While on a family trip in the UK in July 2012, hubby and I decided at short notice to take a brief side trip without the children to Milan, Italy. It was the first time we’d done a trip without the kids (then aged 8 and 4), so we felt a little guilty. We need not have worried, it was only for 3 nights – the children stayed with their grandparents and cousins in England and had a fantastic time.
18th July 2012- we caught a cheap EasyJet flight from Gatwick to Milano, arriving mid-afternoon, jumped in a taxi to central Milan and checked in at our hotel, King Mokinba Hotel. The hotel was cosy (I mean small), but cheap and comfortable -fine for our one night stay and in a great location, central to most sites in Milan and not far from the station.
Being summertime there was still plenty of hours of daylight left and everything was open late, so we set off exploring. First we walked to the old Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) and then leisurely strolled around the beautiful old 15th century renaissance building, museums and grounds for an hour or two.
As the evening approached it was still very hot in Milan – a stark contrast to rainy, cool England. We decided to wander down some cobbled streets in search of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano). Along the way we browsed in some shops (where I found some gorgeous Italian leather shoes I had to have) and eventually we found the Duomo, a beautiful gothic cathedral – the largest in Italy and third largest in the world, which took nearly six centuries to complete. The cathedral was closing by the time we got there, so we just looked around the Piazza, as the sun dipped lower casting long shadows across the square. There were a few dodgy looking Africans around, some selling trinkets and knock-off handbags, and I felt a little uneasy even with my big hubby by my side, so we didn’t hang around too long.
We headed back towards our hotel, stopping briefly to admire a little medieval square we found along the way: Piazza dei Mercanti. After getting washed & changed at our hotel, we went back out for dinner, finding a cute little restaurant within a couple minutes walk, where we had a delicious Italian meal and bottle of red wine.
19th July – The next morning, after some proper Italian coffee and a pastry in a café near our hotel, I left hubby with his Espresso watching the world go by while I wandered down the street on my own to see the famous Leonardo da Vinci “Last Supper” painting at Piazza Santa Maria Delle Grazie. I had looked it up the night before and learnt tickets should be booked online in advance, but for single tickets you can usually get lucky on the day. Sure enough, I managed to get a ticket at a reasonable price for a viewing in 45 minutes time. While waiting, I explored the cathedral next door, admiring its beautiful interior and courtyard gardens.
The system for viewing the “Last Supper” painting was well organised – ushering each group of 25 people (max) into the room to view the historic artwork to a tight schedule, every 15 mins. This is done to control the room temperature for the painting. Yet I didn’t feel rushed, I felt I had the right amount of time to stand and admire and absorb all aspects of the large artwork. Unfortunately they wouldn’t allow photography of the actual painting but we could take photos of a smaller replica outside (not quite the same!)
After my little tour I met hubby back at the hotel. We checked out and then caught a taxi to Rodano, an outer suburb of Milan, where we were staying for the next two nights.
Home of Lambretta
It seems Lambretta has been forgotten in Milan. On our way to Rodano we asked the taxi driver if he could swing by the old Lambretta factory in Lambrate (an area in eastern Milan). The driver didn’t speak English very well and clearly had no idea what we were talking about. Disappointingly, we couldn’t find the factory – where Lambretta models were invented and manufactured from 1947 until 1971. Perhaps even more sad though, was that the locals didn’t know about the history of these machines which is on their doorstep.
Fortunately, hubby (Steve) was able to return on his Lambretta in June 2017 on his way to the EuroLambretta Rally in Adria, Italy with a bunch of other Lambretta riders from Dorset, England. This time he did manage to visit the factory. The old site still stands, along with its famous water tower, although the site is fenced off, mainly derelict, with plans for some parts to be redeveloped.
The factory is close to a new monument, unveiled in 2014, which sits in the middle of a roundabout. Apparently the locals didn’t take too kindly and waved their fists at the group of English Lambretta enthusiasts climbing on the monument for photo’s – I can’t imagine why!
