So, I had my first ever Weekend City Break last week, from 30th October – 2nd November. And speaking of first times (steady on)- it was also the first time I went away with just a boy. It was my boyfriend, just to clarify, it wasn’t some absurd kidnapping plot in a desperate attempt to write this post.
We’d chosen 3 nights in Italy; 2 nights in Milan, and 1 night in Turin. As soon as we boarded our easyJet flight, I felt the holiday had begun- because madness quickly ensued- in the form of nodding and smiling with an old Italian woman who sat next to me chatting away in Italian for the whole flight. I shared my sweets with her, and at the end of the flight I helped her put her coat on. Next up on the Be Polite And Just Go With It list, our taxi driver blared out the English National Anthem and saluted the whole way through, right from pick up to drop off.
We had a moments peace when we reached our hotel. We stayed at Hotel Five, which was in a fantastic location. There was the Porta Romana metro station at the end of our small road, as well as a gelato and bakery shop, and to top it all off, an Irish bar right opposite us. Our room was all purple and lovely, too, and once we unpacked we headed off into the centre. Stopping off first at the gelato shop for chocolate orange gelato, of course.
The first sight we saw on our trip was the best; Milano Duomo, the cathedral, that is a piece of fantastic architecture which took over 600 years to construct from marble.
Despite the pigeons fluttering, youths beatboxing (when did I get so old? I don’t even care anymore) and selfie-stick sellers approaching everyone in possible sight, we had a marvellous view of the duomo and put it right at the top of our to-do list.
We sat outside a bar people-watching for a while, before heading to a pizzeria closer to our hotel. It was all going so well; we only had to wait 10 minutes for a table, I’d accidently ordered red wine but loved it anyway (die-hard rose girl), and our orders had been swiftly taken. I’d ordered a calzone, whilst my boyfriend ordered a seafood pizza. Perhaps slightly uncultured of me, but to cut a long story short I didn’t like my calzone and secretly picked at the pizza when both the staff and my boyfriend weren’t looking- I felt a little like the pigeons at the duomo!
Saturday morning and we were on a fantastic free walking tour called Frog Free Walking Tour, with a slice of fantastic focaccia pizza in our hands for breakfast. Our tour guide told us of Milan’s fabulous politics and culture throughout history, whilst walking us through the city. We visited the University, the street where the marble for the duomo was carried, as well as pointing out political propaganda that still stands on some buildings today. We drew to a close by walking through Sforza Castle, which… has cats roaming around in the grassy moat? I still don’t actually get that. Everyone thought it was weird but then got over it, but I just couldn’t? Like why is that happening? Does whoever controls the castle really love cats? Why was no-one finding it as bizarre as I was? And other such annoying notions I’m more than capable of.
Walking through the castle, this led to the Sampione Garden, which is where our guide scenically ended the tour. It was perfect, as we went for a wander under a warm sun. I also went in (and promptly left) a portaloo that had a human poo on the floor, but that as the only flaw in an otherwise perfect day.
The other and not-really downside to the tour was that our guide had told us Italians weren’t big on Halloween. Yet it seemed as soon as the tour ended, all we could see were children dressed up as witches, ghosts, mummies and Spidermen. We paid to enter the duomo and also climb to the very top (this was 8 euroes each). We had absolutely fantastic views of the city, mostly because Milan doesn’t have many skyscrapers. The sun was starting to set, and as we looked down on Piazza Duomo below us, all we could see was a gigantic spiral of dressed-up children rollerblading across the square. Halloween seemed to be pretty big there!
After a late lunch and later shopping, we headed back to the hotel- stopping off for another delicious slice of pizza on thick focaccia bread first. That evening, we caught the tram outside our hotel to the Metropolitan market. We tried the different beers and wines, had a look at all the meats, cheeses, and fruits, and watched more Halloween frivolities pass by.
For dinner that night, we went to a restaurant that was a perativo– this means you buy a drink, and the food is free. To get there, we walked through a restaurant district with a canal in the centre. They were all small, low-roofed restaurants that were full of life with tourists and families, eating and singing and smoking and drinking. We managed to find a table, ordered a cocktail, and proceeded to have 2 or 3 courses of the buffet. We tried lots of different foods, some sophisticated Italian food and some not-so sophisticated cuisine. Okay, we had chocolate cake as well. So what if we went a bit crazy- we were on holiday on Halloween- so the crazier the better, right?
The next morning, after initially going to the wrong train station and thus missing our train, we moved onto Turin. We still did lots of sightseeing and eating, and also constructed our own walking tour after our tour guide failed to show up! We went to the top of the Mole Antontelliana, named after the architect who built it. This had fantastic views of the city, and we could even see the foothills of the Alps too. The lift takes you up through the Cinema Museum, which looked pretty fun too if there was ever a rainy day.
We ate at a restaurant called E Cucina, which was a great experience. We paid 10 euroes for 3 or 4 random dishes and a glass of prosecco to be brought out to you; and because we visited at 3pm, just half an hour before they closed for the lunchtime hours, we had more food piled on our plate. We had bread with a giant ball of mozzarella for starters, a seafood and broccoli pasta dish for main, and fruits for dessert.
That evening, we went to a fancy restaurant for dinner where I had a Mai Tai (yum) and then shared the best starter platter ever that consisted of parma ham, a cheese called Tomino di Talucco, courgettes, and olives. And for my main, I had a cockles linguine; I literally did the thing of closing my eyes, running my fingers up and down the menu, and going whatever my finger landed on.
Besides, in a city like Turin, and a country like Italy, I don’t think you can go wrong with that.