Milan’s been on my radar for so many years, I’m surprised it took me as long to visit as it did! Initially we’d planned to visit for a few days for my 13th birthday, but we ended up going to Dublin instead (probably for the best – it’s not like I could have afforded to go shopping!).
My mum and I both had a free long weekend (and plans for Oslo had fallen through), so we were narrowing down places to go. In the end, we had to choose between two cities: Geneva and Milan. It was a tough one, but seeing as we’d talked about Milan for so long, we decided to go there.
We got really cheap flights with Ryanair, flying from London Stansted (they were less than £50 return each). We were up ridiculously early driving through the night, as our flight took off at 8.30am on Friday morning. The flight only took 90 minutes, so it wasn’t long until we touched down in Milan Malpensa.
The Day of Disaster
Now I’m not going to lie, the first day was a disaster, for several reasons. Firstly, as we made our way out of airport arrivals, we decided to buy tickets for the Malpensa Express train to Cadorna, which was the district we were staying in.
So we booked our tickets and headed down to the platform with lots of other travellers, and twenty minutes later, no train had come. Warning notices then came up in Italian, but as neither of us spoke a word of it, we didn’t have a clue what was going on.
Eventually after using Google Translate, we realised that all trains to Cadorna were cancelled that day. Instead, we jumped on a train to the main station, and changed at Garibaldi to get to Cadorna.
By the time we arrived at Cadorna train station, we were an hour behind schedule, so had let the owner of our apartment know that we were going to be late. We were pleasantly surprised however, to find that the apartment we were staying in was right outside the Cadorna train and metro station.
As we arrived at the entrance, we saw that the apartment was in a serviced block, complete with reception. As we showed our check in details however, we were informed that our apartment was owned by an “external party”, so had to wait.
Hanging around by the entrance, I emailed the owner letting him know we had arrived and were waiting. After about fifteen minutes, this shifty man turned up from behind us muttering away. Grabbing my reservation, he carried on muttering to himself for several minutes, before pointing into the building; gesturing for me and my mum to follow.
We caught a lift (which seemed to be on its last legs) down to the basement; then came to a halt as he muttered some more. Eventually, he led us into a room below another apartment. The lights were off, but it looked tiny and dirty, and unlike what we’d seen on the pictures. We couldn’t even see where the bathroom was.
Now at this point, we should have just turned around and left. However, having neither of us been in this situation before; as the man explained to us that they just had to clean the apartment, he asked us to leave our cases, and we did as we were told.
Grabbing lunch at the station nearby, we both had a sick feeling in our stomachs. I got the images of the apartment back up, and it looked nothing like what he had shown us. It was like he’d stolen the images of the serviced apartments and claimed them as his own.
The man himself was extremely shifty, and neither of us felt safe. The problem is, Milan is a pretty expensive area to stay. On top of that, we were on limited time, so as we trawled through booking.com, we discounted anywhere that wasn’t around the Cadorna area.
Eventually, we came across Hotel Metro, near the Wagner metro station; which looked safe and relatively cheap. We quickly booked the room for two nights, then cancelled the apartment on Booking.com. The T&Cs stated that we would still be charged the price for one night, and whilst it didn’t seem fair as we’d basically been conned; we just wanted to get out of there.
Heading back to the apartment, we grabbed our cases and left.
By this time, it was already mid-afternoon, and time was ticking away. We ordered an Uber (literally driven by the best-dressed taxi driver ever), and got to the hotel for around 3pm.
Hotel Metro was SO much better than the apartment we’d originally booked! While the décor may have been slightly dated, the staff were really friendly and made us feel very welcome. Our room was huge, and we were in a great location – just a few minutes away from the nearest metro stop, and near to lots of shops.
We unpacked our clothes and then decided to head into the centre of Milan for the evening. The day of disaster still wasn’t over though; as we got on the metro ready to travel six stops to the Duomo, only for it to then stop after one metro station.
Everyone was shepherded off and told that the metro was no longer working. The queue for the buses outside were long and winding, so we walked fifty minutes in the rain to get to the Duomo.
