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48 Hours in Milan

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Milan was never on my lists of places to visit. All I’d ever heard about the universal capital of fashion was how ugly and industrial it was…I could survive without seeing Milan.

Even so, EasyJet offers amazing prices on flights from Madrid to Milan, and Milan happens to be very close to the Swiss border where I’d be visiting family in December. For convenience’s sake (and the temptation of a beautiful hotel we found on Jetsetter), my mom and I decided to meet in Milan for some Italian food and fashion before heading north for the holidays. Though Milan had never tempted me before, I was at least wise enough to know that Italy is never a bad idea.

I was welcomed to the city by chilly winds and Christmas spirit. My first impression was that everyone was right. This city was U.G.L.Y. My bus from the airport dropped me near the train station where some questionable folk loitered and trash spilled over bins. I was hungover, make-up-less and all I wanted to do was get to the hotel, hug my mama and soak in the tub for a bit.

As my cab headed towards our neighborhood, Milan went from dingy to charming, with ivy-covered houses and painfully fashionable men and women speeding by on Vespas engulfing the wide streets.

When I finally rolled up to my hotel, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Not only was the place whimsical and a modern take on the rabbit hole from the story, but the people who filled with lobby were wonders in themselves. Women wrapped in incredible furs and tiny men in perfectly tailored suits and the most beautifully crafted leather and suede shoes I’d ever seen sipped bellinis and didn’t touch the food in front of them. I towered over all of them, even the women in their enviable 6 inch Miu Miu heels, and wondered why I couldn’t have been bothered to even slap on some mascara before heading to Barajas.

After a nice long bath and a catch up with my mom, we headed out for drinks and dinner and, of course, some people watching. We had a cozy dinner of pasta by the river complete with the best Italian wine I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, a Barolo from my mom’s favorite winery (she’s quite the traveler herself), and a view of the twinkling Christmas lights over the old town.

Our 48 hours in Milan were filled with delicious bites, luxury and eye-popping fashion. I loved browsing the Christmas markets by the insanely beautiful cathedral, wandering the design museum and ogling da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” The Milanese eye for fashion and their ability to dress themselves is truly mind-boggling, even for this New York gal. I now know the importance of a good tailor and quality materials, though my budget allows for neither. Someday dreams, I suppose.

 Though Milan in itself isn’t a stunner, its importance in the world of fashion has molded into a charming and impossibly cool spot to spend a few days eating, drinking and, of course, shopping.

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Grateful in 2013

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Hello from Germany! I have spent the past week traveling through northern Italy, Switzerland and the Alsace with my mom, celebrating the end of my second semester of graduate school.

I will pass the holidays on a river cruise up the Rhine and down the Danube, spend New Year’s in Barcelona, and head south to Marrakech before making my way back home to Madrid… so you can expect a lot of fun posts in the new year!

This semester has been busy and beautiful, and I hope you all have enjoyed following my adventures as much as I have enjoyed sharing them. I am so grateful for the success of this blog, the wonderful feedback I’ve gotten and connections I’ve made, and for all of you who keep on reading.

While I am enjoying my time with my family, I leave you with some excellent reading material.

I haven’t been able to post much on this blog recently because the little free time I have has been happily dedicated to writing for Madrid Food Tour. Through the company  I’ve learned about so many little-known spots in Madrid, eaten amazing food and met some incredibly interesting people.

Take some time this holiday break to check out the awesome things the MFT team is up to:

Spanish Sabores 

Lauren Aloise, the founder of Madrid Food Tour, has been blogging about Spanish food and culture for years now. In fact, Spanish Sabores was one of the first Spain blogs I ever read! Head over to her blog for some mouth-watering reads.

Madrid Chow

I met James Blick, a Spanish food and wine expert, at an MFT wine tasting and was blown away by his knowledge of the country’s history. He leads our Tapas, Taverns and History Tour and runs Madrid Chow, both of which excellent, both of which deserving of lots of attention.

Get in My Belly! 

Paula Móvil is one of the MFT guides, a food-obsessed Guatemalteca that happens to have one of my favorite foodie instagram accounts. She writes her blog in Spanish and English, chronicling her culinary adventures in Madrid and around Europe. She always seems to order the most sinful thing on the menu, and looks impossibly chic while doing it.

Curiosity Travels 

Jessica Wray is a fellow intern and world-traveler. She spent the past two years teaching English in South Korea and exploring Asia and now she’s decided to take on Madrid, blogging every step of the way and letting her adventurous spirit inspire.

One Bite at a Time

Amy Bingham is on her second year teaching English in Spain, relocating from Galicia to the capital to write about all her foodie ventures. Be fairly warned: don’t read her blog on an empty stomach! This girl knows how to eat.

Madrid Food Tour Blog 

Once you’re finished devouring everything my coworkers have ever written, head on over to the MFT blog where you can check out some of my articles and learn all about where to go and what to order in Madrid and all over Spain!

xoxo

Happy holidays to all of my readers. I wish you all lots of love, good food, great wine and fabulous presents this season.

