In Milan, I ate Chicken Milanese, duh! And it was the best Chicken Milanese I have ever had. Although, my hero’s – Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Gartin – would be extremely proud of my very own Chicken Milanese dish that I craft roughly once a week for me and my husband back home… with their help of course! I discovered my love affair with Chicken Milanese the summer of 2010 when I interned in New York City. My sister-in-law, Megan (who I stayed with), introduced me to this amazing little restaurant in the Soho area right down the street from her apartment. They served the best Chicken Milanese. Megan would always order it, so naturally I started ordering it too, and I have never been the same. So as strange as it may sound, I was actually mainly looking forward to Milan for the sole purpose of eating Chicken Milanese. Aside from that though, we had a really good time exploring the city.
Milan, in certain ways, reminded me of New York City’s Midtown meets Philadelphia’s Old City. It was a mix of old, beautiful, historic architecture with some scattered glass high rises here and there. It didn’t have the typical Italian charm I was expecting, but after exploring different parts of the city and getting lost together on numerous occasions, I started to see the beauty in Milan. After being there for a couple hours, I started to feel like I was more at home than I have been this entire trip. The city held so many attributes Mike and I are used to. Food carts, different kinds of restaurants, sports fans everywhere, the people in general. It was actually quite refreshing.
While in Milan my husband and I made an interesting observation: some Italian pedestrians really do not pay attention, at all what-so-ever, when they walk (no offense to these certain Italians (kind of)). It’s like they’re all in the midst of this serious daydream where their eyes become fuzzy and their brains start to freeze. And then they run into poles. So, after observing that this literally happens all the time, we started playing a game: how many daydreaming Italians run into poles (or signs, or traffic, or buildings, etc.) a day? It became so much fun and has become a daily activity for us! In fact, we’re worried about what we’re going to do when we leave Italy. It will be a shame if we can’t find Austrians and Germans daydreaming while walking too. Because then our game will have to come to an end. 😦
Aside from the clever game we invented, we had a really good time exploring the city. We hopped off the train into the hectic station of Milan late Thursday afternoon. Pushing through crowds, similar to that of Penn Station, we made our way to a taxi cab that would take us to our hotel. Milan’s driving situation was quite nice, actually! Every single time we have gotten in a cab or a car in any other Italian city, I have feared for my life. It was like driving with my Grandfather all over again (god bless you Popi)…. where I would just silently sit still with my eyes tightly shut repeating prayers to help me stay alive. Milan’s drivers were all normal, which was really nice!
The food and restaurant options in Milan were great. It was like being in a huge diversified city where we had plenty of options other than Italian food. I love Italian food, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day, a change of pace is nice! My sister-in-law, Megan (the coolest, most worldly person that I know), introduced us to her good friend Silvia (also really cool and unbelievably worldly), who actually grew up in Milan. Silvia was in Philadelphia on a work related basis a few months ago, so Mike and I got dinner with her and she graciously gave us the low down on everything Milan/all things Europe. It was amazing and we are so grateful! She had mentioned that the Nobu in Milan was really good. So our first night there, we made our way to Nobu for a sushi and sake date, and it was exactly what we needed. We ordered a heaping mound of sushi, a rainbow of sashimi and a bottle of sake. We were two happy campers 🙂
On Friday morning we made our way to see the Duomo. It was so breathtaking it blew me away the same way the Duomo in Florence did. Except, not only was the outside of Milan’s Duomo spectacular, the inside was just as detailed and interesting. It’s always cool being in and around such extraordinary history. We then roamed a rather touristy area near the Duomo where my husband and his family ate pizza, twice (!), on their short pit-stop in Milan years back. My father-in-law loves talking about this pizza place because their second time going, the chef/owner was so sweet and made all of their pizzas in the shape of hearts. I obviously had to have a pizza in the shape of a heart, it has literally been something I have always dreamt about. But after hours of circling the same exact area with no recollection from my husband as to where this place was or where it may have gone, we had to give up. Resulting in us walking back towards our hotel neighborhood and eating pizza (in the shape of a circle) at a wonderful restaurant Silvia recommend, Trattoria del Carmine.
We desperately wanted to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, but trying to reserve tickets two weeks in advance just wasn’t enough time and we didn’t get the chance to go. Take note: tickets sell out fast, so reserve them at least a month in advance. We were extremely disappointed, but this just gives us another reason to head back to Milan one day!
We stayed in the Brera neighborhood and loved it. We were just steps away from the Duomo, hundreds of restaurants, cafés and all of the major shopping. My husband had been to Milan in the past (he had occasional soccer games there), so he was semi-familiar with the city. So we spent the vast majority of our day just exploring the different neighborhoods, walking for hours, eating Italian fare and drinking wine. PS: I think I have walked more in the past three weeks we have been here than I would in three months back home. It’s been great for working off (probably only half) of my pasta intake! That night we dined at a traditional Milanese restaurant the hotel concierge recommended. We tried going to one that Silvia suggested, but unfortunately it was closed that night. The spot we ended up at was delicious though! It was called Il Cestino. It was super cute, had a live Italian acoustic guitar player serenading the crowd, and out of this world Chicken Milanese. We both ordered it and both finished the entire thing. (Mike says my homemade version is better, but I know he’s just saying that for the sake of being a good husband… I can read him like a book)
Saturday consisted of a lot of window shopping (a lot of super high-end, sophisticated window shopping that made me feel really bad about my “grungy traveler” appearance – we were in the fashion Capitol of Italy, despite my dirty jeans and stretched out t-shirt, we had to witness the layers upon layers of fancy flagships) and rallying for our big night we had planned. That was the night we were going to the soccer stadium to see Inter Milan play Napoli. My husband, a former soccer player who played from childhood all throughout college, was so excited for the event! He had bought tickets in advance and warned me things were going to get crazy. Boy, was he right… Italian sporting events are no joke!! We had excellent seats that were located far from the chaos of the Inter Milan fans, but it was really fun watching them go crazy. They were insane, unlike any other sporting team fans I have ever witnessed. And I have seen Eagles fans at their finest! Throwing tiny bombs to rally the crowds, sending off smoke, holding unbelievably large banners that blocked an entire section of seating in front of them. It’s unexplainable the experience we had there that night. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun. On our walk home, we stopped at a tiny creperie restaurant, where we ate lots of yummy crepes. It was a great night, and the happiness that was radiating from my husband at the soccer game made it even better. 🙂
Sunday morning we boarded the fast train to Venice. It’s funny for me to see how many Italians start drinking wine in the morning. I think Mike and I were the only two in our car who didn’t order a glass of wine. I always thought water or orange juice was the appropriate 10am drink choice… or maybe a mimosa! Nope… In Italy, it’s all wine, all the time.
Until my tales from romantic gondola rides to fancy bellini’s in Venice, bon voyage!