By this time you can imagine how fed up we were. Tired, cold and just generally annoyed with unsuccessful the day had been, I’ll be honest: I didn’t like Milan that much. Even the ornate Duomo couldn’t lift my spirits.
We wandered round the shops, and I found some shoes I’d been looking for in ‘& Other Stories’. The highlight of the day had been finding Excelsior – the most amazing department stores with so many brands. It was like Wonderland for fashion addicts, there were so many things to see, and lots of clothes I wanted.
With the rain continuing to fall, we took shelter in a café and drank lots of tea and ate cannoli. As it was the first time in the day we’d sat down to relax, a wave of tiredness hit us both, and we could barely keep our eyes open. Rather than spend the rest of the night in the city centre, instead we caught the metro back to Wagner, had dinner at McDonalds (ha!) and went to bed.
Best Shopping Day EVER
We woke up bright and early the morning after, and took advantage of the free breakfast at our hotel (essentially I had marble cake topped with Nutella, but hey, I was on holiday, so who cares?!).
We’d booked tickets to go to Serravalle Designer Outlet, which was about a fifty minute drive out of Milan.
Essentially, if you go to Milan, you want to buy something designer, right? But lots of tourists make the mistake of going shopping in the flagship stores of the city centre. If you want to invest in designer pieces but don’t have unlimited amounts of money to throw around, then it’s worth heading out to the nearby designer outlets, like the locals do.
The return trip to Serravalle cost 20 EUR each, and we caught the coach outside the visitor centre. We were unsure as to whether the 7.5 hour day would be too long, but we were wrong. We were so very wrong.
Serravalle is HUGE. The only (good) designer outlet I’d been to in the UK was Bicester Village, but Serravalle was something else altogether. There were over 300 stores of genuine, well-known brands (think Prada, YSL, Moschino, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, need I go on…?!). All of these stores had a MINIMUM of 40% off, and as we’d been so lucky as to time our trip with Black Friday, several stores were offering additional discounts.
We started off by having lunch to pace ourselves, before wandering through the shops. To begin with, I demonstrated excellent self-control.
We went into the really expensive brands where I looked but didn’t touch; I eyed up a couple of pieces in Guess that I was considering, and bought a sweater in Sisley.
Except then I wandered into Saint Laurent and saw the shoes I’d been lusting after my entire life. The Tributes.
They are literally the most perfectly formed pair of shoes. A slim five inch heel offset with a thick platform, and an ankle strap (an ankle strap is a must for me, otherwise my feet just shoot through the end), they’re an absolute classic.
They had the most amazing pair of tributes in a metallic pink. I gazed longingly, and even though the shoes were heavily discounted, they were still 400 EUR.
As I left the shop, I couldn’t get the YSL Tributes out of my mind, and started mentally planning how I could pay off 400 EUR if I decided to get them.
Walking around some more and looking in stores, we then walked into Prada…
Now I’m going to set the scene. Way back in 2011, 18 year old Elle starts University in Manchester, and after spending an afternoon in Selfridges, the most gorgeous bag caught her eye. The Miu Miu Vitello Shine in raspberry. Elle falls in love with the bag (retailing at approx. £1,500 full price), and visits it almost every single week for the first two years of Uni, trying to figure out how long it would take her to save up for that bag.
Unfortunately Elle graduated from Uni without that Miu Miu (she’d spent all of her savings on a Scandi Adventure instead). And then, five years on from the first time she’d locked eyes on that bag, they met again in Milan. You can read my love affair with the Miu Miu Vitello here.
OK, I’m switching back to the first person now, but you get the picture. There was a selection of Miu Miu goods within the Prada store, and what did I see but no other than the raspberry Miu Miu Vitello Shine bag. The bag I had wanted for THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
Running over, I stroked the bag, before checking out how it looked with my outfit (it looked great). I knew right then I would get the bag. It didn’t matter how many months it would take to pay off, I queued up and bought the bag, and it was the best thing ever.
