The first time I visited Milan (or Milano as I sometimes pretentiously like to call it!) was in the early summer of 1993. I was 21 years old and my brother had lived there for less than a year.
Last week I went to Milan for the umpteenth time, again to visit my brother who has now lived there for almost 20 years – and gained a wife and a son in that time!
Back in 1993 I was excited, but terrified, to visit my big brother in his new city. I was single, much thinner, yet to even embark on my journalism career, and hyper/nervous about my big adventure! I didn’t even have a mobile phone! I somehow managed to get a seat on a direct flight by an airline called Pilgrim Air, and landed at Milan Malpensa Airport, where I had been instructed by my brother to ‘get the bus to Stazione Centrale’ – Milan’s showpiece train station, built by disgraced war-time leader, Mussolini. (If you have never seen it, go! It is a stunning building.)
I managed to to get the bus, and found my brother at the other end. He gave me an ice-lolly for my tea, and I drank the biggest whisky and coke I had ever had in my life, and ended up a bit worse for wear, after a few hours in various bars, before having an unbearable night in the humid heat in my brother’s non-air-conditioned apartment, eaten alive by mosquitoes.
My brother was at work for the first few days of my visit, and I spent my days exploring this big, dirty, vibrant city, before we headed to Florence and the seaside at the weekend.
Over the years I returned frequently to Milan. My brother never met me at the airport, or even Centrale as the years went by. I found my own way to his various flats, on buses, trains and the excellent Metro system. I became familiar with his favourite pubs and restaurants, and the new ones he discovered over the years.
I spent far too much money in the Prada shop in the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in the centre of the city (although the supermarket, Esselunga – which means long S – is my favourite Milan shop ever!), and on almost every occasion had the obligatory ‘Duomo’ shot taken – that’s me outside the gorgeous pink marble cathedral on my latest visit below!
I wrote countless travel features on the city for various publications, wangled a place on a press trip to the city, which included a stay in the beautiful Sheraton Diana Majestic Hotel which my brother lived around the corner from for a while.
I have been ill to the point of being sick with the 40 degree summer heat in the city in July, and bitten more times than I care to remember by the evil ‘zanzare’ (mossies).
I have laughed and cried in Milan. I’ve spent birthdays, Christmases and New Year’s Eve’s there. I’ve had some of the best nights ever, the biggest laughs, the most amazing food, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, and the biggest hangovers I’ve ever had (thanks to those HUGE whisky and cokes!).
Milan is like my second home in a way. I know it so well, and even if my brother leaves, I expect I’ll always visit. My partner’s Uncle lives there too. (He is my brother’s friend and it’s how we met!).
I’m inextricably linked with the city, and I guess that’s no bad thing! These pictures are from my most recent visit. It had been a year and a half since I had been. In 2011, due to circumstances and things life throws you, I didn’t get to Milan at all.
I plan to make sure that doesn’t happen again!