost. We got off our coach to be welcomed by… Well, those weren’t handsome Italian gentlemen but… mosquitoes! They were very pushy and wouldn’t take a simple “No!” and a wave for an answer. I was happy to be wearing a long dress because it was a bit of protection against their attacks. I felt genuinely sorry for everyone else having to compulsively wave them away… They wanted our blood with zealous Italian passion!

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As our guide told us, the city residents had already filed a petition asking the mayor to address this mosquito problem. So that was not quite an enjoyable night stroll for most of the group… But the key to happy travelling is equally zealous optimism so we carried on to see Castello Sforzesco, which seemed to somehow resemble home, that is the Kremlin… No, I wasn’t homesick at all but a resemblance certainly caught my eye. As the night was setting it, the illumination was already on. The setting looked a bit gruesome and lonely (well, mosquitoes kept us company all the way!).

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We kept walking quite deserted streets of Milan and I was wondering where glamour and fashion were gone. Hiding from mosquitoes? I know that sounds like a very superficial idea of the city but I guess it stems from scarce and equally superficial knowledge of its history (I had no idea we would be coming here so I didn’t do my research). There were a few roadside cafes and they are always so inviting for you to pick a table and let the world go by while enjoying a meal or sipping on a drink… Perhaps, some other time but will be ever be some other time…? We walked a street lined up with flags because there was some international event going on and I was proud as I saw our flag here in Milan… Photos of the Milan football team (well, it made me a bit more aware of where we were). It would be nice to watch them play, I guess…

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Next, we saw what was the major sight of Milan and that was something massive and extravagantly Gothic! Duomo di Milano, Milan Cathedral. It was well illuminated and there was a huge interactive screen on it. It looked like a place you would love to get to spend more time, all glamour and fashion apart… It was like a Gothic jungle growing on the face of the city and there was some vague dynamics there…

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Exasperated by the mosquitoes, most people in our group insisted we kept moving so we went inside a luxury shopping area, The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II on, the world’s oldest shopping mall dating back to 1861. This is where that you get this “shop-till-you-drop” feel. For us, it was more a shopping museum and it was very imposing, top brands housed in such an old and astounding building! That is shopping with style and class!

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As the tour guide mentions Leonardo and his purely enigmatic and controversial “Last Supper”, I had this idea that we were like figures in this canvas, blurry and mysterious figures walking the streets the Genuis himself once walked waiting for something huge and significant to unravel as tourists would do…As we walked to Piazza della Scala with the monument to Leonardo, whose name and personality is a huge part of the Italian legacy…
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He looks pensive in the dark of the night overlooking Milan’s treasure, Teatro alla Scala… You’d heard about it a million times and might have just missed among other buildings… That had to be the most disappointing sightseeing experience because as large and opulent as you may imagine it, it is nothing of that! Probably due to a huge significance of everything staged here, the building doesn’t have to make any kind of a statement… It is so humble and low-keyed as if letting ladies dressed to impress coming here for a classy theatre night steal the thunder… To me La Scala and its exterior summed up Milan for me for the night… Something overrated and disappointing from a quick look…
VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100
We had very little time here on ourselves because the mosquitoes were ruthless (and no one else was wearing anything long). I didn’t happen to hear it but my sister says that while we were passing a café on our way back, she heard a soundtrack from a very popular Italian TV series “The Octopus” starring Michele Placido. In the early 90’s we used to watch it on daytime TV curled up on the sofa… It would always bring back childhood memories and my Dad and sister had this strange fascination with the series… Well, it’s a beautiful thing about travelling, it grants those gifts that channel you back to the younger you who would have never guessed they would ever be where you had been…We celebrated life and travelling with our first ever try of a wonderful Italian gelato (icecream) which was quickly melting as we were making our way back… Night doesn’t just bring beautiful illuminations pouring in through cities, it might make something indiscernable to the eye… “Where is all that glitter and glamour?”, the silly me was asking as we headed back to our hotel into the dim city lights… Were they letting us shine? We wouldn’t see Milan as a new day would come so next time… Perhaps… A bit of BBC World News, late-night reflections and we are in bed… Buona Notte, Milano!

Author: Olga

An English teacher and translator, a keen traveller

4 thoughts on “A Blurry Night Walk in Milan”

    1. Grazie! Yes, I can’t wait to return at some point because I hate to think I missed out on the beauty of Milan on my first visit. Summer is the only time I can go on holiday though because I’m a university teacher…

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