The posts you’ve all been waiting for are finally here! I am so excited to relive my trips through these posts that I will get right to it. Our trip began in Milan (after a long layover exploring Dusseldorf), and then we traveled to Venice, Florence, and Rome. I originally was only going to review the trip in two posts, but I ended up giving so much detail that I decided each city would get their own! There was so much to do, see and eat! I will post a review as well of our layovers in Dusseldorf and where to explore if you have a few hours to leave the airport.
If you’re torn about traveling to Italy in the winter months, don’t be. I highly recommend going right after Christmas though, so that you can enjoy all of the gorgeous decor! It was one of my favorite parts of exploring at night. The cold weather isn’t bad if you’re active like us and plan to be walking, hiking, and working up a sweat before getting cozy inside for delicious meals. I will say, that our locations in Italy were chosen based on the fact that it was winter. We’ll be going back to visit Positano, Naples, Capri and hopefully Sicily in the future during warmer months!
This city wasn’t in our original plans, but since flights into here were less expensive than Venice, and my good friend that lives in Paris recommended going, we decided 24 hours there would be perfect… and we were right! We landed at the Milan Linate airport around 1:00 and took a bus to the major train station (note: there is another airport further away). It was a perfect, comfortable, short ride, and I believe only around 5 euro each.
The gorgeous train station:
We were staying about a half mile from the train station, at the NH Milano Touring, so we just walked. We highly recommend the hotel as it was just out of the craziness of the city center, but still central enough that we could walk everywhere we needed! It was also what we thought to be a great value for how clean and modern it was. The staff were great, too. Unfortunately, this is our only picture there!
After checking in to the hotel, we were pretty hungry, so we walked towards the center of the city (we were close) and basically went into the first restaurant we saw, thinking any food in Italy would be good. It was a bit touristy we found and probably the worst meal we had on the trip… but even the worst meal there is better than many American meals! I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but the salad with shrimp I had and pizza Tim had were just fine to hold us over several hours to walk around before meeting one of my distant cousins for dinner.
By the time we left, it was pretty dark out and we wanted to explore the Milan Duomo and Galleria at night. These pictures below cannot possibly do them justice, especially with the Christmas decor. Just amazing! On our way though, we explored the popular shopping district passing Gucci, Ferragamo, Dolce and Gabbana etc. The streets were so packed but on occasion a car or vespa would be trying to get by.
This gorgeously decorated building in a bow is Cartier.
Gucci in Italy is a totally different store than any Gucci in the US! The store was literally a museum to me as every style was so far from what would be deemed as “normal” in our stores. It really is what you see on those runways!
Here is the absolutely amazing Duomo. It’s construction began in 1386, but it’s current structure was completed in 1965.
Here is the entrance to the Galleria from the Duomo side:
And here it is in all of it’s Christmas glory
After seeing this gorgeousness, we wanted to stop at a cool bar – Tim does awesome travel research and found several interesting ones to go to. Roberto Cavalli’s is supposed to be cool but I believe was a bit out of the way, so we headed to the Dolce & Gabana bar by Martini. It was beautiful as you walked through an indoor courtyard, as well as into the bar area itself. It was amazing how many Martini bottles were behind the bar! The dark vibe with the white & red decor was comfortable but felt exciting, too.
Those are seriously all Martini bottles behind the bar!
Tim, the Bond fan that he is, got the Martini Bond Style and I ordered the Glamour which had passion fruit, lychee, and elder flower. They also brought out unexpected apertivo and Tim of course devoured all of the olives in seconds. I skipped the roast beef & garlic, but did snack on the fennel & orange salad pictured and had some of the sun-dried tomato on a tiny toast. All delicious.
We headed back to the hotel where my cousin Eleonora and her boyfriend Andrea graciously picked us up and chauffeured us to and from apertivo and dinner. I had met her in person years ago when she was studying in New York and knew her English was close to perfect. We really are spoiled as Americans having people all over the world speaking our language! We headed up to the Navigli area, which we wouldn’t have known to see if it weren’t for them. I highly recommend having a meal in this area and walking around here too. It reminded Tim and I of the restaurants next to the Seine and canals in Paris, where during the summer everyone would just be out hanging around with a bottle of wine and a baguette. I honestly don’t know where we had apertivo and dinner with Eleonora and Andrea! I was so caught up in the moment and we were catching up talking, too, that it all went over my head. Every restaurant we walked by was packed though, with their first choice not being able to seat us, so I imagine anywhere in this area would be great for dinner, especially since it is so far from tourist central.
I have to say though, that when we ordered dinner, we should have asked more questions! While I really did enjoy my entree (sorry no pictures!), Tim and I didn’t realize we had both ordered fried fish balls and fried potatoes. Holy heavy! Delicious, but I was full after 1/4 of it. I was envying their fresh pasta and clams as it looked like the lighter option. Again, still good, just not a meal that makes you feel very good after.
Since Eleonora was 38 weeks pregnant at the time, it was an early night for them, but Tim and I thought we would head out to one more place since we were only there for one night. We just had to experience what the locals do. So we went to Dry Bar, which Tim had researched. I had a drink made with silver tequila, pear liquor, lime and prosecco and Tim had a Pilsner. The bartenders were extremely talented and fun to watch and the place had a lot of energy in general. Cool experience, but when we left I was so tired I thought I would fall asleep on the freezing street before making the less than 1 mile walk back to our hotel!
We slept in a bit too much after snoozing the alarm, so by the time we woke up we had missed the hotel breakfast and had 2 1/2 hours before our train to Florence! We were still tired from losing sleep traveling, so I had this whole cup of espresso…
We wanted to see the city center during the day so we stopped for brunch at Blanco Latte, the cutest bakery and restaurant that also had an adorable store attached (where I bought a wooden Christmas angel to decorate with next year). Since it was closer to lunch time, Tim ordered a crepe stuffed with chicken dressed in basil aioli, which he loved. We already had a basket of whole grain bread and croissants, so I just ordered some eggs to pair with them as well as an espresso. The eggs in Italy were just indescribable, by the way. You’ll see just how yellow the yolks get with my Florence post, but at this point in Milan, I thought the flavor was just screaming “nutrients!!!” to me as I ate. Italian chickens must be the most nourished and happy little things to make eggs like these. Oh, and maybe we split a dessert crepe! 🙂
Some pictures from our walk during the day are below.
We headed back to the hotel and then walked to the train station. Short and sweet!
If you do make it to Milan, I hope you have some great ideas of what to do in a short period of time – and if you need more, comment below, because Tim’s spreadsheet still has a few places to eat and drink that we did not get to checking off!
With next week being National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and the start of National Nutrition Month, expect some diet inspired posts, and I’ll have Venice up for you March 9th!