It was a privilege to be back in Milan. I first visited Milan around this time last year, a trip that I distinctly remember as sunny, breezy, carefree, and full of light and joy. This time — well, things are a bit different.
Where I stayed
Since I had an early train to catch, I stayed near Milano Centrale this time instead of the more vibrant shopping district and historical center. I booked a double room at the Spice Hotel, which was surprisingly inexpensive at almost 40% cheaper than my last hotel stay in Milan. It was only a five-minute walk from the train station.
Out of all the hotels that I’ve stayed at this summer, this one ranked highest in terms of the number of precautions taken. This was the sign that greeted me at the hotel entrance.
Walking around Milan
The train station is about a 30-minute walk from downtown Milan. It’s a pretty easy walk and doesn’t take you through any seedy neighborhoods, but one thing jumped out to me: while I was walking around, I got catcalled four times, which almost never happens. Someone near the train station yelled “Ciao ching ching!” at me, while another person near the Duomo called out, “Ciao Korean!”
How are you supposed to respond when this happens? My body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct is to pretend not to hear and walk faster, so by the time my brain has processed this information and determined it to be both sexist and racist, I am already far away from the instigator. One day I would love to react coolly in the moment with a middle finger, but you never know whether it’s safe or not.
The streets were surprisingly empty on a Wednesday afternoon.
And here was the Duomo itself. Much less crowded compared to last year.
I took a photo of the same location for comparison.
In the evening, I caught the metro back to the train station, something I had also done the previous year. It was rush hour, yet the cars were not at all close to full. Every two seats were blocked out in an attempt at physical distancing.
I ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant near the train station. It was, once again, nearly deserted: there were only two other patrons in the restaurant, though multiple people did stop by to pick up delivery orders.
The next morning I had breakfast at a nearby cafe. Due to COVID they no longer offered copies of the menu — you told the waiter/barista/cashier what you wanted to eat, and he told you whether they could make it or not. (I had a cheese omelette.) I also had the best cafe latte of my life here. Highly recommend!
My last stop was at a Carrefour Express to grab a snack for my train trip home. It is WILD how Carrefours differ across countries. They were selling white paint with the Pope’s picture on it.
Back to Geneva
Just before our train crossed back into Switzerland, a pair of Swiss police came onboard. I had assumed that they were there to check everyone’s passports — the same thing had happened when I came back from Austria — but instead they made a beeline for the guy sitting a few seats away from me. Where was he from? France. Where was he going? France. Did he have a passport? Yes.
After they cleared him, the police exited the train, leaving the rest of us unchecked. I wasn’t sure if he had been “randomly selected” or not; the guy was brown and spoke French with a foreign accent, so it was a possibility.
In addition to passing back through the lovely Lugano and Bellinzona, our train also went through the Gotthard Base Tunnel — the longest and deepest railway tunnel in the world! It is 57.09 km (35.5 mi) long and takes approximately 20 minutes to pass through. We had steady signal the entire time.
Truly stunning views along the way….