Milano on a dime

Here’s the trick—don’t buy anything.

I know, I know… it’s tempting to get the Prada bag that’s on sale for a thousand-something euros. But let’s look at this from a logistic perspective: I’m a college student and, therefore, I have no money. What I do have is a few euros, so I have to spend the money on things that count, like touring cathedrals and buying gelato. And honestly, I think the gelato trumps the Prada bag anyway. But maybe that’s just me.

Vito, Arianna, and I arrive in Milan after a 3-hour train ride. Apparently, the train station is one of the must-see sights of Milan, and it’s not hard for me to see why.

Alberto, Vito’s cousin who lives in Milan, has agreed to show us around for the day and is waiting for us outside. First, we begin with a ride on the metro.

Even the metro looks classy.

Even the metro looks classy.

Shortly after we reappear on the city streets, Vito and Arianna vanish into store, leaving Alberto and me to walk around the city. I try mustering up something in broken Italian before Alberto stops me with, “Don’t worry. I speak English.” Maybe I shouldn’t rely so heavily on English here, but I have to admit that it’s helpful. Besides, I can always practice my Italian at the beach or with the grandparents.

Alberto and I begin at the Teatro alla Scala, a famous opera house. We aren’t able to go inside, but we walk around the piazza and admire the statue of Leonardo da Vinci. “Da Vinci was crazy,” Alberto tells me. “The man only slept for 10 minutes at a time and took several naps throughout the day.”

The world-renowned opera house.

The world-renowned opera house.

In the piazza outside of the Scala.

In the piazza outside of the Scala.

Next, we walk through the Galleria, a mall with breathtaking architecture. In the middle of the Galleria is a tile mosaic of a bull and there’s a hole where his (ahem) genitals are supposed to be. For good luck, you place your heel in the hole and spin around three times. Alberto watches from the side as I attempt it. How could I pass up an opportunity for good luck?

Yup, there is it. Or rather, there it isn't.

Yup, there is it. Or rather, there it isn’t.

Exhibit A for getting good luck.

Exhibit A for getting good luck.

We wait for Vito and Arianna in the Piazza Duomo, which is just outside of the Galleria. One of the buildings bordering the piazza is the Palazzo Reale, an art museum with a courtyard used for outdoor concerts. We try walking around the courtyard but don’t get very far, as a wedding is taking place and a throng of wedding guests crowds the entrance. Alberto announces that he needs his morning café, so we wander along the outskirts of the piazza until we stumble across a bar. As we walk, Alberto points at the statue in the middle of the piazza.

“Do you know why all four of the horse’s legs are on the ground?”

“Nope.”

“If all four legs are on the ground, the rider lived. If only one of the front hooves is off the ground, the rider was injured. If both front legs are in the air, the rider died in battle.”

I should probably pay more attention in school.

After Alberto gets his  café, we sit on the Duomo steps until Vito and Arianna join us.

We decide to do a little shopping before touring the Duomo. The only problem is that the stores are PACKED with people, as it’s the first day of a major sale. Luckily, we get out alive (and without buying anything).

A display made with plastic bags outside of Zara.

A display made with plastic bags outside of Zara.

Walking down one of the main streets in Milan.

Walking down one of the main streets in Milan.

Finally, it’s time to check out the Duomo. Although it costs a few euros per person, we decide to venture up to the roof. Climbing the 250 stairs to the top is cheaper than taking the elevator, so we opt for that. Afterwards, we go inside of the cathedral. Guards stand outside of the entrance, checking bags with a cursory glance and making sure everyone is appropriately dressed. I see the guards turn away a woman in a tank top and make another woman wait outside as she ties a sarong over her shorts.

We decide to get gelato before heading to the Castello Sforzesco, an old castle that houses and handful of small museums. On the way, we walk through the original marketplace. Alberto pulls us into one of the stores and orders macarons for Arianna and me to try. He hands us the tiny confectioneries and tells us to close our eyes before taking a bite. All I have to say is that Italians know their way around i dolci, or sweets.

Our last stop for the day is the Castello Sforzesco. We don’t pay to go into any of the museums, but we walk around the grounds for free. As we meander through the park, my right sandal decides it has had quite enough walking for one summer and snaps. I feel a bit idiotic tripping over myself as I keep walking, trying to play it off, but it’s painfully obvious that my shoe is broken. Luckily, vendors at a nearby food cart provide a rubber band, which I use to strap my shoe onto my foot. I feel quite stylish. I mean, what better place to walk around with a rubber band on your foot than the fashion capital of the world?