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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Year Abroad Photo Diary: Milan

When I had to choose my top three preferences for where to spend my year abroad in Italy, I didn't actually bother to see where the places were close to. Admittedly, this was pretty stupid of me, but geography has never been my strong suit and I didn't recognise the majority of the places listed. My top three choices were Bologna, Bergamo and Pisa. Initially I was a little gutted to have been given Bergamo, especially after I actually did my research and discovered that it was a small city with barely any night life at all... however I soon came to realise that whilst Bergamo may be small, it is also about 45 minutes to Milan.
The thought of being able to get a train to Milan in the same length of time - if not less - than it takes me to get to Manchester from Preston immediately lifted my spirits. I absolutely adore fashion and Milan is known as one of the fashion capitals of the world, so was obviously over the moon to find this out. Having said that, it actually took me three months of living in Bergamo to even go and visit, and by this point I was actually pretty skint as it had been a fair few months since my last loan instalment. However I didn't want to let this prevent me from enjoying it and as my boyfriend had booked to come and visit me in Bergamo anyway, we decided to book a nights stay in a hostel and spend the weekend in Milano!
The train is about €5 and every half an hour from the main train station in Bergamo, which was really handy for us both. Sam's flight arrived in at around 11:30am so after a quick trip back to mine to sort out our luggage we headed back to the station to go. Quick note for anyone going to Milan from Bergamo or any train station in Italy: you must validate your train tickets before getting on the train. I think there is a fine if you get stopped without them being validated and you do this in a yellow machine near the platform. 
As I previously said, the train takes about 45 minutes and from there we took the metro to our hostel. We decided to buy a 2 day metro ticket as we knew we would be using it quite a lot and I think it was about €9 each, so not too expensive. The metro is very easy to work out anyway and there are a lot of people around who you can ask for help if you're not sure.

We stayed at Madama Hostel and Bistro - it was a really cool little hostel just out of the centre of Milan and we had a private room. On the website it had said that it didn't include towels so we went with the intention of hiring some but as it turns out they did include them anyway, as well as a couple of bottles of water and shower stuff! I thought this was a really nice touch, especially as hostels are normally pretty basic. We were offered a complimentary beer whilst we waited for our room to be ready, and then were told that our room charge also included free aperitivo food (as in, you didn't have to buy a drink to have the food) and breakfast in the morning. We paid around €90 for the night which, in hindsight, is quite steep for a hotel but probably not in Milan. The bed was really comfortable, the shower was decent and the whole place was really nice so I would definitely recommend it for anyone thinking about staying in Milan. 

As soon as we had checked in we decided to go and explore Milan for a bit; by this time it was actually pretty dark as it was winter so we got to see all the Christmas lights! And the Duomo lit up at night. We had a bit of a wander and went to a little restaurant for tea where we both had a carbonara pizza, which was basically a white pizza (no tomato sauce) with bacon and an egg on it! It was huge and lovely and pretty cheap for Milan prices. After a bit of a walk around we decided to head back to the hostel and have a drink in the bar there. They had a karaoke night and although I told Sam to promise not to let me sing, after a few drinks I may have had the microphone forced upon me... very embarrassing. But the whole point of a hostel environment is that it is quite a social area as the majority of people are quite young so it was really fun! We were knackered from all the walking so then decided to go to bed ready to get up relatively early to explore the following day...

This day was spent walking for AGES so luckily the weather was nice (but freezing). We did end up getting a McDonalds breakfast as everywhere was so expensive that we thought we might as well, and we definitely burnt of the calories by walking around during the day. The duomo looked just as beautiful as it did at night, but we didn't actually go up as we thought we wouldn't have enough time. Turns out we probably could've done as there isn't as much to see in Milan as we originally expected so next time it is a must do! We had a good look around the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is the shopping centre right next to the Duomo. There is a huge shopping centre next to it also which I am not entirely sure if it is called the same or if it is even part of the Galleria but it had about 10 floors and on the top they had a rooftop which was very close to the height of the Duomo itself! 

We basically spent the whole day window shopping and to be honest it wasn't everything I had expected, but this was probably because I didn't do my research to find out the best places to eat cheaply or shop at a more affordable price... I loved seeing all the designer shops and spent about two hours with Sam trying to work out where the Moncler shop was (we asked a sales assistant and she just replied 'on the famous road' like we were supposed to know where on earth that was when we had never been before lol). We also ended up eating at a restaurant that seemed reasonable on the outside but charged me €5 for a can of lemonade and €8 for a wrap... which was literally a tortilla wrap with cheese and a slice of salami folded and toasted. Funny to look back on, but at the time I was tired and moody and not impressed at all! To be fair we were right next to the Duomo so were stupid for thinking we would get anything at a reasonable price there, so my advice is DEFINITELY research in advance for cheap places to eat and places with good reviews so you don't end up in my situation!
We actually ended up going back to our hostel pretty early and getting an earlier train back to Bergamo than planned as we were slightly bored of wandering around window shopping and getting dirty looks from all of the store staff. I love shopping even when I don't end up buying anything but would definitely say that if you're going to go to Milan, save up in advance as you will want to buy LOADS and probably get depressed like me if you can't (first world problems). Also research a little more about the city; I feel like if I went back now I would definitely look into more of the tourist attractions and where everything I wanted to see was. 

I wish I could say more about how much I loved Milan as I was so excited to go and think I maybe got my hopes up a little too high. It is apparently a good night out so I will definitely visit again in the near future and report back on if my perception of the place has changed. Loads of people have told me they absolutely loved it so when I have saved up my pennies I will give it another shot.

Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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