There is a sense of security that comes with travelling in the light of day. Sunlight has a way of easing our anxieties when we are out and about in strange lands. It gives us courage to wander down narrow cobblestone lanes in the hopes of finding some hidden secret nook.
Our curiosity pushes us to venture out like Marco Polo to discover those seldom seen treasures around each corner. This however only holds true while there is enough light available for us to see what lurks ahead in the shadows.
Despite wanting to see it all, there are limits to how adventurous most tourists are.
Milano by day is a vibrant, energetic city and its streets flow with tourists and locals alike. Milano by night is a very different experience to be sure. As the light goes, so go the timid. Streets that were teaming with people hours earlier become surprisingly quiet when the light goes dim. Now I won’t puff up my chest by proclaiming I have no fear of walking the streets of a big city at night, because I do. Maybe not so much fear, more like uneasiness.
Like many, the prospect of strolling down a dark shadow filled street is cause for alarm bells to sound in my head. It’s something I wouldn’t normally do, even in my home city. This is especially true in a place I have no idea where the road will take me. No… I am a cautious fella by nature.
So what came next is out of character for me. After a long, hot day of exploring beautiful Milano, my travelling peeps were ready for dinner and sleepy time. Surprisingly though, not me. This time I had an overwhelming need to see the city by night!
With camera in hand and courage on standby, I left the safety of our room to find the Nightwalkers of Milano.
Of course by day the narrow streets around our hotel were easy to navigate. By night things seemed less recognizable and far less inviting. Nevertheless, I forged on but I soon questioned whether my decision to venture out into the dark was a sound one. I was half way down the above via when I heard it. Clunk, clunk, clunk. The sound of hard soled shoes on cobblestone. My fight or flight response kicked in as the rhythmic steps echoed off the maze like walls of the buildings surrounding me. Not only that, they were heading my way!
Now what? Do I turn, tuck tail and run, or do I face the threat head on? I have seen enough slasher type movies to know that loud foot steps in the dark usually ends bad. Before I could turn and run, the silhouette of a stranger came into view. The outline was made by a five and a half foot tall woman in heels… Phew!
Wait… why is this small woman travelling down a dark street towards a large(ish) man who is coming towards her? What makes her so brave? Is she packin’ heat? Are her buddies waiting just around the corner for their moment to pounce while she distracts me? We finally pass by one another without a even a glance exchanged between us. Disaster averted. Nevertheless, I realized one thing right there and then. I need to stop watching horror shows.
Enough skulking about on darkened side streets for adventure. I’m not cut out for it!
From here on in, only streets with lots of lights would do. More importantly, I was going to need some backup!
The sticking point with my plan was going to be getting my crew to wake up and come join me for a night walk.
The best way to make this happen was to start small. Don’t try waking them all right away. No, no, that would have been a recipe for utter failure. Instead, I started with the easiest sell first, my brother-in-law. All I needed to do to get him on board was to shame him into it. Nothing like calling in ones manhood to motivate action.
B.I.L and I decided that we would scout the neighborhood before disturbing the girls from their peaceful sleep.
With my wing-man all in to venture all out into the night, we made our way into the dark. As it turned out, our first attempt at night walking in Milano was cut unexpectedly short. As it happened, we crossed paths with Ristorante Ronchi 78. This little gem sang to us like a siren beckoning us in for a better look. Its well stocked vintage bar successfully sidetracked us from making any further progress. We hit the rocks.
It took two bottles of vino, and an hour or so to break free of its hold on us. Now a decision needed to be made, so we made it. Tired or not, the girls had to come out with us to experience Milano at night.
There are times when one needs to take the risk and poke the bear.
I fully accepted that my next move could cause me grief for the rest of the night. After all, Tamara did lay down earlier with a headache from a full day of being in the sun. And yes, it was late. Plus, I was well aware that a good sleep can be a hard thing to come by on any vacation. But… I really wanted her to experience this.
Here we were then. It was time to interrupt their peaceful sleep. The key was to keep the lights off to lessen the disruption. With a timid “Tam, pssst…Tam. You need to come out with us. It’s really cool walking around out there.”
Under the circumstances the response to the invite was, while not positive, it was not an absolute NO either. Instead “I’m too tired and I still have a bit of a headache” was the reply spoken in a low groaning tone.
Before I had any chance to counter her unwillingness to join us, my little niece piped in. “Annie, we can’t stay in bed on our last night in Milan!” Oooh, that was good. So good in fact, Tamara begrudgingly gave in. My sleeping beauty readied herself and ventured out into the night with us.
Window shopping at night in Milano has it’s rewards.
The best reason to window shop at night is there are no crowds blocking your view of the goodies behind glass. Not only are there no crowds but the shops are closed. No browsing around waiting for my sweety to find something she likes.
Another bonus is that the displays really stand out with the accent lighting used by many of these high end shops. Why does that matter? It makes for great night time photography. It’s easier to set the mood of the shot if you don’t have to use the harsh light of a flash.
Mixing in with fellow Nightwalkers in Milano is as simple as going go to the Duomo.
The closer we got to the Piazza del Duomo, the bigger the crowds grew. Most were locals enjoying the evening out while others were the night owl tourists like us, who needed a new experience.
One of best rewards of leaving the safe confines of the hotel room’s 4 walls is seeing public spaces at night without the crowds. Spotlights highlight the beautiful architectural features of historic buildings against the blackness of the Milano sky.
The Jewel of the night is without a doubt Milano’s magnificent Duomo
The Duomo di Milano takes on a mystical glow in the dark. It is a MUST see.
If a visit to the Duomo isn’t enough to draw you out of your warm bed, throw in a stop to one of the worlds oldest malls.
The best thing about a late night stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll is that you have elbow room to move. Without the afternoon hoards streaming through its halls, the mall’s floors shine. The light from the globed sconces reflect beautifully off the highly polished mosaic floors.
Take part in a local tradition enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. Spinning on the Bull’s Balls.
For good luck, place your heel on the little bull’s balls. It’s clearly marked and worn. Now spin three times. It’s amusing to watch people having so much fun trying their hand (heel actually) at spinning in place. The funny thing is seeing how bad most of us are at doing it. This all may seem a bit odd to many but when you’re there, it’s hard to resist. Besides… who doesn’t want a bit of good luck?
Milano is well suited for a walkabout at night. Its main streets and piazzas are well lit and feel safe to travel on.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop using common sense and good judgement in choosing the streets you take. If you find yourself walking into a situation and your inner alarm bells sound, stop, turn around and walk the other way. There’s no shame in doing this. So what if she’s a small woman in heels, she could be one tough customer. You just never know!
As a final note, remember to be respectful and keep the volume down, not everyone is a nightwalker. Embrace the night!
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