For now, my gift is to transport you to the a land where the fog from the lake swirls around the snowy mountain peaks, and the persimmons hang plump and orange on their branches even in December.  Won’t you join me in lake hopping along the Italian-Swiss border?

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simple pleasures in the eternal city

 “Americans. You work too hard, you get burned out. You come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the T.V. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says: ‘It’s Miller Time!’ And you say, ‘That’s right, now I’m going to buy a six pack.’ And then drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says: ‘You deserve a break today.’ And he says, ‘Yes, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon to go over to your house and sleep…with your wife!'”

– Luca Spaghetti, Eat Pray Love

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This past Sunday I found myself sprawled out on my bed in oversized sweats, furiously trying to finish a press release for work, breaking only for bites of left over pad thai (for breakfast at 3 pm..) and sips of gatorade in an attempt to recover from a weekend of birthday celebrations. I submitted my work, took a deep breath and surveyed the state of my life in that moment. Luca Spaghetti had it right. We Americans sometimes forget that life is meant to be enjoyed. Our culture teaches us to work ourselves to the bone, to gorge ourselves on oversized portions and binge on television during our precious free time. There’s something wrong with this picture.  Sunday is a time for rest, but I was exhausted after a busy month at work and school, and sick from a weekend of overindulgence. My stomach sank as I thought:  last year I spent Palm Sunday wandering around Rome, eating, drinking and sighing my way through the eternal city. Look at what this American life has done to me.

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I was lucky enough to experience Rome for a week last spring when my mom came to visit me during my semester abroad. One of the best parts of living abroad is having visitors, especially a visitor that offers to foot the bill! I lived in the lap of luxury that week, and I want to share it with you in a little guide for the senses of la vita romana.

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Sound

Rome has its very own soundtrack. The pop of a cork as it is freed from an aged bottle of wine. The whirl of linguini being twirled around a hungry patron’s fork. The passionate undulation of a Roman conversation. The satisfied sigh after a first bite of gelato. This is a city where you not only indulge yourself, but also become party to the indulgence and pleasure of everyone around you. The best way to experience the eternal city is to vacate yourself for a moment or two and take stock of what’s going on around you, absorbing the passion, excitement and culture.

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Taste

Allow yourself to eat without abandon. Savor the fresh ingredients, the love and tradition poured into each dish. You have one life, you’ve got to eat pasta in Rome. Order cacio e pepe for lunch and linguini alle vongole for dinner, and wash down each meal with a glass (or three..) of wine. Indulge in a different flavor of gelato each afternoon (and evening … 😉 ). Sample brilliantly colored produce at the Campo di Fiori. Mop up olive oil with freshly baked focaccia. Order to share. Try everything. Eat slowly and savor.

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Make sure you find yourself a rooftop spot to enjoy a bellini and aperitivo with friends as you take in the glorious roman sunset. There are few sights as breathtaking as the orange cast on the tiled roofs and ancient ruins as the swollen sun falls over the city.

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view of the pantheon from the grand hotel della minerva rooftop bar

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Sight

During the hours between your fantastic meals, give your belly a break and feast your eyes on the wonders of Rome. All the carbs, wine and gelato will surely be burned off as you walk all over the city. From the Trevi Fountain to Vatican City to the Coliseum, there is no shortage of sights to take in. You should set aside at least five days to truly appreciate all of the incredible museums, churches and shopping Roma has to offer.

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Be sure to dress modestly at St. Peter’s, or they’ll make you cover up like a nun! I wasn’t prepared, and learned the hard way…

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st. peter’s wasn’t ready for this jelly

And, of course, you must afford some time to get lost on side streets and find hidden gems yourself.

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i found my namesake street!

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Smell

No matter where you find yourself in Rome, you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by delicious scents. There are freshly cut flowers in all of the markets, peeking over window boxes, and lining each street. The strong scents of garlic and simmering sauces waft out of restaurant kitchens, causing your mouth to water and your full belly to start rumbling again. Take a few seconds to breath deeply and try to pin point the source of each scrumptious smell.

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Touch

Above all, Rome is a place to touch and be touched. A culture of strong family ties, Romans like to show their affection through contact.  Follow suit by offering kisses to greet and say goodbye, linking arms with a friend during a stroll, and allowing yourself to be led by the hand to a vendor’s stall as you shop for homemade pasta.

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hugs at the trevi fountain

Although American cities may not offer nearly as many pleasures as Rome does, the Roman way of life teaches us to appreciate all that surrounds us in each moment. Find a beautiful spot or a fantastic book for your lunch break to vacate the monotony of everyday life and stimulate your mind. Don’t buy that Lean Cuisine!! Make food you love with fresh ingredients and savor each bite to nourish your body and excite your taste buds.  Splurge on a perfume you love or freshly cut flowers at your desk to make yourself feel special. Finally, make time for the people you love, no matter how tired you are. There’s nothing like an evening of laughter with your friends, affection with your lover, or conversation with your family to make you appreciate how lucky you are.

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