April 30


Ricks Italy lands in Milan

By Rick

April 30, 2014

Benvenuti a Milano!

biglietto_milanoAnd so it starts… Ricks Italy lands in Milan.

Upon reflection, this is my third or fourth time to Milan, and like all of my previous visits, I’m just passing through on my way to a more desirable location.  OK, let’s just get it out in the open: Milan is said to be busy, polluted, and frankly, the least “Italian” of all the major cities in Italy.  Indeed, when compared to Rome, it has an almost German/Swiss sense of purpose about it (however, I’m sure that someone from Berlin or Bern would heartily disagree).  But yes, it has its appeal, even if in some neighborhoods you can be pressed to find the ubiquitous coffee bar in which to enjoy an espresso.  Alas.

Then again, Milan and its surrounding region of Lombardy is the financial and industrial hub of Italy; the economic engine that produces a disproportionate 22% of the GDP for the entire country.  It’s where all the major fashion houses are based.  And you don’t have to fear for your life when crossing a busy street.the duomo of milan on ricks italy tour

For the average tourist, however, Milan’s offerings are a little sparse.  The Duomo is spectacular, then there’s Leonardo’s famous “Last Supper,” at Santa Maria della Grazia, and of course La Scala, the world’s most prestigious opera house.  That’s about it.  But I won’t be seeing any of those sites on this tour—I’ve seen them before, and my agenda has a different objective in mind.

Allow me to define some of these goals at the onset.  One of my main desires is to highlight individuals and their stories.  More specifically, perhaps, is how their stories reflect the present day country in general.  Everybody knows that the mood in Italy these days is less than dolce due to the economic and political crises that have been lingering like a grappa-induced hangover since the global meltdown of 2008.  This sentiment has been well-documented in books such as “Good Italy, Bad Italy,” and its follow-up documentary, “Girlfriend in a Coma,” as well as other films such as “Italy, Love it or Leave It,” and “Emergency Exit,” which shows the unfortunate brain-drain currently infecting the younger generation.

So I’m looking for some happy news.  I want to find people who, despite the challenges, are determined to remain in Italy, and do their part to recreate that ideal dreamscape that so many of us want the Bel Paese to be.  Ricks Italy, probably like your Italy, expects to encounter the charming agriturismo among rolling Umbrian hills or the quaint trattoria in Trastevere or a balcony overlooking Lake Como or a sunset glowing on the salt flats of western Sicily.  Yes, I admit it…I WANT these things, and NOT Berlusconi, or transportation strikes, or graffitti on the beautiful monuments.  (sigh)

Well, it starts today.  Let’s see what we can discover together…


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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Greetings from Milan! Yes the Duomo is stunning but we agree in that this city is a little disappointing… Also VERY disappointed in the racket that is viewing ‘The Last Supper.’ We waited too long to book and will be skipping it now. Minimum 49 euro tour price for a 15 minute viewing just isn’t worth it in our books…Love the town of Bergamo. Felt appreciated as a tourist there as it isn’t over run with them. Stunning churches there to be viewed for free too! 🙂

  • Hi Rick. Yes my love affair with Italy is its regional areas, agriturismi, hill top towns etc, not the big citie. However some of them are a must see. In less than a week I will be there. I can hardly wait Lyn

  • Ciao Rick! Your comment about a “grappa-induced hangover” brought to mind four days I spent in Milan visiting friends on my way to Parma. There was no grappa involved, but in the course of a heated discussion over the subtle differences of the wines of Barbaresco and those of Barolo that we were sampling, we lost count of the number of bottles consumed! While Milan isn’t on a par with Rome or Florence in some regards, my friends showed me parts of the city that aren’t in any guidebooks which I found both fascinating and beautiful. An excellent restaurant, if it’s still there, is the Salsamenteria di Parma on via San Pietro all’Orto.
    Since the next trip that I have planned in Italy will be in the northern Lake District, I’ll be interested in your comments on that area. But I’ll be following your blogs with interest and amusement, as I always do, to see what other gems you uncover. Keep up the great work! Un grande abbraccio per te e tua famiglia! Forse ci incontreremo in Sicilia!

