Last Updated on February 26, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Enjoying a bit of Milan, Italy, for a few hours between trains brings back memories…
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I had taken the 9:30am train from Bologna to visit Milan. It was an express train schedule for just one hour, but this being the Italian railroads, it was delayed 25 minutes.
Nevertheless, I got to Milan’s Central Station and left my bags in the luggage storage room. (If you ever need to find it it’s on the lower level at one of the far ends station). When I found it there was a long line and it took me 20 minutes just to leave my bag. (Cost is €5 per bag for the first five hours, and then an incremental cost after that).
Right after that I bought a Milano Card, which among other things provides reduced fare transportation on the Metro. I wasn’t going to be traveling much but since I had very little time, I just figured it would be quicker to have the card than to wait on line at each station and have to pay. I was right it – although it cost me €7, it saved me a lot of time.
On this Milan visit I took the train over to the Piazza del Duomo to see the cathedral. The last time I was in Milan it was closed for some reason, but they’d done a beautiful job of restoration on the outside, and for the first time I was able to visit the interior. It is a spectacular Cathedral both inside and out and if you’re ever visiting Milan, definitely visit it.
Visit Milan to Stroll Through Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria
After the cathedral I wandered through the adjacent Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria arcade, looking at the shops, the little cafés and ristorantes, and the beautiful architecture. Just take one look at tiled floor and then let your eyes soar up to the beautiful glass ceiling and there will be no doubt in your mind what a wonderful place it is to visit.
On this Milan visit I walked around the Galleria for a bit, window shopping, and watching the people in the cafés and the police chatting with passerby’s. When I left I wandered over towards La Scala, which is only a hundred yards or so away. I wasn’t going to see any performance or buy tickets, I was using it mainly as a reference point to find the restaurant that my wife and I had gone to six or seven years ago when we also spent, interestingly enough, about 3-4 hours in Milan between trains.
That was a soggy day for a Milan visit, and we walked about in the rain looking for a good restaurant. We were its first customers for lunch and the service and food were molto buono.
I now walked around the area looking for it again but to no avail – I just couldn’t find the little restaurant we’d been in. But I did find another little place, a bar aptly named Bar della Scala. It’s tucked away on the side street Via Filodrammatici which is right next to the Teatro alla Scala.
Visit Milan for A Slice of Neighborhood Life
It was a wonderful little place just as I thought it would be, and instead of sitting at one of the tiny half-dozen tables outside on the pedestrian street I opted instead to go inside to the tiny bar. I knew that would be where the real action was for local people-watching.
I was right since as far as I could tell I was the only person in the place actually visiting Milan. Almost elbow-to-elbow at the tiny tables, I ordered a beer and a chicken cutlet with vegetables, and for the next 45 minutes watched a mini-opera of local Milanese.
I was happily mesmerized by the interaction between people since just as in the old TV series Cheers, everyone seemed to know one another. It was loud, as many Italian cafés are, but it wasn’t raucous or shrill, just a pleasant hum of conversation that hung in the air.
Although there was a little clutch of customers (including me) having lunch, many people came in just for a quick espresso or beer and were then on their way again. As I was leaving several firemen came in to have a quick espresso.
Finally, the Melancholy…Being There Without My Wife
I sat there thinking how it was one of the things I love about Italy, in that you can so easily have these little vignettes of Italian life everywhere you go. It’s like your own little La Dolce Vita, all so pleasant and down to earth, and it always makes me smile.
Although I enjoyed my little tête-à-tête with Milan it did make me a bit sad also, in that my wife wasn’t with me this time. I remember how nice it was just a few years ago when we visited Milan, and were out looking for a good restaurant. We then stumbled across that great little place, peered in the window and both of us decided to go in because it looked quite interesting.
We had a great meal on that Milan visit, but before we went in I remember her saying “if this lunch is good it’s because of me; if it isn’t, it’s your fault.”
The husband never wins…
If you go:
Italian Government Tourist Board
630 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1565
New York NY 10111
Tel: (212) 245-4822
Rail Europe: https://www.raileurope.com/