So, back to our 2012 trip – Why were we heading to Rodano you might ask? It was close to Casa Lambretta, a major Lambretta workshop & museum. Also, Tino, another Lambretta parts dealer, who Steve had arranged to meet, lives nearby. We dropped our bags at the B&B we’d booked in Rodano, found some lunch in the cute village café (which was also a bar and the local post office) and then walked around the corner to Casa Lambretta.
We met Vittorio and spent a couple of hours at Casa Lambretta, touring the workshop and large museum upstairs, browsing the history of Lambretta in the extensive collection of scooters.
Afterwards we met up with Tino and spent the late afternoon and evening in his warm company. He enthusiastically showed us his collection of Lambretta parts and scooters. Steve was very interested in his new ‘Targa Twin’ and Tino kindly let him take it for a test ride on a quiet street. Later we all went out for dinner, followed by gelato and then finally we headed back to our B&B for a good night’s sleep.
A day trip to Brescia
20th July – The next morning we took a train to the nearby town of Brescia, which was only an hour away. We arrived about 11.30am and found somewhere for lunch, not far from the station. Then we spent a few hours wandering around the beautiful town and its piazzas, stopping at the Brescia Duomo and the Old Cathedral of S. Maria at Piazza Paolo VI. These beautiful old historic buildings offered some cool relief for a while as we escaped the hot weather outside.
We continued to explore some more of the old town and found some shops nearby in another lovely square (Piazza). We found a café where we could sit outside. We were pleasantly surprised when they kept bringing out complimentary snacks – each serving larger when we ordered another drink. I left Steve sitting there, people watching while having a beer, and strolled across the square looking in some shops. I also admired some of the beautiful architecture and went inside a grand, old government building nearby.
Then we both wandered up the hill looking for the Brescia Castle, along the way discovering some old ruins ‘Settore Edilizia Monumentale’. I have always been in awe of Italy’s ruins scattered around, often in the oddest places, like the middle of roundabouts, with people walking or driving by, taking them for granted. Coming from a country which is only 200 years old, I find it hard to get my head around the age of these ancient reminders of times so long ago.
When we finally climbed up the castle on the top of the hill, the views across Brescia were beautiful. We strolled around the grounds, chilling out in the gardens and looking at the old buildings. They were setting up for some type of concert and testing out the sound system so we found a bar nearby and had a few drinks sitting in some shade, absorbing our surroundings while listening to some ‘interesting’ EuroPop music. Afterwards, we wandered back down to the town, found a nice restaurant for some dinner, before heading back to the station to catch our train back to Rodano for our final night’s stay.
Milano – style, architecture and fashion
21st July – after breakfast, we left our B&B in Rodano & caught a train back to Milan city. We spent a few hours wandering around the main square ‘Piazza del Duomo’ near the Milan Cathedral, admiring the architecture of the buildings nearby. This time the cathedral was open so I bought a ticket to go inside. The cathedral was beautiful, with its colourful stained glass windows, bold statues, gothic arches and spires. It was also a nice cool temperature, again very welcoming as it was still very hot outside.
Afterwards we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II next door. This is a beautiful example of 19th century architecture – an arcade with a glass ceiling, housing shops selling designer clothing brands (Prada, etc) and high-end dining restaurants. After some window shopping we went through to the Rinascente shopping centre and upstairs to their rooftop restaurant: Maio Restaurant. There we had an expensive lunch, from a rather limited and average menu, while admiring the outstanding views across the top of the Milan cathedral steeples next door.
Nearby we saw some beautiful displays of cakes, chocolates and pastries. We couldn’t resist buying some chocolates, then browsed some of the lower floors and designer clothing on sale. It was all very expensive but I managed to pick up an Armani scarf on sale as a souvenir of our visit to Milan. Afterwards we walked back through the Galleria arcade, out the rear exit and looked at some more beautiful architecture nearby, including the Teatro alla Scala, an opera house which opened in 1778.
Then unfortunately our journey was at the end and we had to catch our flight back to Gatwick. We were sad to be leaving and would like to return again one day (perhaps when it’s not so hot). Although, we were glad to be getting back to see our children!