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How I Got My Freebie "Friendship Bracelet"
There are quite a few "Lookie-lookie Guys" in Milan (the guys selling sunglasses, leather goods, guide books etc - of whatever provenance they might claim these to be) and generally they are pretty harmless.
One of their little things though is that if you aren't interested in buying something from them they'll "offer" you a "Friendship Bracelet".
Unique Suggestions: Most of them hang around the Castello and Sempione Park area and whilst passing through one afternoon I got accosted by a guy who was insistent that I accept a "Friendship Bracelet". I told him I had no money but he was adamant he didn't want anything as he badgered me to let him put the bracelet on.
OK I let him, reiterating that I had no money, and so he attached said bracelet on my wrist, snipping it cleanly and telling me that we were now friends. Then he asked me if I could give him the price of a coffee.
I had to shrug and show him my "Elephant" - you know: where a guy turns his trouser pockets inside out and unzips his fly...
I actually did have no small change at all as I'd just emptied the contents of my pockets into the guitar case of the busker who I'd met just up the road - the excellent guitarist featured on my video on this page.
So the "Lookie-lookie Guy" was a bit disappointed and he sort of sulked off muttering about how small my elephant's trunk was ;-)Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Beer Tasting
Luggage "carriers" inflation at Milano C.le
I travel every year with my father to several locations in Italy, and Milano seems to have one of the most difficult to navigate train stations.
My dad doesn't feel like carrying luggage to get to the street (knee problem), so we always "hire" the services of these people, usually Romanian, Northern African, an lately, Subsaharian. Three or four years ago, they'd help you happily for a 3 euro tip. A 5 euro note would deserve a grateful thank and you could even "book" their services for your departure.
Two weeks ago, we were asked for 5 euros for each piece of luggage, once we had arrived to the taxi. We ended up giving 7 euros (no big deal, the taxi driver had already opened the trunk and there were people around, so no chance of any dishonest attempt, but a big scam for carrying luggage in an old trolley). This work seems to be "authorized" by the authorities, since the station if full of these people.
No picture in this post, I registered ten minutes ago!
Unique Suggestions: -Try to carry your luggage yourself. I can never convince my father, but I think that they take advantage of tired travellers and old people by means of high fares.
- Do yourself and fellow travellers a favour and write a note suggesting trolleys for passengers. One day, they will finally decide to put trolleys again.
- Ask for the fare beforehand: Quanto viene per tutto? If he says "5", confirm with your fingers and emphasize "cinque per tutto". (avoid the confusion of 5 each). If you are not convinced, just leave, and they'll follow you with a better offer.
-I believe that some of these people are honest and try to make a living, besides their inflated fares. Still, never allow them to carry handbags with money or valuables, just in case. And follow them closely.Related to:
- Women's Travel
Tax refund Malpensa Airport: not for faint hearted
Italians love their forms and bureaucracy, particularly where it encourages employees' blatant work-avoidance while dreaming of apertivo hour. In claiming tax-free at Malpensa airport don't expect rapid efficient service such as you would get at KL or similar "developing country" airports. The queuing and pointless receipt stamping is a testament to Italian ridiculousness, so be prepared to work for your refund!
Unique Suggestions: Allow plenty of time at airport
Make sure you know the absurd sequence of events required to get your money (too complex to go through here)
Take a deep breath and a couple of Xanax
Fun Alternatives: Forgo the refund, or shop at cheap places where the 11% VAT back is not an optionRelated to:
- Budget Travel
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Cenacolo Vinciano - "Last supper"
This should not be the place to write a tip about a masterpiece of the Italian art like L'ultima cena by Leonardo Da Vinci. However, it is.
Since Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code, visiting the Last Supper has become almost impossible, because many fans of that book want to see the fresco to see if John the Apostle is painted like a woman or something like that (I haven't and won't read the book, so I don't know exactly what the reason of such a big curiosity is).
Now, a maximum of 25 people are allowed to stay in the room at the same time, and just for 15 minutes. I have read in a newspaper that a tourist bought four tickets to stay one hour inside!
