For the 2nd part of my Italy trip back in May 2018, Constant Companion RR and I spent a few days in Milan. Comparing the two cities, I would say Rome intrigued me more.
I have posted quite extensively about my time in Rome previously. This post might feel a little too short. After my visit to Duomo di Milano, there were little else “photo opportunities” which pique my interest. Thus, my photo album for Milan is pitifully small.
Despite often finding ourselves aimless in Milan, Constant Companion RR and I shared a truly unique kind of experience which I personally hold close to my heart.
Constant Companion RR and I arrived Milano Centrale Railway Station on a beautiful, sunny day. After riding the train for about 3 hours, it felt good to be walking about, stretching our legs.
After alighting from our train, I remember being impressed by the architecture of Milano Centrale Railway Station as I walked through it.
Our accommodation for the stay was a 15 minutes walk away. Shortly after reorienting ourselves with the help of Google map, with our luggage in tow, we headed in the general direction of our hotel.
Within minutes, my first observation of Milan is that, as opposed to Rome, there is a significant increase in the number of fellow Asians out and about and unlike us, they did not strike me as tourists.
Home for the next few days, I got a warm, “Spanish” vibe from the hotel room. It was a corner room with not much of a view to write about.
The bathroom had more personality than the room itself. The rounded basin, toilet and bidet looked as though they were part of a collection. To keep water from spraying out when showering/ taking a bath, the bath tub was walled up with a sliding wooden frame with large glass panels. Not sure if wood is the best material to use for an area which is constantly getting wet. The whole thing would not look out of place displaying cakes and pastries.
Here are two trivia.
First, the key to my hotel room is attached to a weighty and burdensome keychain made of metal. Perhaps it is to deter the guests from actually carrying their room keys around, minimising the chance of them losing the keys. If that is the whole point, then it worked. Not even I, the Designated Travel Mule, wish to heave that extra bulk around, always dropping it off one the concierge counter (with a thud! because it was that heavy) before leaving the hotel.
Another curious thing is that there were buttons for “-1” and “0” on the control panel in the tiny and only elevator. There were already a button for “B1” (which I guess is Basement 1) and “1” (which I assumed is the first floor), where will the buttons “-1” and “0” bring you? I was too afraid to find out.
All in all, it was a very decent hotel with a comfortable, clean bed and a good location.
Royal Palace of Milan
Right next to the Milan Cathedral, we visited a Fine Arts painting exhibition held in Royal Palace of Milan. Maybe it was due to the time we visit the exhibition, but there were hardly anybody else; we practically had the whole place to ourselves.
Not exactly a big exhibition, we spent around 30 minutes, comfortably strolling around, admiring and snapping pictures of whichever painting we particularly like.
The first thing we had in Milan was this cheese board from a cat cafe. It was one of those cafes where you can find cats (and in their case, ex-stray cats) roaming freely around the cafe as you consume mediocre food and beverage all the while hoping that one of the cats would give you some attention. This is the second time I have been to a cat cafe; the first time was in Taiwan.
The particular one we went to was within walking distance from our hotel. Knowing too well that Constant Companion RR is a serious cat lover, we dropped by to take a look.
Besides, during that time in the afternoon, most of the restaurants were closed, only to reopen later for the dinner crowd. Hungry, we went in and looked through their menu. We had no luck in terms of getting any hot food because the kitchen was closed, so Constant Companion RR placed an order for the cheese board, a slice of their cheese cake and a couple of hot latte.
While the food was decent at best, it was the service we have received which made an impression on me. The young lady waiting on us, went out of her way to describe and recommend items from the menu, all that with a sunny disposition and a ready smile. Now that I have given some thought about it, this kind of service was rare and few in between during our Italy trip. Maybe that is why it felt particularly endearing.
Milan Chinatown Restaurants
We have been eating in a couple of restaurants in Milan’s Chinatown. In fact, we strangely gravitated towards Chinatown during our time in Milan, but I will elaborate more later.
Constant Companion RR and I went to the “most popular” Chinese restaurant in the vicinity, recommended by a Chinese lady cashier in a supermarket specialising in Asian products. Overall, if that was the best they had to offer, I would say that the Chinese food in Milan’s Chinatown was slightly above average.
They were certainly not the best Chinese food I had, but they were far from the worst. The standard they offer was sufficient to cure any “homesickness” for overseas Chinese or satisfy the craving of anybody who are not extremely familiar with Chinese cuisine.
In fact, the seed which drove us to visit Milan’s Chinatown was planted back when Constant Companion RR suddenly craved for “Bak Kut Teh” as we were exploring the ruins in Rome.
Yeah. We continued our gelato indulgent from Rome to Milan. Nothing much to write about these gelato really.
For lunch one day, we went on Google map and found a restaurant which had good reviews. We were the only 2 diners in the restaurant due to our weird feeding timing. The food was enjoyable.
As we kept finding ourselves in Chinatown for those few days in Milan, I feel that it deserves to have a section dedicated all to itself.
Let it be known that Constant Companion RR and I are pretty cosmopolitan; we do not have the need to constantly be around fellow Asians, nor do we have any issue with interaction with folks of all cultures. Yet after walking around the rest of Milan each day, we would find ourselves heading down to Chinatown as though it was the most natural thing to do. To us, there was something about the unique about that place.
Analysing the situation, the reason might be mainly due to the fact that both Constant Companion RR and I are working in environment very similar to most of Milan’s most popular spots; modern, bustling areas filled with globally known super brands. To be able to find something different was refreshing.
Alternatively, instead of going to where the tourists are, we could hang out where the locals lived, but we were doubtful we will get anything interesting out of that kind exploration.
Milan Chinatown has an interesting mix of strong, familiar Chinese influence under a European cover; prominently seen by the oriental signboards sticking out from the European architectures.
It is not a huge place, with the most popular area, where crowds gather around the more interesting shops, can be found within, maybe, 4 to 5 blocks wide. Most of the shops carried nothing special, but I think that is because the businesses catered mostly for the local Chinese residents. For the casual visitors, there is a good selection of authentic Chinese food and Asian product (snacks etc) to enjoy.
Constant Companion RR and I would hang out in this cafe each time we were there. If it was not for the advertisement they placed on the main road, we would probably never have found the cafe which was hidden deep in some alley way. The cafe was rather cosy and serves an impression range of Asian beverages; most popular being the Hong Kong style milk tea.
There was a second floor which we have never gone up to, but each time we were there, we could hear a lot of commotion from the second floor; the kind of commotion only a bunch of rowdy teenagers can make as they throw all caution to the wind and have fun.
Fortunately, we usually arrived around the time when the group of youngsters were about to leave. With them gone, the cafe would be quiet enough for conversation over our choice of beverage.
Nothing we have done in Milan Chinatown can be considered exciting or out of the norm. In fact they were downright mundane. However, it was doing them there, in that environment, which made it so memorable.
That is all I have to write about the trip. Maybe I will write about my London trip next. Stick around if you are interested!
Thank you for reading! Ciao!