My first exposure to Italy was in 2014 on a road trip through Europe with some mates. We had a brilliant time working our way through France, Andorra, and Spain. When we first crossed over into Italy from France, we were quite excited to be heading into another country.
When we were planning our mega road trip, one of the stops we had pinpointed as somewhere we thought would be a great location was Milan. We were mistaken.
For frame of reference, I’ve travelled a lot, but had never been to Italy. My travel partners on the journey were very well travelled as well. We had all experienced off beat travel, backpack and no itinerary travel, work travel, relaxing beach holidays, etc. We’re not snooty or posh travellers who’ve only done resort life. We have a well rounded, non-discriminatory travel history. Combined, we’ve visited nearly 100 countries.
Up until this point, the holiday had been pretty great. We had travelled from Paris down to Hossegor before exploring Cannes, Monaco and Nice. We were amped after spending so much time in the sun, eating baguettes, interacting with locals and other travellers and especially other VW owners.
When we first arrived, we stopped into McDonalds to nick some wifi. Problema numero uno. The McDonalds didn’t have wifi. What?! As a frequent traveller, you can always rely on McDonalds to have wifi. No chance. Trying to find an aire for the evening without wifi was a struggle, so we left and moved onward. From Ventimiglia to San Remo (our first stop), we drove until we found an aire. Parking up near the beach, we sought out some food. Because we arrived later than anticipated after trying to scope out a location, we didn’t have much time to explore. We rucked up to a small shop for pizza and beers, then made our way to the beach to watch some karaoke.
In the morning, we were up bright and early to head on to Milan. Our camp site was located outside of central Milan, but accessible by taking a bus to the metro. The camp site was a bit strange in that it was next to a water park and featured some sort of menagerie of peacocks and othe random birds. We were woken by birds squaking on our morning there. There were outbuildings with showers & toilets, and a pub located underneath a tent structure.
Our first impression of Milan was that it seemed a bit, meh. In our heads, we had Milan Fashion Week. A gloriously beautiful place full of lively, creative people with beauty oozing from every corner. What we found was a bit of a lack lustre city centre with over priced everything.
The Duomo was gorgeous. I mean, spectacular. When we ascended from the underground station at the Duomo, it was over powering and significant. It was nearing the end of the day, so the sun was shining on it, displaying its beautiful intricate architecture. We strolled around the surrounding blocks, only to find shopping, touristy shops and over priced restaurants. I get it – most touristy spots are like this. What it lacked was character; a sense of identity. We couldn’t quite get the feel of Milan. We didn’t feel like we were in it. Does that make sense? Milan just didn’t have an ounce of appeal for us. There was nothing significant that stood out to us with the exception of the bored looking prostitutes propped up on plastic lawn chairs in the suburbs of Milan on the way to our camp site. Even they weren’t impressed with Milan, or so it seemed.
Will I go back to Milan? Not likely. I like to say that I’ll try anything at least twice to get a fair feel for something, but I think the only way I (or we) would be inticed to go back to Milan would be if it was for free and someone took us by the hand to show us what we missed.
In speaking with people since going to Milan, everyone has had similar impressions. I think Milan is a built up city, in that, in your mind you think of Italy as a glorious, beautiful place full of beautiful people and amazing food & drink. All of Italy must be like that, surely. The problem with Milan, or at least the Milan I experienced, is that it’s not. We were disappointed with almost everything there.
Since this trip, my husband and I have been back to Italy, spending Easter 2016 in Rome, which we absolutely loved. We fell madly in love with Rome and would 100% recommend a visit. We also went to the Vatican for an Easter Sunday service. We loved Italy so much after our Rome trip, that we’ve booked a trip to Venice to celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary this May. Rome certainly revitalised the way I feel about Italy and I’m looking forward to exploring more.
Have you been to Milan? What was your experience?