Unique Suggestions: If you really want to visit the Cenacolo, you should make your reservation in advance of several months. You can check the availability and book your tickets at this site (English version available). The full ticket including the reservation costs 8 euro. There are reductions for people under 25 or over 65 years of age; art students from EU-countries pay only 1.50 euro for the reservation.
Fun Alternatives: If you cannot find a ticket for the Last Supper, don't be sad! There are plenty of beautiful churches in Milano: Santa Maria delle Grazie itself, Sant'Eustorgio, San Lorenzo... They are free, not crowded, and you can stay inside as long as you want!Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
Just a restaurant, reported to be nice, it is actually well run as a fast food !!! Frankly speaking food is ok but the environment is simply so ..so...so ... cold... and ...well, I don't know what.... but go there only if you wanna eat and you do not care about a warm atmosphere !!!
Admission prices discriminate against US Seniors
If you are an American Senior and 65+ you will pay more than do Italian and other European Seniors to visit Italian tourist sites, e.g. Da Vinci"s "Last Supper" in Milan, Colosseum in Rome, Doge's Palace in Venice, Uffizi Gallery in Florence and others.
For example, a ticket to the "Last Supper" costs €5.50 ($7.70) for an Italian or European Senior but €15 ($21) for an American Senior! Similar price disparities exist between what American Seniors and Italian and other European Seniors pay for the sites listed above as well as the Borghese Gallery in Rome and the Academia in Venice and many more. Multiply that by all the sites you will want to visit, not to mention the poor Dollar-Euro exchange rate, and it adds up.
This biased pricing policy once applied to European seniors who were non-Italian, but several years ago the European Court of Justice forced Italy not to discriminate against other European Seniors. Yet they still do against Americans and other non-Europeans.
Perhaps we should charge entrance fees only to Italians who visit our wonderful Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. Please write a letter of complaint (stressing the need for fairness) to Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, Embassy of Italy, 3000 Whitehaven Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008.
Unique Suggestions: I wish there were a way to eliminate the discrimination in the Italian admission pricing policy, but short of marrying a European (which I did 40 years ago) I am at a loss to give advice on how to "level the playing field." at least I had to pay the high prices only for myself (the American Senior).
Another complicating factor in Milan was the poor and unprofessional performance of "Ticket Italy" which meant we were denied entry at the door to the "Last Supper." "Ticket Italy" sent a confirmation of our order prior to our departure from Washington, but there were no tickets when we arrived at the appointed reserved time for our tour. "Ticket Italy" had forgotten to send an e-mail that they could not get the tickets. (They did send an e-mail denying the order two days after we arrived back home in Washington, D.C.) Later our hotel said they could have obtained them with a few days notice, but unfortunately, we had no time. In addition to being incompetent, "Ticket Italy" company officials, including Director Cristiano Castellani, were extremely rude and arrogant.
Do yourself a favor and avoid "Ticket Italy."
Fun Alternatives: Can't do anything about the biased admission pricing policy, but I can suggest you give "Ticket Italy' a missRelated to:
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
This is a general tip, but we fell for it. Always, always read the car rental papers. And, more importantly, read the return papers and make sure they have filled it in correctly. The rental offices (in this case Europcar) in Milan seem to have a bad habit of trying to charge all kind of extras, looking at the long line of angry customers. And sure enough, three week after we got home, we got an invoice for petrol, even though we returned it with more petrol than it had when we got the car! :(Related to:
- Road Trip
Avoid restaurants in Brera
The zone of Brera now is very touristic and is quite impossible finding a real good restaurant.
I went to "Al Treno di Mezzanotte", in Via Fiori Chiari 8, full with people, very romantic but...not so good at all!!!
So choose other place, it's better!!!Related to:
- Food and Dining
Thousands of cars - impossible to take pictures
What I hated the most in Milan was the huge number of cars parked in front of the monuments.
If you love to take many pictures or just want to admire a stunning monument it's almost impossible not to find a lot of cars that are obstructing your view.
