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EuroTrip - Milan in 2 Days: Boring and Architectural

As I have pointed out from my previous post on Florence (which you can read by clicking here), Milan makes a great destination for city planners and architects, but anyone else would be wasting their money here. There is a bunch of interesting buildings starting with the Bosco Verticale, which is a pair of vertical forest towers near Garibaldi. The area around Garibaldi was re-developed as the last millennium came to a close and has rightfully won a bunch of awards for the Piazza Gae Aulenti.

It is confusing though for a visitor trying to walk around the area, as I ended up walking into a tunnel with little provision for pedestrians rather than walking through the square. Google was not so clear on walking directions and neither is the design of the pavements intuitive enough to account for those trying to follow the highway when walking.

I eventually did find my hotel, which was close to the Milan Central Station, itself a large and interesting-looking building which I never went into.

As for my hotel in Milan, the less that is written about it the better. There was the noise filtering in from the neighbouring rooms - it sounded like it was a long term stay for Asian and Nigerian migrants. There was also the furniture that did not look like it had been dusted in ages and the broken flower bed and soil along the balcony that appeared to have been undisturbed for months. Let us say, this location takes the crown for the worst place I have stayed in.


One of Italy’s high speed trains
Milan was also the city where I learned that there is a reason that commercial dryers at pay-to-use laundry shops warn you to watch the temperature. I chose 20 minutes on high and my socks shrunk, and my shirts almost melted.

In the two days I was here, I established a routine of having breakfast at this cafe a short walking distance from my hotel, where on one day I found teenagers listening to music including STL’s Lookie Lookie. I tried finding out from them the hot clubs in Milan - but they spoke just enough English to let me know they do not speak English.

That left me to attempt to find my way around the night scene but there was not much besides the Monkey Cocktail Bar, which plays a wide variety of music including dancehall and afrobeats and spots a quirky decor.

The only other place worth mentioning was Barba, which is a bar with an old school feel including a black-and-white tube TV, tapes and vinyl on the wall, and even Bic pens. Wow. Both places also come with great service.

From Milan, I caught a FlixBus to Nice, which gave me the opportunity to try out the FlixBus App that is revolutionising travel in Europe. FlixBus is an ultra cheap bus that you can book to basically any city in Europe. The green buses are not owned by FlixBus, but by families and other contractors.


Milan’s redeveloped Central Business District with the Unicredit Tower in the foreground and the Bosco Verticale forested towers in the background
I was afraid I would miss my bus as I got lost on the subway. Forget the Munich trains where the same route goes in opposite directions. In Milan, the same route splits at some point leading to two different destinations. You guessed it - I took the wrong train and had to double back to end up at the right station.

Like in Rome, I ended up at a bus park, but this one was a little different in that it was way out of the city and seemed to exist purely as a bus park, with the train-stop and a cafe where I could grab some reasonably priced breakfast.

My bus was late, almost 40 minutes late, and I came to see why this was the case. The traffic out of Milan was terrific, more of stop-and-go traffic. The bus stop seems located at such a place to get passengers on to the AutoStrada, Italy’s inter-city pay-per-use highway system. We were soon on the Autostrada and stopped at one of the truck/bus stops that line the highway for a driver shift exchange.

As we got closer to the Italy/France border the scenery changed to more of a hilly landscape as we encountered the Alps. The Autostrada is designed as a flat highway meaning that you do not dip into valleys or climb up hills, but rather, you have a series of bridges across valleys opening up directly into tunnels through hills. The bridges were so high that there were whole towns way, way under the structures.


A high speed Italian-France train as viewed from the Autostrada. Beneath is the town of Imperia
The Alps seem to marry with the sea around the border, with the weather also changing to a rainy and foggy summer. We drove out the Autostrada for a stop at a town known as Savona, before proceeding along our journey to Nice in France, which was in itself jaw-dropping thanks to the steep drops that hugged the bridges.

The French-Italian border is a nondescript point without much fanfare through which you drive into the French equivalent of the Autostrada. It is an unmanned border with no stop, and also the point where your phone makes the switch from Vodafone Italy to France's SFR.


Next in these series, my efforts to visit a vineyard finally bear fruit, plus more of what Nice, France has to offer. Click here to read.

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