Milan. The fashion capital and commercial heart of Italy has always been at the top of my list – not only as a model but also for its rich history and architecture. It definitely did not disappoint – I even got to attend my first World Expo (I was not expecting it to be such a party!) and take a relaxing trip to nearby Lake Como.
We headed down to Framura train station to continue our journey to Milan. Waiting at the station, the train we were waiting for was progressively getting longer delays .. 5 minutes.. 10 minutes.. 15 minutes .. All the way to 40 minutes late. The high speed train we were supposed to connect with nearly blew us over as it sped past. Frustrated, we headed to the next stop to try and find someone to help us get on the next train. Fortunately we didn’t have to get another ticket – just board the next train and sit in the hallway with all the others who missed the previous one.
Arriving into Milan central, I sat and waited while Liam went in search of onward tickets to the University area where we were staying, Bovisa. The station was packed and a little sketchy – multiple times I had to stop homeless people trying to take my bags. Liam arrived back a while later breathless – they made him go to the underground to get an urban ticket to use for the overground – go figure. We made it to the apartment 45 minutes late but fortunately the land lord was still there to meet us with the keys. We dumped our bags and headed in the direction of campus and found a great little cafe called Spuga – indulging in burgers after our long day and crashing.
One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Milan is that it is one of the most important cities for fashion. Some of the most famous and well known brands are headquartered in Milan; Gucci, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, the list goes on. I was lucky enough to meet up and have a few shoots with some local photographers – stay tuned for the full editorials!
After a few days of shooting, we took a tram into town and caught our first glimpse of the Duomo di Milano, a huge gothic cathedral (50 years in the making) that dominates the city’s central square. You cant help but stand and stare – both for the architecture and for the sheer amount of people in the square hawking, taking photos and feeding pigeons.
Since we had seen so many cathedrals, we were far more impressed by the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The enormous crucifix shaped double story mall not only houses the most prestigious designers, it is a work of art – with a huge central dome, frescoes and a glass vaulted roof.
We walked though the mall to the tourist office to grab a map and set out to see the major sites. Heading along Via Dante, the streets were lined with the flags of many different nations, advertising for the World Expo 2015. We caught our first glimpse of the Sforzesco Castle. In front of the castle is a giant fountain – it was such a hot day that a huge crowd had stopped to dip their feet and children were running through the streams of water. We stopped to join before heading through the castle and out into the Sempione Park.
We had missed out on tickets to see the famous “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci but we continued on through the park to go and see the Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent regardless. Arriving to the Convent, we stumbled into the back atrium, and walking around it we were still able to see a replica of the painting.
Aside: if you want to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” you need to book ahead here.
For the evening, we wanted to go and check out the World Expo 2015 (running from May 1st to October 31st). You can buy a ticket for after 7 pm for 5 euro (rather than pay 40 euro per person for the whole day). Arriving to the site, we were shocked by the sheer scale (I literally don’t have a photo that shows it all) and amount of work that went into getting everything ready, from the public transport system to the construction of the individual exhibition buildings for each country.
Heading to the UN’s Pavilion Zero we learned about the core theme of the Expo – Food. The display was nothing short of incredible – opening our eyes to some of the issues affecting the world – from the huge amount of waste to people betting of food “stocks” raising the cost preventing the poorest communities from being able to afford it. All of the issues were expressed through pieces of art which were really something special – from models showing the changes in land allocation over time to a “Wall Street” style stocks board showing the changing food prices.
To celebrate the 4th of July we decided to head back to the Expo – it can turn into a real party in the evenings with each countries exhibition having a restaurant and a bar to try their specialties. We made a bee-line for the American tent and definitely were not disappointed – the upper level had been turned into a country bar with a blues band playing and beer pong tables set up. We had a few games and went to have a burger before setting off on an “exhibition crawl” – going and trying the signature drink from each nation. Sangria from Spain, Tequila from Mexico, Fernet from Argentina, wine from Israel and many more.
We were more than a bit hungover after our big night but couldn’t resist spending our last day in Lake Como. Made famous as a celebrity vacation spot, the lake was idyllic with cliff side towns reminiscent of Cinque Terre. We even spotted the iconic Villa del Balbianello where scenes from Casino Royale were filmed. The ferry runs from Como to the central town of Bellagio (taking roughly 2 hours) so we decided to spend most of the day there. We set out to explore the city and found it was filled with restaurants and lots of tiny shop – great for picking up some souvenirs for the family. Heading out of the city, you can walk down to the waters edge and go for a swim; perfect on a hot summer day.
Taking the ferry back to Como, we grabbed a champagne and enjoyed the ride.
Next Stop: Côte d’Azur