Milan. What can I say? Milan was just a huge disappointment. It has the current distinction of being my least favorite city in the world. It’s not clean. The buildings are tall and overpowering. Men forcefully try to sell you things EVERYWHERE. Ok, I realize that maybe by selling their merchandise it’s the only way they can put food on their table, but they are forceful. The man at the front desk of Hostel California, where we stayed, said some things that sounded fairly shady. Sadly, he was your stereotypical Italian man with the low-cut shirt, gold necklace, and sexist macho attitude. The hostel itself was clean enough with a decent, though unkempt, kitchen. I do not recommend the Hostel California, though it could have been a lot worse. It’s located in a sketchy area and the metro dumps you off right in the heart of sketch central. If you stay there, you’re best off taking the hour walk from the city center along the main roads to get back.
I wanted to see Milan because it was in so many films I watched in Italian classes (Miracolo a Milano, Rocco e i suoi fratelli, Ladri di saponette…). Milan was usually portrayed as going through a difficult post-war transition. What is it like now? Well friends, it’s still going through that transition and I wouldn’t say it’s doing so gracefully. For being one of the world’s fashion capitals, there’s not much to inspire. The cathedral has an impressive exterior, but lacks on the touristic interior. It could be a metaphor for the city, a city without a soul. We walked over an hour to see the canals, which were drained and disgusting. Admittedly, they’re supposed to be beautifying the canals so it’s a work zone right now. Il Castello Sforzesco wass calm and nice, but nothing to be upset over if you miss it. I was hoping the fashion displays would impress, and while interesting, I saw nothing shocking or terribly unique in terms of the way items were displayed. The Vittorio Emmanuele shopping center was nice enough with its glass ceiling, but aside from that, nothing special. Nothing special really characterized how I felt about Milan.
We were in Milan on International Woman’s Day, March 8th. Milan doesn’t understand the purpose of the holiday. All the patisseries had cakes praising the beauty of women. “Non c’è amore senza donne,” “There’s no love without women,” proclaimed one cake. You’re missing the point, here. Women are more than beauty and sex. This is a day to recognize women’s contributions to society and to promote their rights and equality, to recognize their strength and potential. It’s ok to find women beautiful, but in a respectful way. Not to whistle at a woman as she walks by or make comments on her appearance. Keep it to yourself, and even then, don’t be degrading. One nice Woman’s Day thing happened to us. While on Montenapoleone, one of the streets in the main fashion area, there were a bunch of men, all gorgeous and dressed to the nines in dashing suits, more than likely all models, who were giving flowers to women. Briana and I were given flowers and I went back to ask one of the men what the “Associazione Montenapoleone” was as it was written on a card attached to the flowers. He kindly explained that it’s an organization comprising the stores on that street and community members who partake in community initiatives. He was also really good looking, if I may permit myself to say so. I do love brightly colored bowties. After we received the flowers, the street flower vendors stopped harassing us, which was so nice.
The only really awesome thing in Milan was the gelato. My friend the Italian assistant lived in Milan for a while and strongly recommended Cioccolati Italiani. They fill your cone with chocolate and the normal cone comes with two good sized scoops. You HAVE to try it if you go to Milan. The stuff is made of fairy dust, angel wings, unicorn horn, baby Jesus’ smile, heck the smile of any good religious figure people believe in- it was that divine! I opted for chocolate orange and campagnese (celebrating my heritage) the first time. Heaven on earth. I got the lemon sorbetto and supernero the second time. This time, disaster struck. Carnival was still being celebrated in the city. People threw confetti at each other, but mainly only at people wearing costumes. Some obnoxious people used silly string-like foam instead. As I was eating my gelato, I did not notice a man stick a can of this foam right in my face and spray it all over my face, glasses, hair, jacket, and… my gelato. I did not see the man beyond that it was a man and he ran away after. Lucky for him, I didn’t see him or where he went otherwise I may not have been able to restrain myself. Either no one else noticed him either, or no one cared to warn me. Some people around me said “O, the poor girl and her poor gelato,” but no one offered a tissue or anything, except Briana who helped me clean myself. Seriously? My face? As I’m eating gelato? How rude can you be? This definitely cemented Milan’s bad reputation in my mind. I have zero desire to return to this city, and I would highly recommend you skip it. There are more beautiful and friendly places in Italy.