One of the many perks of spending a year abroad in mainland Europe is the endless opportunity for travel. From where I live in the south of France, you can get a train directly to Milan, which I decided to make the most of a few weeks ago. Return flights from London to Milan in January can be as cheap as £30, so what better way is there to unwind after your exams?
Milan is a fantastic city; extremely stylish, classy and full of culture as you would expect, but it also has such a student buzz about it. There’s so much to do, and you can do so on a budget. There are free walking tours of the city that you can book online in advance, and our tour guide was so interesting and passionate about his city that it was impossible not to catch his enthusiasm. Of course, you can guide yourself, but this is a fantastic way to learn a little about the history of the city whilst you explore it.
From a student’s perspective, I was also really surprised at how reasonable it was to eat there – and of course, it’s Italy, so the food was amazing. There’s a plethora of great bars to choose from, and the typical thing to do in Milan is go to a bar for ‘aperitivo’ before dinner. This is fantastic because essentially you buy a drink which allows you free access to their buffet-style selection of amazing food. It costs around €10 depending on the bar, but this is for a cocktail and as much food as you like, so perfect for students on a budget! I would suggest heading to the beautiful Navigli waters where there are a lot of buzzy, student-friendly bars.
You will not be stuck for things to do in Milan; walking round and exploring will take up so much of your weekend, not to mention the many museums and galleries there are to visit. I would recommend the Museo del Novecento which is free at the end of the day, and from the top you can get a gorgeous view of the Duomo at sunset. If it’s the fashion side of Milan that interests you, the Armani/Silos exhibition was also really interesting, and is in a different part of the city that you otherwise might not see.
However, as easy as it would be to fill an entire long weekend in Milan, I would argue that you can’t go to Milan without taking the short train journey to see Lake Como; ironically one of the highlights of my year abroad in France so far… It is stunning. You can get the train from Milano Centrale to Como in forty minutes, and when you get there you can visit the different towns that surround the lake by boat, which I would highly recommend doing.
We visited three towns: Como, Bellagio and Varenna – which we returned back to Milan from – which are all similar, but each with their own charm. In Como, I would definitely recommend getting the funicular for some beautiful views, and I defy you not to fall in love with Varenna – we all sat in a small alcove eating pistachio ice creams and listening to the waves gently crashing as we planned our honeymoons there and watched the sun set. It is a truly magical place.
A weekend in Milan is a fantastic way to pack in some amazing food, fascinating culture and stunning scenery, so if you are thinking of taking a weekend off to explore a new city in the near future, then Milan is definitely worth a visit.