Milan in a day (Part 1)

Italy is by far my favourite European country, so much so that I have started to look for a retirement goal home there, unfortunately the options are endless and I am no closer to retirement than when I started my search and considering I am only 34 Years old I believe I still have some time to go!

With that said, when travelling to Europe I always try to fly through Italy, primarily because the Italian embassy seems to like me and issues my Schengen Visa in record time (2 days on this last trip – Grazie Amore!)

This time I flew through Milan and anyone who has been to Milan will tell you it is incredible, it has so much history, beautiful architecture, amazing art everywhere in the city, cafés, gelato shops and of course, Armani-clad beautiful Italians everywhere you look. I arrived in Malpensa terminal 1 and took the complimentary shuttle around to terminal 2 where I checked into The Moxy Hotel, a trendy little design-like hotel by Marriott, their version of Starwood’s Aloft brand I imagine. I started my morning with a quick espresso in the lobby bar and hopped back on the complimentary shuttle back to Terminal 1 where I bought a day pass on the Malpensa Express for Euro20 and I was off to the city.

You can actually buy your ticket online at www.malpensaexpress.itwhich will save you time. 35-40minutes later my train pulled into Cadorna and I was off in search of breakfast. I had heard about a sandwich shop that was run by a father and son duo that had been open since the 80’s, they served fresh and unique panini and on a quick google search I came up with their map location and reviews, which as a tourist in a new city is a good indicator of where to go.

A short walk up passed the famous Cathedral  and up one of the side streets and I was standing in front of Bar G.B. The selection of fresh panini was incredible; bresola and smoked cheese, prosciutto and sundried tomato, spicy salami and mozzarella, smoked ham and talegio, braised beef cheeks and roccola, speck and fresh tomato, there were even a number of items which were vegetarian, roasted aubergine and ricotta, mixed roasted red and yellow peppers and the clsssic tomato caprese…The old man came over and went through all the other options, patiently repeating each filling until I made my choice.

I settled on a panini with procuitto, sundried tomato and fresh mozarrella with a double espresso, ordered at the counter and then served at the café-like tables outside. The panini was outstanding, baked that morning, crispy, crunchy outside and soft, fluffy inside, with just the right amount of filling…and the Espresso you ask??…this is Italy darling!

I idled around for a little while outside watching the Armani-clad Milanese and khaki-clad German tourist pass by as I sipped the last of my espresso, wishing it was time for beer, before paying the Euro8 bill and I was on my way to the next place. Walking around the centre of Cadorna is pretty impressive, the streets are full of people, young and old, Italian and tourists, some hand-in- hand lovers, some wondering broken hearts, and others like me…there to eat and drink!
Next stop was Signor Vino an awesome wine shop come deli come restaurant. You will see by the link that this is an impressive Italian focused wine shop with every region well represented in price category and quality, the in-store Sommelier walked we through the various grape varieties and nuances of each of his recommendations. Being a Sommelier myself my taste vary from time to time and I am always on the lookout for something new or different…its honestly a Somms best AND worst trait, we are never satisfied!
I told him I would be back and that I needed to do a few touristy things while there and  that I was going to see the Duomo Milano, he was very quick to point out that should I need a rest and somewhere to sit to drink a glass of wine while admiring the great Duomo that SignorVino did in fact have another store just behind the Doumo  this is service!
I walked up to the Cathedral whose first building block was placed in 1386, the largest cathedral in the Italy and the fifth largest in the world. To simply say that it is magnificent and all-encompassing would be an understatement of mass proportion, the Duomo will take your breath away with the sheer magnitude of the building, your eyes struggle to focus on just one part as the building work and sculpted details of the brickwork is precise and incredible. The beauty and masculinity of this great feat in engineering and architecture that took almost six centuries to build will leave you breathless and emotional.


What better way than to regain your composure than searching for a prime spot looking onto the square to sit and order an Aperol Spritz, it was almost lunch time after all! A quick 2xAperol Spritz, a small plate of Parma Ham and Rock Melon, and I was on my way again back down to SignorVino for the last show of the day, as I needed to head back to the hotel to start getting ready for my evening flight.

Standing in the doorway with a big smile on his face was the Sommelier for the wine shop, it only struck me afterwards while I was sipping on my wine that happy, familiar feeling we get when someone recognises you and makes you feel so at ease, I felt like I could have been anywhere in the world with old friends…it could have also been the wine making me feel so nostalgic, but I am getting ahead of myself so let us start back at the beginning of the end!

I walked around the hundreds of wine bottles on display, pausing every once in a while to stop and read a label, to imagine the characteristics of the liquid inside and the complexity of the vintage it was captured and bottled in. Many labels captured my attention, called out to me to release them with promises of euphoria and endless memories, like a stubborn child not wanting to go to bed I refused, I ignored, I kept on walking.

I walked and searched each shelf until finally I stood in front of a caged glass door, behind it lay bottles of Super Tuscan Sassicaia, famed Chianti Producer Castello di Ama, Orange wine Godfather Josko Gravner (we love this wine – a story for the future though!), Amarone King Guiseppe Quintarelli, Barbaresco champion Gaja, the legend of Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi and many, many more. This was the adult equivalent of kid in a candy store… As I stood mesmerised in front of all these wonderful wines trying to decide between drinking a Barolo or a Super Tuscan, a shy bottle caught my eye, I say shy because of the vintage, not because of the name on the label, I went over picked up the bottle and held it in my hands just staring at it, as if to try and gather some type of extra information from the glass.

The name on the label is Giacamo Conterno, the wine in the bottle, Barolo, and the vintage was 1993…A very mediocre vintage with not much finesse or complexity, a cold and wet year that showed very little promise of aging or getting any better by all educated accounts.

The Sommelier looked at me and kind of shrugged his shoulders and crunched up his face to show me of his uncertainty in selling me this particular bottle. I held the bottle in my hand for a moment longer and then returned it to the shelf, I wasn’t about to spend almost 200 Euro (AED800) on an average bottle of wine! Now by no means is Giacamo Conterno an average producer, far from it, he is one of the best and in most Barolo collectors top 5, but we are but custodians of the land and if Mother Nature and Baccus don’t party all night long and produce a good vintage there is nothing a winemaker can really do about it.

I moved on to the next wine on the shelf, picking up the bottle, feeling the glass in my hands and the paper labels under my fingers, I did this three or four times but my eye kept wondering back to the bottle of 1993 Barolo, there was something about that wine that kept calling to me.

The Sommelier kept showing me bottle after bottle, each one an amazing producer, an incredible wine and all very good but all young vintages. I was in Milan, a city with romance, with the arts, with history and I wanted a wine to match this feeling…

…to be continued!