Milano with Marco!

The morning following or Como trip we’d booked a 10am free walking tour of Milan through Walkabouttours. Outside the Duomo we met our guide, Marco, a man full of enthusiasm and genuinely happy to meet each of the roughly 40 of us with a handshake! Over the next 3.5 hours we followed Marco and his yellow umbrella around central Milano, stopping to take in an extraordinary amount of interesting and well delivered facts about the city, the current stop, and the occasional tangent regarding etymology of different relevant words. It was simply perfect! The tour was more than I could have asked for at a standard cost, let alone for tips only! I really cannot say enough positive things about Marco. Having gone on a handful of international tours, this one certainly tops the rest (and some of the others included alcohol!) Even the following morning, we saw Marco leading the next day’s tour, he greeted us by name, wished us safe travels that afternoon and marched on, all without letting the yellow umbrella drop an inch. Marco was really, genuinely a highlight of our time in Milan! He works for tips alone, and still maintains the enthusiasm of someone unconcerned with the financial outcome of the day. Among our group, people seemed to leave anywhere from a handful of coins to 25 euro a person, which really, he earned every cent of, and more. The best thing about the tip-only tour is that it makes possible an activity often inaccessible to backpackers and those on a tight budget. I do recommend that you take this tour early in your trip, and utilize Marco’s offer to provide advice or suggestions for your following days. The tour also provides you enough info to plan out what stops you might want to return to for a visit later.

Conveniently, and much to our surprise, the tour ended just a few blocks from our hotel; I was absolutely grateful! I took the opportunity to lie down for a couple hours and rest my tired legs before venturing all the way twenty steps out our hotel’s front door to the adjoining restaurant, Hostaria Borromei. Dinner was delightful. My mother’s ongoing requirement of Prosecco was well satisfied, as was my relatively standard American and rather undiscerning palate, by the Montepulciano, which our server swirled in the glass for me prior to offering a tasting (so posh).

We started with the Jerusalem Artichoke flan; it was uniquely delicious, almost like an ultramoist baked artichoke muffin topped with a creamy cheese fonudue and enough warm artichokes for a presence in every bite. I was not feeling overly famished, so opted for the scallop lentil appetizer, which was perfectly portioned and perfectly prepared. My mother’s shellfish-black rice-potato entrée was delicious as well; being a starch lover myself, the mashed potatoes were some of the best I’ve had, and the black rice was seasoned in a way that paired very nicely with the shellfish. We topped off the evening with one order of cannoli (2 little ones included). Everything was perfect from start to finish, and the service was very friendly, and kindly predominantly in English.

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