    • Ciao Riccardo! Thanks for the great restaurant suggestion…sounds like my kind of place, kind of like that mythical mecca of all things porcine in Bussetto, Baratta. Going to the Lake tomorrow!!

      • Sorry about going off-theme here but I land in Milan each time I fly to Italy and immediately catch a train through the hills to Genova. That city is the great big love of my life. I’m a New Zealander living in Belgium, escaping as often as I can to Genova 🙂 Thanks for not minding my

        • I second Genova, for your next trip. I alwsys call it the city that’s “keepin it real.” I love its grit, its charm, i vicoli, its inhabitants, the international feel a port city has and its liveliness. The street food is great, the focaccia the farinata, the pesto….mmmm.

  • HI Rick,
    As for what is available for tourists in Milan–I have to agree with all of the above. Though I might not have done all 12 of the museums in the Castello, I’ve done most of them and most, if not all, of what I have read above. And I would do them all again as well as some other sites/sights I would add. One that comes to mind is the Museo Poldi Pozzoli. I’m hoping for fall 2015!

    • Thanks Joan! I’m just passing through, really, but I might be back in July to check it out more thoroughly. Hope you make it next year!

  • I love Milan. You will find the most stylish people, some of the most beautiful shops in the world and as M said, head for Brera. She is right, it is a lovely part of Milan.

    • OK, it’s unanimous…Brera it is. Thinking of heading that way today…BUT…it’s a “festa,” of course, so not sure.

  • Besides Brera, if you want, for instance eat really ‘Milanese’ without being “plucked” at all (and not eat really Milanese or not particularly well), just ask me…

  • Don’t forget about Castello Sforzesco and its 12 museums. Strolling in the nearby gardens is a wonderful experience. And the tower (Torre Branca) with lift provides a magnificent view of Milan.

    Two of the best parks in Milan are Parco Sempione, between the castle and Porta Sempione, and the Giardini Pubblici or public gardens, just outside the historic center off Corso Venezia where you’ll also find the Natural History Museum.

    The canal district is worth a visit with the ancient washhouses of vicolo dei Lavandai and San Cristoforo, the Scodellino bridge and the old Darsena port. Built in 1603, this port sits at the confluence of two canals linking Milan with the Ticino and Po rivers, and now hosts a sedate trade of riverside shopping, dining and drinking.

    The Pinacoteca di Brera art museum covers works by major Italian artists from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Highlights include Mantegna’s Dead Christ, a moving Pietà by Giovanni Bellini, Piero della Francesca’s Virgin and Child with Saints and Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus.

    The Sant-Ambrogio church, named after the city’s patron saint may not be as beautiful to look at as the Duomo, but it has shaped history. Between the ninth and 15th centuries, it hosted the coronations of nine Italian kings (four of them are buried here, too).

    And of course who could overlook the 15th century Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie which houses Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco, the Last Supper.

    Although Milan got its name from the Celts who arrived in about 388 BC, it was the Romans who left the oldest marks on the city. You can see their artifacts in several museums, including the Civici Musei del Castello and the Civico Museo Archeologico, and trace their presence in the city itself. The Pinacoteca and Biblioteca Ambrosiana mark the location of the forum, while the watchtowers are still intact in the garden of the Civico Museo Archeologico. On the via de Amicis, you can see the remains of the vast amphitheatre, unearthed in 1935. And the Columns of San Lorenzo, which were probably once part of a temple or civic bathhouse, stand ten metres (33 feet) high on Corso di Porta Ticinese.

    Every visitor to Milan must visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and place one’s right heel on the genitals of the bull from the Turin Coat of Arms and turn three times to bring good luck!

    Buon viaggio! Ciao!


      • Do it, if you can, Rick: it will be definitely worthwhile, as my ‘Medhelanon’, then ‘Mediolanum’, then Milano, is somehow a still hidden gem. Its historical centre is really beautiful.
        By the way, the best and economic way to go to ‘Il Ronchettino’ restaurant is getting on 3 or 15 tramcar in Piazza Fontana (it’s just dehind the Duomo) and getting off at Gratosoglio stop.

    • Thanks, M! I’m hoping to go there today…but with the “festa,” not sure what will be going on. Still, looks like a good place for a nice passeggiata. Ciao!

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