Now, I don’t know about you, but once I’ve made one purchase, I find it very difficult stopping more purchases. Those YSL Tributes were still running through my mind, and I then visited the Moschino shop.
I love Moschino: their clothing is so garish, but it’s also very fun and tongue-in-cheek. I saw such a cool dress in the couture collection. It was a black silk dress, with an oversize yellow ribbon tied around the middle that was designed to look like a tape measure.
I tried it on and it looked SO GOOD. It had a huge 70% off, but that still took it to £900. I visited that dress three times within two hours, wondering if I could justify buying that dress. Ultimately, I just couldn’t – I didn’t really have the occasion to wear it. But I still think about it all the time, and wonder how much better my life would be wearing it.
A Piece of Nottingham in Milan
We had dinner at the outlet before catching the coach back to the city centre. I proudly swung my Prada bag on my arm as we caught the metro back to the hotel.
Quickly getting changed (black cropped jumper, ruffled black skirt and boots), we caught the metro to P. ta Venezia to our first stop: Eppol.
The second I stepped in, I loved this place. Not only was it a hipster’s paradise, the barman had an amazing Moschino sweater (and inspired me to get one too); but the first two cocktails on the menu? That would be a Clover Club and an Aviation. Two of my favourites, and the Clover Club was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Naturally I had both, and they were made very well. I could have easily ordered a couple more drinks and spent the rest of the night there, but we had to leave as we had another bar to try out: Nottingham Forest.
I am neither a fan of Nottingham or football; but when there’s a cocktail bar named after your hometown, then you simply have to try it.
It was a fifteen minute walk from Eppol, and we had to queue for thirty minutes to get in, and we could see why. It was table service only, and the place was tiny. Plus when you consider the fact that it’s been voted as one of the top fifty bars in the world, surely anyone who’s visiting Milan and likes cocktails would check it out?
The cocktails were unusual, and whilst I enjoyed it there, there was a distinctly tiki bar feel (and I’m not a tiki bar fan, unless you count Aku Aku in Grünerløkka), and I really liked Eppol. In fact, I’d visit Milan just for the weekend if it meant I got to sip Clover Clubs whilst wearing my Moschino sweater in Eppol.
We got back to the hotel much later than the night before (3am), after being driven round the streets of Milan with the world’s most talkative taxi driver.
Sightseeing in Milan
As it was our final day in Milan, we decided to stay away from the shops (for a while), and check out the tourist attractions. The first stop was Milan castle – we figured that a picture of the outside was fine, it wasn’t like we had to go inside.
After posing for pictures with my Miu Miu we then caught the metro to Porta Genova FS and stopped off at a café for cake before making our way to Navigli.
Milan has a network of canals and whilst it may not be as beautiful as Venice, it’s a pretty part of the city. It wasn’t as big as perhaps we thought it would be though, and after an hour we decided to head back to the airport.
Getting off at San Babila, we had a look in the flagship designer stores – now that I had my Miu Miu in the crook of my arm, I felt like I belonged there.
First stop was to YSL (they had the Tributes, but not in metallic pink), followed by Miu Miu, where I was complemented on my bag. Our final stop was to Moschino where I bought a sweater – since buying the bag, throwing a couple of hundred Euros here and there was no big deal.
I felt so rich holding onto my Miu Miu whilst swinging my Moschino bag, but it was probably a good time to stop shopping. My credit card wouldn’t thank me!
We had a late lunch of pasta before heading back to the hotel to collect our cases. The hotel staff were lovely – next time I’m back in Milan, I’ll be staying there for sure.
We caught the Malpensa Express from Cadorna which was actually running, and it was a painless half an hour ride to the city centre.
We were back home late Sunday night and the drive back was tiring – especially when I had to be in work the Monday morning. Still, the Miu Miu and Moschino were worth it.
The first day in Milan, I was NOT impressed. However, it got better. Whilst I liked it, there’s no way I’d live there. I’d like to go back (especially to Eppol), but I feel like it’s a place where I’d have to go shopping, so I’d need to have a lot of money to buy another designer piece. Maybe those metallic pink Saint Laurent Tributes?