The bubbles from the Prosecco Rustico, tickle my tongue and the suds gurgle towards my nose. This dry crisp Prosecco derives from the Nino Franco winery located in a town on the slopes of Prealps in the Vento region. Our guide relaxes opposite with a glass of water, attentively checking on our drinks. The weather has cleared up and we have opted for a seat outside, people watching on the main street of Milan Centre. As part of our tour a visit to this champagne bar is necessary, a stylish bar called Signorvino. This is the third establishment on our tour list.
The day began a few hours earlier, where we huddled outside a bakery in Milan, waiting for our tour guide to appear with a clipboard. Under her dark rimmed glasses, she greets us with a smile and begins her walking food tour of Milano. The first stop is Giovanni Cova & C, a little bakery just a short walk from the Metro Station. As we stroll through the doors, we’re greeted by rows of croissants, krapfen farcito (stuffed doughnuts) and Treccia sciroppo d’acero (pastry that has been suffocated in maple syrup). The golden glaze from the pastries catches my attention, and the smell of baking bread heightens my appetite. We sit down to a Cappuccino, an Italian Cream Puff and a large slice of famous Pandolce Cake. The walls are dressed in a symmetrical royal blue pattern and a colourful mural of people eating bread covers the back wall.
The sweet cream with a hint of almond flavour inhabits my palate, as I tuck into the first bite of the Italian Cream Puff. A small cake that is filled with fresh cream that oozes out with just the first bite. Next, I try to tackle the large slice of Pandolce Cake, which is a famous Italian cake that is widely served during Christmas time. The texture is both dry and moist with several pieces of fruit mixed inside. Traditionally, young people would save a small olive twig cooked in the center and preserve it for luck. Two slices of the cake were saved for Christmas; one was given to a stranger passing by and the other eaten in honour of Saint Biagio on the 3rd of February. He was a protector of the throat and associated ailments.
Whilst battling with the typical Italian breakfasts, our guide delves into her life in Milano. She is a substitute history teacher as well as a tour guide; she talks about her struggles in being a teacher in Italy. As we are about to leave, I look up at see a large grid above my head that is covered in loaves of bread hanging from the ceiling. The lights dangle between the rolls, each one perfectly aligned. As we finish up our sweet treats, the waiter at the bar passes our guide a bright bubblegum bag, we move on to the next place.
Our guide takes us down the back streets of Milano, through quirky lanes and quaint rest spots. Passing through market stalls, fine dining, and shopping malls. Our next stop is the Pinacoteca di Brera, a gallery for public paintings, although we don’t enter the rooms, we walk to the main square of the museum. Greeting us in the courtyard is an exposed bronze copy of a Napoleon statue. Antonio Canova created this monumental sized statue representing Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker. However, Napolean didn’t like the statue, as he felt that it didn’t represent himself, so the statue spent some of its life hidden away. The figure is meant to represent peace, with a tall muscular man holding a figure of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, perched on an orb, firmly gripped in his left hand is his long staff. Mars, the Roman God of war is said to have brought peace, but unfortunately, the statue has no resemblance to the shorter Napoleon.
Before lunch, we pass through the Sforza Castle, a castle that was built in the 15th century on the remains of the 14th-century fortress. It was later renovated and enlarged in the 16th and 17th century. Originally the structure was built as a defensive castle, it has since been knocked down and built back up again, it now hosts galleries and museums within.
We wonder a few lanes down from the castle and are introduced to a mozzarella bar called Obicà – Brera. The bar is empty and the three of us quietly walk inside. I position myself on a metal barstool at an industrial-inspired table with wheels. The waitress brings over five balls of mozzarella, on a bed of green leaves and tomatoes. The first mozzarella ball has an intense taste, the second has a delicate flavour, the third is smoked naturally over straw embers, the fourth is a Ricotta Buffalo cheese and the fifth is a creamy Stracciatella cheese. The different flavours of cheese are intense, each accompanied by a glass of prosecco and fresh bread.
The varying differences of the tastes are partly due to the various processing methods that have evolved over centuries. It also differs due to the difference in soil composition in different areas, which produce the grass that the buffalo herd eats. The Stracciatella cheese is created with a spun paste method creating a sweeter flavour and a creamier consistency.
I offer our guide a glass of prosecco and some cheese, she politely refuses and reveals the news that she is pregnant. “I bet your family is pleased”, I ask. A graveled toned voice replied, “They are delighted. In Italian culture, it used to be the norm to have lots of children and big families. But nowadays the Italian’s worry that our population will die out with couples having fewer children. A lot of women are more career driven and big families aren’t something that they want any more”. After gulping down the last drop of prosecco, I start to feel slightly light headed. We start the journey to the main shopping district of Milan, to the bar Signorvino.
Inside, the bar is crowded with shelves of wine from all over the region, huddled next to each other waiting to be chosen. The bar is lined with barrels as tables and attentive waiters, waiting to be asked about the wine specials. The cigarette smoke floats in my direction, and the smell of tapas heighten the senses. Today is a bank holiday, the shopping district is lined with shoppers and the crowds of people blur the view of our next stop, the Cathedral.
As we bump past the tourists, the street sellers and the police we arrive at the cathedral in Milano Central Square. Security has been heightened as our bags are checked, just before we walk closer to get a better view. I notice a man trying to take his suitcase closer to the cathedral before the security asks him to open it up. The Cathedral is dedicated to St Mary and with its intricate details; it took almost six centuries to complete. The Cathedral is the tallest in Italy and is constructed using brick with Candoglia marble. The details of the architecture enhance the beauty of this Italian Gothic construction. Past the Cathedral is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is famous for its designer outlets. I gaze in excitement through the windows of these clothing legends. The only seven-star hotel is also located in this building, it’s priced at €1500 per night and upward. For this seven star status, the hotel has to be within an iconic structure that is of great value to the city and has to have more suites than rooms. We finish the tour in Italian tradition, with a traditional ice-cream whilst window shopping the hallways of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Our guide leaves the bubblegum bag of heart shaped cookies in our hands and wonders on to the metro. My stomach is full of good food and my knowledge of this city has undoubtedly evolved, I can still savor the taste of Milan.
Mozerella Bar – Obicà – Brera
THINGS TO DO:
Gallery – Pinacoteca di Brera
Castle – Sforza Castle
Shopping mall – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
7 Star Hotel – Town House Galleria