Our beautiful, if unfortunately early, flight from London Stanstead to Milan Malpensa was smoother and more comfortable than anticipated. For all the flack Ryanair receives in online forms, our first experience went well. The pre-flight stop at the executive lounge didn’t hurt the overall experience, either. The hour-forty flight that was delayed by about half an hour flew over the Swiss Alps, offering some truly breathtaking views just prior to our descent into Milan.
Major tip: if you have the credit, go get yourself the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Between the 1k first-year bonus (after spending 4k in 3 months), the $300 annual travel credit, and the 3% back on all travel purchases, you’ll make up for that hefty $450 annual fee and then some. Moreover, it allows you access to nearly every airport lounge we’ve encountered, where they serve free food and alcohol! I hear there’s a concierge service as well, but I am yet to utilize it. Probably, most importantly, even if most it is the boring feature, it includes emergency medical and dental care, as well as major-injury compensation and compensation for lost luggage (i.e. travel insurance).
Upon arrival we came upon the ridiculously long and slow-moving line at the Malpensa airport; the over hour-long wait culminated with a border control agent who literally said nothing, took and stamped our passports, and passed them back. Though the easiest border crossing I’ve experienced, it certainly did not warrant the wait.
With relative ease, we located train station across from the airport, purchased our tickets, and headed to Nord Cadorna station in Milan.
From the station, Google Maps-ed to the hotel, Vecchia Milano.
Google Maps offline walking navigation, so long as initiated while still on Wi-Fi or data, has been an invaluable tool for navigating foreign cities. Even if you end up off-track (due to user error, ehem, mom), the accuracy of the current position and direction in the map will allow for easy redirecting.
We followed the winding cobblestone paths down the one way street to our accommodation. Unlike our London hotel, we now have a lift (elevator)! Though, were only on the first floor. Note: European ground floors are 0, while first floors are one up, and below ground floors are literally called -1, -2, etc. Though small, our room is comfortable and quiet, located on the non-street facing side of the building. The shutters are left closed off from a wall/roof view, and allow me to sleep without any awareness of time or the potential daylight. It’s truly delightful.
A buffet breakfast is included in the room, and served daily from 730-1030 with fresh cappuccino or coffee prepared on request. The gentleman running breakfast is very friendly, even if we cannot understand a word he says. The offerings of whole fruits, amazing croissants, yogurts, cheeses and cured meats are enough to get the mornings started right. The hotel’s proximity to Milan’s sights is ideal for those who like to wander just a bit, but still be close to the destinations.
For dinner the first night, we listened to Goggle’s ratings and bundled up to go down the street about 11 minutes to Piz. Following the street sign directing us down a short alley, we turned to a crowd of about 25 waiting for a Saturday night table at 10:30. As we waited for about thirty minutes, the manager came around twice offering free Prosecco and absolutely delicious slices stuffed with spinach and cheese; think the best damn mini calzone you’ve ever had.
Once called, we headed down the winding staircase to our table and were given the short menu, offering what we came for, a Margherita, along with a few glasses of red and prosecco. Everything was as you’d expect from a locally-popular pizza place: damn tasty pizza! The topper, though, was when, after our plates had been cleared, we were offered “free shots.” My openness to all things shots paired with my mother’s openness to all things free made this a no-brainer. (Another example of this: she’s currently “reading” an Italian newspaper. She cannot read Italian.)
These shots were house-made cream liqueurs. First we tried melon, then I had a pistachio; we finished with a coffee shot each while cashing out.
It was an awesome way to start an Italian trip!