Italy Trip Part 1 : Milan & Lake Como

Day 1 (8th June 2015)

My first stop in Italy, Milan. Although famous for shopping, branded stuff especially, there's also quite plenty of sightseeing and famous historical attractions or landmarks to be explored for the average tourist.

However my general impression of the city was pretty underwhelming, as you soon will find out why. It's partly my fault but it left a negative experience, I won't return here if given a choice.

Neighbourhood of Bovisa, the place I stayed in Milan.

Tram no.2 goes directly into the city centre and provides easy access to several attractions along the way. Ticket cost 4.50 EUR (24hr validity).

Walking to the Duomo.

Piazza del Duomo. Notice the flock of pigeons.

Everything up until now was pretty positive. Then I encountered 2 things that changed my perspective of the city, take this as a precaution for future visitors:

  • Avoid any Africans that approach you for colour bracelets. Just continue walking and reject them sternly, there's no need to be friendly with them. They will try desperately to get your attention, even offering the bracelet for free by placing them on your shoulder. I've witness tourists falling for this, once they accepted the bracelet they're harassed for money. I managed to avoid this myself by checking on TripAdvisor, and the bracelets aren't interesting to begin with.
  • At the Duomo, there's tons of pigeons. This should create a wonderful photography subject for some people like me. However be aware of "Pigeon Handlers", they will come forward and hand you a bunch of corn seeds straight in your palms. Actually it doesn't matter what you have, the pigeons will flock you and eat ANYTHING. I'm not aware of this and by the time I realised my mistake it's too late. The guy asked for 50 EUR! I ended up giving 20.... I shouldn't gave any at all and walk away to be honest.

Didn't want to upload this 2 photos at first..... then I realised I paid 20 EUR for these.....

My mood after that was kinda affected but it didn't stop me from exploring the Duomo and the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. (It's honestly a pretty shitty first day in Italy for me, the weather is frickin hot and I'm still recovering from my sunburns, losing another 20 EUR in cash doesn't help...)

The Duomo, or Milan Cathedral, is considered the main landmark in Milan. It took almost 6 centuries (!) to complete building and it's currently the 5th largest church in the world and largest in Italy. You can purchase a ticket to visit either the terrace (top), or the main hall, or both, and there's also different prices if you choose to walk up or take a lift to the terrace. I bought the cheapest option, a walk up the terrace only, cost 8 EUR.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world's oldest shopping malls. The average joe like me would usually just take a walk inside because majority of the outlets are luxury brands. 

A street at central Milan.

Another street shot.

My host recommended this place for gelato. He claims it's the best gelato in Milan... well that's something. A search online shows that the reviews would agree as well.  I really like it after trying out, but I couldn't say whether is it the best in Milan, I'll leave that decision to you. A cup of 2 scoops cost 2.50EUR, and you can choose from some fancy flavours named after musicians.... there's Taylor Swift (really!), Michael Jackson and couple more I forgot. I didn't take a picture because of the crowded space and people started pouring in.

Address : Via Giovanni Enrico Pestalozzi, 4
Milano, Italy.

You won't know it's this place until you double checked on your map. Notice the crowd, you'll barely have space to eat inside. Most people enjoyed their gelato outside.

Overall I have a mixed feeling about Milan... It's what a busy city should be, and personally I'm not a big fan of busy city life until I started street photography, and it's this sort of setting that offers the most opportunity for street photography.

I suggest those travelling to Italy for the first time to spend more time at better places eg: Venice, Florence etc, there's a lot more to be discovered in Italy! 2 nights should be more than enough for most people in Milan, and to decide whether you really enjoy it here for a second visit, I won't that's for sure.... (who knows I might change my mind during Winter).



Day 2 (9th June 2015)

The original plan today was to spend more time in the city, exploring places I haven't done so in the first day, and do more street photography. Instead my host recommended a place just 30 minutes from Milan, called Lake Como. After checking it out on Google I decided there's no harm doing a day trip, after all I'm not really keen on spending another day in the city.

To get to the lake first you need to take a train from Milan to Como Nord Lago station. It takes around 30 minutes and cost 4.80 EUR one way, from my departure station (Milano Bovisa FNM).

Weather wasn't what I expected, it started raining as soon I reached the town. Luckily it stopped when it's time to board the ferry, still it's very cloudy, not the best time for nice pictures. The ticket for the ferry costs 25.80 EUR, and it takes around 2 hours to get from one end of the lake to the other, while stopping by different towns along the way.

Looking out towards the huge lake from the jetty of Como. (Como is the name of the town)

There's many towns alongside the coast of the lake, so many that I wouldn't bother listing all out here. Most tourist will focus on just a few towns, including Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio. It's impossible to cover all of them in a day trip, so I focused on Bellagio and Varenna.

I arrived in Bellagio after more than an hour on the ferry. The weather also improved a lot by now, it's sunny and clear. 

Lot's of climbing up involved when you first arrived in this town, as you can see in my pictures above, that's because the town is built on a hill. Very touristic and photogenic, as what you would expect from an old European town with lots of narrow stone paths, offering many surprises for street photographers. That being said.... don't expect anything really cheap here especially food, but there's still some pizzerias offering 5 EUR +/- for a piece of pizza or sandwich.

Off to Varenna next. By now I'm a bit short on time because of the ferry schedule, there's a really big gap in between, my mistake for not checking before stepping foot in the town.

This is definitely the most photogenic of all the towns in Lake Como, as seen from the ferry at least.

I only have around 30 minutes to explore the town, missing the next ferry means I need to spend the night here... not good at all (I wouldn't mind if I have the money thou). There's really not much to see within the town, basically 90% of what I've seen in Bellagio previously. The lake front is more photogenic than Bellagio, perfect for a walk around and a few snaps while waiting for the ferry.

Bidding farewell to the town.

Villa del Balbianello. Very famous 17th century villa, Casino Royale and Star Wars Ep 2 was filmed here.

A day trip is sufficient for a visit to this lake, although it's gonna be quite a rush. The ferry schedule isn't flexible as well, missing a ferry means you either have to wait for another hour or so, worst case being stranded on one of the towns. I would spend more than a night here for a more relaxed schedule. Those who been to Cinque Terre (more on that soon) before will definitely be reminded of that place a lot, albeit near a lake instead of the sea.

Gear - Sony a7 + Sony FE 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS + Konica Hexanon AR 40mm f1.8

Editing - Capture One Pro 8