I woke up in Alessandria, a small town in the region of Piedmont in Italy at 6 in the morning. At 6.45 I set off to the train station, a mere 10 minutes walk from my friend’s flat. Alessandria is a very small town after all. The sign at the pharmacy I passed showed -2°C, brrr it was cold.
I arrived at Milan train station way too early, so early that the Tourist Information wasn’t even open. Ah well, I guess not having a map is not a problem. You see, this is the first solo trip I have ever taken. Well, OK, I’ve strolled down Paris several times by myself, but that’s different as I already know the city. And I’ve taken long train and plane journeys by myself but I know at the end of the journey I would have a friend who would welcome me. However with Milan, it’s different since I have no clue on the city. I didn’t really do any research either since I didn’t have time.
So this was it. Milan. A new city. No map. No plan.
It was clear what I had to do. Get lost! Obviously that’s what I was always good at when I’m travelling.
To be honest with you, Milan has never really been in my must-see list. It’s the fashion capital of Italy and let’s just say I’m not exactly fashionable enough for the city. And it was true. Wearing my grey khaki pants with red sneakers, I was totally under dressed compared to women in Chanel dresses and Dolce Gabbana sunglasses – almost everyone I passed looked like they came out of a fashion magazine. Me, well, I looked like I came out from a backpacking travel magazine, which isn’t so bad either right?
Milan’s metro station isn’t exactly the easiest to work out. Trying to figure out which ticket I should get, I could see a line of ticket machines. I could also see some beggars who were supposedly “helping” tourists in buying tickets which ended up in them asking for money. I knew the trick from my trip in Rome and decided to find a less crowded machine. I decided the Duomo stop should be good for my first stop.
As I came out from the metro station, a magnificent building stood in front of me. It was amazing. I adore seeing churches in different architecture styles. Duomo di Milano is definitely an impressive one. Around the area of Duomo though, I saw some people selling “bracelets” in which they try to put it on you and then you would have to pay them for it. A total scam, and I was already warned by this so I avoided them. A little scared I must admit.
Inside I could see that they were doing quite a lot of renovation to the place. Nevertheless, the colourful stained glass windows attracted me the most, I admired it for too long. I decided to click a few pictures of it before a girl in a red robe came to me and asked if I’ve paid €2 for permission to take pictures. I wasn’t aware of it so I dragged myself to the counter to pay.
The best thing about solo travelling is you can spend as long as you want in one place without people asking me to hurry up. I spent forever inside the Duomo, admiring the little things, sitting down and allowing myself to pray and stare at the flickering candles.
Next I decided to walk around Piazza del Duomo. I just followed my instincts and senses. This is how it usually goes “Oh a church tower!” “Cute aisle, let’s go here” “OMG look at that pretty house!” “Awwww that cafe is so darn cute” “Chocolates!!” “Smell of coffeeeee” – that’s how I usually get lost. I passed by so many nice buildings, cobbled-stones aisles and a lot of cafes. However, I did not like the fact that there were so many shops around the Piazza.
I’m not gonna lie to you. I like shopping for clothes and all that, but give me an hour before I get bored. I’m not much of a shopping girl, so probably Milan was not the greatest destination for me. I do like my once in a while stroll to the shopping centre but that’s about it. But with so many “Saldi” signs before my eyes, I was somehow inside Zara, looking at the sale sections only! Inside my head I was screaming “What?! This cute jumper for only €5?!?!”…I read more carefully, ah “partendo dal” (starting from). I put it back down. Wanting to get out of this shop, I was searching for the exit and I was not able to find it! How is it possible that I hardly ever get lost in a city and cannot exit Zara in Milan? Sigh.
I decided to eat my lunch at Castello Sforzesco. Again, in front of the castle there were several people selling “bracelets”. One of them approached me and placed it on my wrist, I wriggled and said “No!”. I wish these nice places would be free of these scams.
I went around the side of the castle and found a quiet spot to eat my lunch. Again, the amazing thing about solo travelling is that I could take my time to eat and not be rushed into seeing the next thing.
Inside the castle wasn’t really that impressive, most were in restoration so not all was opened. Behind the castle lays a huge park called Parco Sempione. I took my time to explore the park, sitting down every time I felt tired. I could see Simplon Gate in front of me and couldn’t help but notice its similarities to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
After strolling around for hours and hours. I decided it was time to go back to Alessandria.
No doubt that Milan is a great city with so many historical places to explore especially around Piazza del Duomo. I may have underestimated the “fashion” part of this city, because it was really filled with shops and galleries (did you know Mercedes Benz makes clothes??) – it was all too fancy for my liking. On the other side, I absolutely love doing people watching. People do have this weird fashion sense that makes you turn and wonder if such fashion would exist anywhere else if not Milan. Like a guy with orange hair styled in a half mohawk wearing ⅞ trousers with a pair of checkered socks. And also two elderly ladies with gorgeous fur coats, Dolce Gabbana sunglasses and Louis Vuitton luggage bag – I don’t think I would look that awesome when I’m their age!
On the side of travelling alone. I really enjoyed it. I love having no plan and no one needs to get annoyed by my quirky way of exploring a new city. I did miss having a company to laugh and talk to, but it was hardly a big issue. Travelling solo, I would definitely be doing a lot more of that!