My first impressions of Milan

It’s been a short while since I packed my bags and moved myself from my suburban, family home in Dublin and headed to the industrial, creative and much more populous city of Milan.

I cannot say that I have become used to living here as of yet and there is much more for me to learn in the coming weeks and months, but I have noticed a few things about my new home that were too obvious to miss.

Before moving to Milan this August, I had visited the city the previous two Septembers for short holidays to visit my girlfriend. With this, I had an idea of what life might be like here however, a holiday that lasts for five days doesn’t really tell you much about what it would be like to live somewhere, as I quickly learned.

So, I have compiled a short list of things that I found out about living in Milan after my first couple of weeks.

The city sleeps in August

This was the very first thing I noticed when I moved to Milan. My girlfriend, who has lived in Milan for over two years told me that most families go to the seaside during the month of August, which I thought was quite normal. But, I did not expect half of the city to shut down for those holidays.

Restaurants, newsagents, banks and even pharmacies all closed as well as a host of other businesses. After a few days of walking around I just accepted that most places would be closed with the exception of major companies like Lidl. In the most tourist-friendly parts of Milan like Duomo, there were more shops open but even then, I was surprised at the amount of café’s and outlets closed considering the high number of tourists. Thankfully it is September and everything is now in full swing.

Public transport is everything

The public transport in Milan is on another level compared to a smaller city like Dublin. As I am under 26 years of age I can purchase an ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanese) monthly pass for just €22. I would be pretty happy if my travel by metro or bus alone was this price but with this pass I can travel by metro, bus and tram without wondering how much its all going to add up to.

All services run regularly and having the ability to quickly change the mode of transport on a longer journey saves a lot of time. Due to the incredible transport system here, Milan can feel quite small, but that is solely down to the ease at which anyone can travel here. This morning I travelled from the north-west of Milan to the south-east and it took me just under 50 minutes. On my first trip, I used the metro and bus and, on the way back, I used the tram and bus. Both forms of transport were as reliable as each other. A huge advantage of living in Milan.

An entrance to Lotto metro station

Personal styles

This one may or may not be an obvious one, but regardless I’m still impressed by it. Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world and with that comes an expectation that everyone who lives here must be extremely fashionable and wear designer clothes. I did expect this a little bit myself but what I have been impressed with is how everyone has their own personal style.

There’s been plenty of occasions where I have sat down on the metro and out of pure interest, analysed what everyone I could see was wearing. Not one pair of shoes has ever been the same, no one is dressed like the person next to them. Business/work clothes along with casual clothes come in all sorts of forms which I find very refreshing. The closest thing I have seen to someone wearing the same outfit is two men who both wore blue polos but even then, one of them had his buttons opened and collar popped while the other kept his polo buttoned down.

My impression of Ireland was always the majority of people, would jump on the latest trendy shoes or brand of jacket and before you know it every second person was wearing the same thing. Here, my impression has been completely different and I find it inspiring to see that people have their own styles and don’t seem to jump on the latest trend if it doesn’t suit them.

Other noticeable fashions

While the residents of Milan do appear to have their own styles, there are some things that are common. For example, I don’t recall seeing a shirt buttoned all the way to the top and more often than not the highest button fastened is about three or four from the top. It’s not a bad thing by any means but the seemingly Italian way to wear a shirt.

Continuing on with the theme of showing more skin, short shorts are VERY short. Italian women like to show off their legs…and maybe a bit more than that, but that’s all I’m going to say about it.

In a warm city like Milan t-shirts are on show, especially at this time of year. A common thing about those t-shirts is that they are branded. The Milanese people tend not to go for a completely plain t-shirt. While the tops might be minimalistic there is always some sort of branding whether it be a logo or a name printed across the chest.

Dog parks are kind of a big thing

One of the ways I have tried to familiarise myself with the city is by walking around and seeing all the amenities in different areas. I had no idea that there would be so many dog parks. Of which there are many, especially in the more residential and suburban areas.

There are plenty of small parks and an abundance of benches around the city which was quite a nice surprise. It means at any moment I am probably not far from a bench where I can sit down for a few minutes and gather myself or just watch as the city moves all around me.

However, it’s the dog parks that really surprised me. Not that there are dog parks, but the amount of them. They are well used though from what I have seen and while I have no pets myself, it’s nice to know that there are parks designated for dogs.

DOg park
Parco del Fanciullo dog park

People ARE friendly

As I’ve said, I had previously been to Milan on two occasions before moving here and I loved the place but the one negative point I always said was that the people (not all, of course) weren’t the most welcoming and seemed stand-offish. Since I have lived here, I’ve been able to get a clearer picture on the Italian mindset.

Italians or those that are in Milan tend to keep to themselves but what I’ve found is that just like in any other city centre, people are whizzing by each other and can’t spare a second to acknowledge another human being, not that many would want to anyway. Contrary to other places I’ve been, when you venture out to the suburbs people actually are polite and will say Buongiorno, salve, ciao or something short just to be friendly.

I have also found myself in a few situations where I have been absolutely clueless about where I am or where I should be going or I’m having trouble understanding how something works. In those cases, Italians, even those who didn’t have a word of English, spared a moment to help me out. Even if due to my lack of the native language, I required a bit more effort.

To Wrap Up

So far, I’ve loved living in Milan. It’s so easy to get around and each part of Milan has something to offer. I’ve had good experiences with people and I’m also finding myself looking at beautiful buildings and getting inspired everywhere I go. As with every place in the world, there are problems and I’m sure they’ll become more apparent to me over time but for now, I’m going to enjoy Milan as I know it.

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