It's quite a frustrating sentiment to see that the authorities couldn't find another solution for the parking places in Milan.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
The area around Piazza Duomo
Sure it can be nice to stroll around the Duomo, and include a short café-break in the area. Just be aware that you might end up paying twice as much for that café/espresso/beer/dinner or whatever you order, compared to any other place in Milan.
Most of the shops around Piazza Duomo are so expensive it makes me laugh. And I'm definitely not buying anything there.
Also watch out for the guys (always guys for some reason) who goes around and gives away free homemade bracelets. They'll come up to you and say "it's free, a gift" and put the bracelet around your arm.
Then it isn't free anymore... Won't cost you much, but you'll have to pay something anyway, or they will be really angry.
Unique Suggestions: If you do want to eat something in the area I suggest that you’ll go to McDonalds (right in front of the cathedral) or Ciao or Spizzico (to the right of the piazza if stay in front of the Duomo). Spizzico is some kind of small pizzeria/fast food, while Ciao gives you a good lunch/dinner, for a quite low cost.
For the bracelets, one of my friends got so tired of these guys that he took one, paid a euro for it, and after that he wasn't harassed by any other guy. "Best investment ever, that euro", he said.
Although I prefer an angry "NO grazie" everytime someone come up to me with an ugly bracelet.
Fun Alternatives: Go around in the Duomo-area, but then get away from the worst tourist-parts when it's lunch/dinner-time. That way you'll save a lot of money, and won't get only the typical tourist-food...
Don't Waste Your time Shopping Here: chain stores
I don't understand why tourists flock to these stores; they can get the same things at home, so why do they waste their precious holiday time (the world will never know)...
some stores that people flock to and are probably available in your country (and online)
United Colors of Benneton/Undercolors of Benneton
Any High end designer
Baggage check at the train station
Be warned--there are no lockers available at Milano Centrale train station! If you have to leave your bags, you must leave them at the manned baggage check for an exorbitant amount of money. I left 1 bag for 10 hours and it cost me over 15 euro. And every single bag you leave, whether it's a large suitcase or a small toiletries bag that just doesn't fit inside your backpack, is charged individually.
Fun Alternatives: I wish I knew!
Exchange rates in Milan
Beware of changing your currency in Milan, and perhaps all Italy for all I know.
In the Central Stataion (where trains and also buses from the Airport arrive) I checked the electronic sign to change GB Sterling into Euros. It said there was a charge of 3E50. After receiving the money, it seemed to be a little light. Checking the receipt revealed a charge of 17.9% (plus 10 cents for good measure!). I queried this with the girl behind teh desk and she pointed to the sign which now indicated this charge at the bottom of the sign. .She then switched the lights off, closed the Kiosk and left! I won't go there again (not much worth seeing bar Il Duomo, and it still had scaffolding up in July 2005.
Unique Suggestions: Change your money before arriving in Italy, or go somewhere else!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
Yeah, but its the same wherever you go
Sophie and I fell into our first tourist trap when a man approached us in the Piazza del Duomo under the false pretence of giving us some grain to feed the pigeons and encouraging us to take pictures. We were soaking it up and taking in the scene when he approached us, demanding 5 euros for the privilege. While I refused initially, I softened, having committed the action of taking the photos and gave the dodgy geezer 2 Euros.
Unique Suggestions: There is much iniquity in a world where people will exploit a moment of pure, unsuspecting delight to their own shady ends, which brings me to my next point about the louche types that hang around preying on tourists. Watch out for them, because they are watching your things all the time, hoping to catch you when you are distracted!!!
underneath stazione Centrale
If you step out of the subway and are heading for the bus connection to the airport Malpensa, please consider following:
Still below ground level there is a ticket seller, who among other sells bus tickets. I ended up buying a bus ticket I dindn't know was valid only for a specific firm. But being in a hurry I just asked for a bus ticket for Malpensa. The other company would have been leaving earlier.... of course.
Unique Suggestions: My piece of advice is to buy your ticket just up-stairs from the coach chauffeur himself.
By doing so you ensure you get on the bus you planned to ride.
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