Musings From Milan

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.

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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. ūüė¶

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 ūüôā

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.

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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, caf√©s 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)

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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. ūüôā

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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!

Trotting Through Europe for Three Months

I’m not one to plan trips… I leave the dirty work up to my husband, who actually does an excellent job! I feel as though, in a past life, he may have strangely been a luxurious travel agent… which would explain a lot! Needless to say, thanks to his exhaustive¬†attention to detail, we have a pretty robust open-ended itinerary.

We want to keep an open mind as we travel. For example, if we end up meeting locals (which would be awesome!) who have stories and suggestions of places we never thought to visit, we would absolutely love to take that opportunity to move our plans around and explore those covert spots. So, although our plans are set (in an excel document), they could change depending on what goes on while we are there.

We have hotels booked¬†in Rome and Capri, but after that, we are going to play it¬†by ear. We decided to do our research and have a handy list¬†of 3-5 hotels that we like in each of the cities we plan¬†to visit. So if there is no¬†availability in our first choice hotel, we can go to the next and so on. We also found while doing our research, that traveling through Europe between the months of April and¬†July is actually a fantastic¬†time to go. Most “back-packers” and summer tourists travel between the months of June and August. That said, finding a hotel shouldn’t¬†be as hard in April and May… our only extremely busy month might¬†be June. But who knows…We could be surprised!

Below is a helpful map we were provided with¬†after¬†purchasing our EuRail Passes (the¬†train passes we bought¬†to get us from city¬†to city¬†for the three months we are traveling around Europe). We may also be¬†flying Ryanair (a super cheap European¬†airline¬†— for folk¬†on a budget, like us!) depending on how far each destination is. These maps give us a great sense of direction in terms of how we are going to get from place to place.

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Below line lists what¬†our open-ended itinerary looks like — for now, at least!

Italy

  • Rome
  • Capri
  • Tuscany Region
  • Florence
  • Pisa
  • Cinque Terre
  • Milan
  • Bellagio / Como
  • Padua
  • Venice

Austria

  • Salzburg
  • Vienna

Czech Republic

  • Prague
  • Karlovy Vary

Germany

  • Munich
  • Bavaria / Fussen
  • Berlin
  • Hamburg
  • Lubeck

Denmark

  • Copenhagen

Netherlands

  • Amsterdam

Belguim

  • Bruges

France

  • Paris

Switzerland

  • Geneva
  • Interlaken

France

  • Monaco
  • Cannes

Spain

  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Sevilla

Ireland

  • Dublin
  • Other undecided city… Open to suggestions!

England

  • London

And then back to the United States! 

Off we go to drink a lot of wine and eat lots of pasta in Italy! Wish us luck!!

Until next time, ciao!

PS. If you would like to see more sporadic photos from our adventures, follow my Instagram: jackieklein12 ūüôā

Packing Challenge Accepted

My husband challenged me as we argued in the middle of the¬†Macy’s luggage aisle to pack three months worth of my belongings for Europe into a 19″ carry-on. As much as I hated the idea of this, I finally agreed to¬†accept the challenge. I am now finding myself in a bit of a situation. How can I, the girl who changes her outfit three times a day (sometimes four), pack months worth of clothing into a tiny rolling¬†carry-on? I have not one bit of a clue.¬†But I do know that it has to happen… After all, I accepted a challenge from my husband in which I am too stubborn to not succeed.

So after weeks of reading and hearing other peoples travel stories on packing light, I realized, it can and will be done. I’ve also come to notice, the more my husband and I do travel, the more I have¬†steered away from being the over-packer I used to be. This three-outfit-a-day girl is no longer going to exist when we are on our journey through Europe!

You might be wondering, why such a small suitcase for all of my belongings? Well, it does make sense, I promise. My husband and I¬†are going to be living out of our suitcases and taking the train from city to city almost every other day. That said, it will make my life (and Mike’s) a heck of a lot easier. With all of the cobblestone roads, staircases, and running from train to train, the lighter we pack, the easier getting around will be. I am also going to have a small Tumi¬†weekender with me and a lightweight¬†Patagonia¬†messenger bag.

19" Carry-On Roller, Weekender and Messenger Bag.

What I am packing:

  • 2 pairs of Jeans (one light and one dark – Hudson)
  • 2 pairs of denim shorts (one blue and one white – Anthropologie)
  • 1 casual daytime dress
  • 2 evening dresses (one patterned – Parker. one plain black – Club Monaco)
  • 4 breathable sport T’s (colors: white, grey, blue and purple – Lululemon)
  • 3 long-sleeve breathable shirts (colors: white, black, blue – Lululemon)
  • 4 basic T-shirts (colors: black, white, dark blue, grey – Vince)
  • 1 denim shirt – can’t live without a denim shirt! (Club Monaco)
  • 2 striped shirts – because I love them (Rag & Bone, J Crew)
  • 3 skirts – to mix and match! (two patterned – Theory, Urban Outfitters. one plain black – Urban Outfitters)
  • 2 breathable¬†tanks with built-in-bras (Lululemon, The North Face)
  • 3 tank-tops (colors: black, white, grey – Madewell)
  • 1 breathable¬†half-zip pullover (Patagonia)
  • 1 lightweight jacket (Lululemon)
  • 1 lightweight waterproof windbreaker (Patagonia)
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 lightweight sweatshirt (Club Monaco
  • 1 pair of black leggings (Lululemon)
  • 1 pair of hiking shorts (Lululemon)
  • 2 sports bras (Lululemon), 2 regular bras
  • 7 pairs of underwear (“Light as Air Hipsters” from Lululemon have a lightweight, moisture wicking, seamless technology that is great for traveling. Another benefit of these beauties is the fact that you can easily wash them in the sink¬†of your hotel room… and they air-dry almost instantly! Essential.)
  • 1 swim suit (J Crew)
  • 2 hats (J Crew, J Crew)
  • 5 pairs of easy-to-pack shoes (hiking shoes – Merrell, flip-flops – Tory Burch, sneakers – Converse, loafers and a pair of tan flats (notice there are no heels… another challenge I ever-so-hesitantly accepted from my husband))
  • 1 summer scarf – to help switch-up my outfits! (Club Monaco)
  • 1 cross-body bag that will go with everything (Balenciaga)

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Luckily, I’m a small girl, so all of this did fit into my 19″ carry-on¬†along with my weekender and messenger bag! We are planning on sending our¬†laundry out to be done ever so often, but in the case we have nothing to wear, there is always the option of buying a new piece here and there – which I did leave minimal room for! I’m also going to be light¬†on packing haircare and makeup, just the essentials will have to do! Also, I am going to have to let go of my six-step anti-aging nighttime skincare routine which I’ve gotten so used to (I will reduce this to three steps!). I am trying to find ways wherever possible to save space and every little bit counts. I think I am ready to go!

Only nine more days until take-off!

Until then, I’ll be daydreaming about our first stops – Rome and Capri.