Tour the City!

Bus and tourist in front of La ScalaWhat’s the best way to take a tour of a new city? If your best friend doesn’t happen to be an expert on the history, architecture and art in and around Milano, don’t worry, there are plenty of options for learning about and seeing the town. So, if you’re new to the city, or you have friends or family coming to visit, here are just a few ideas!

City Sightseeing Bus Tour
One option for tour seekers is a convenient hop-on, hop-off tour around the city. Just look for he double-decker red buses you see around so many European cities these days (not to mention some non-European cities), which are also available in Milano. Your “tour guide” speaks through recorded bits of info which are played at various times during the trip, explaining your surroundings. Participants just choose the language they prefer and get on and off whenever they want. Each ticket provides access to 2 routes for a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes, which can be used during a 48-hour period. Tickets are €20 per person.
This is a good way get access to some public transportation and have the freedom of getting on and off whenever you want. Check out their website for information on times and routes.

Silhouette and text Urban SafariUrban Safari Tour
The ultimate easy way to discover Milan. Guided tours through Urban Safari Tour will allow you to visit the city with ease, together with a group of people who share the same preferences, on foot wherever possible or on public transport, including underground trains, trams and buses. While on an urban safari, you can discover local customs and traditions, little-known spots, trendy neighborhoods and historical establishments, all of which may be selected from a range of topics: Art, Architecture, Design, Lifestyle, Music, Fashion.
Urban Safari is for the ‘smart traveler’, the discerning tourist, a true urban explorer, who demands quality, innovation and most of all standards of service on par with what other European capitals can offer. The goal is to guide you through our cultural heritage from the perspective of a local. From an off-beat metropolis with an underground culture to a workaday and cosmopolitan city, you will be led on the discovery of a different way of exploring Milan and living out a truly unique experience.
Each itinerary includes a stop by a coffee shop or a local bar for a light lunch or aperitivo.
More information on prices, times and how to book is available on their website.

Restaurant tram at night in front of castle

ATMosfera Tram Restaurant
This isn’t an actual guided tour of the city, but it does give you the opportunity to see different parts of Milano from a unique viewpoint.
Just think: an evening being taken around town in an old-fashioned tram, with well-trained servers balancing trays of delicious Italian food, catching potential spills as the tram changes tracks or jerks over a bumpy section of cobblestone.
This experience doesn’t come cheap, however, and the fixed price menu is €65 per person (including wine). Trams leave from Piazza Castello every evening at 8:00pm. But be sure to make reservations in advance – up to 75 days before the dinner – because the trams are small and fill up fast. If you want a special evening and have some cash, this is a fun option! Info on how to book and pay for a dinner and a ride are available on the ATM website.

It’s Great to Be in Italy During the Summer!

Have you just arrived in Italy wondering what to do until the academic year starts? Or are you coming very soon to spend the rest of the summer in Milan? After looking for accommodation and settling in, you cannot miss the chance to discover the city, of course, but mostly the nearby natural and cultural attractions.

For example, you can go and rest, surrounded by the natural environment of the many Alpine lakes spread over Northern Italy, either taking a trip to the mountains, or just sunbathing at the seaside in Liguria Region. Anywhere you go, you’ll also start to get to know the worldwide famous Italian culture, history and arts. There are a lot of destinations and suggestions that you can compare, according to your tastes, time and budget.

First of all, if you’re longing to experience the fresh air of the sea, while sunbathing close to the mountains, then the right place to go are the lakes, such as Lago di Como, Lago di Garda, Lago Maggiore.

The first of these destinations is often mentioned in tabloids for being the holiday residence of very popular people from the international jet-set from the past, and even today. Lago di Garda is the biggest lake in Italy and resembles a sea, with its nice beaches and clear water.

Lago Maggiore is about an hour’s drive from Milan, and I really recommend its attractive islands: Isola Madre, Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori and Isole di Brissago. Since all these are touristic destinations there may be some really crowded spots, but there’s always the opportunity to find a quiet place. In the evening and night, if you are interested in classical music, you can’t miss the opportunity to go to the Stresa Festival, which gathers musicians and artists from all over the world in the charming setting of Lago Maggiore, since 1961.

Moreover, as you may already know, Italy boasts the beautiful embrace of the Alps Mountains. So why not having a week-end trip to Aprica, or Bormio, in Valtellina? Or go to Valle d’Aosta, with its many beauties, either to Alagna Valsesia, the so called “Free ride paradise” or Macugnaga, in Northern Piedmont.

Monte Rosa
The Dolomites Mountains are also a very popular destination among Italians and foreigners. Since the journey from Milan lasts about 3 or 4 hours, depending on the places, it would be better to dedicate them a longer trip than a couple of days. The national railway system and the rest of the transport network link Milan to all these destinations, you only need to check the timetables, on the national railway website, or on the above-linked local official websites.

As an alternative to any of these options, if you are addicted to the beach, Liguria is the fastest solution: there are trains taking you straight from Milan to Genoa or to the renowned Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.

And, finally, if you like the idea of sunbathing but are too lazy to travel, or for the many cultural and musical events taking place in the city, then the best option is to go to Idroscalo, an artificial lake which was originally built as a seaplane airport, in the eastern neighborhood of Milan.

Just one further suggestion, let good music inspire your soul. At the beginning of September there are going to be excellent music concerts for the MiTo festival, a festival linking Milan and Turin in the promotion and organization of important concerts and shows. This year MiTo takes place from the 5th until 23rd September… What a perfect conclusion for your Italian Summer!

Bocconi Student Interview of the Day

Today I’d like to talk you about life in Milan from the point of view of an international, non-European student who’s attending the BIEMF (Bachelor of International Economics, Management and Finance) at Università Bocconi. His name is Takin and he comes from Tehran, the capital of Iran. I met Takin a couple of weeks ago and started talking with him about his past and the time he has been spending in Milano, since he came here in July 2011. Read carefully, most of the time the best help can lay low daily life!

How long have you been living in Milan?
I’ve been here since July 2011. I’m attending the first year of BIEMF at Università Bocconi. I came here two months earlier since I was taking part in a language course at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, where I was learning Italian – and I still have to improve it. The institution had a really friendly vibe. 15 to 20 students formed each class and they all had international background. For me it was more of getting acquainted with different people while learning the basics of Italian language. I would suggest to those students who have the possibility of arriving in Milan few months prior to the start of their university course to attend an Italian language school.

What is the procedure for applying for this institution?
I found Scuola Leonardo da Vinci online, and I submitted my application online too. This Institution provides accommodation for prospective student upon their request and they also organize various cultural events and there are numerous occasions for socializing.

Did you find it difficult to learn Italian and to adapt to Italian culture and lifestyle? What would you suggest to the forthcoming international students?
Since most of the international students attend courses that are held in English they will not encounter any problem in particular. Add on to that, in Bocconi’s environment everyone speaks English sufficiently good as to not let the language barrier be a source of inconvenience for you. I must however say that, this barrier to communication will eventually prevent you from socializing outside the circle of your international friends.

Do you mean out of the academic world?
I would say out of BIEMF course. Even though most of the students at Bocconi do speak English, they lag behind once the content of conversation entails a mediocre understanding of English.
Outside the university environment, for an international student dealing with daily routine works it does not necessitate a previous knowledge of Italian in my opinion.

What did you do before leaving your country?
I finished my high school in Tehran and thereafter I traveled abroad, mainly to improve my English. I spent few months preparing for Toefl and SAT after I was convinced to take the latter instead of Bocconi’s entrance exam since they did not provide a comprehensive guideline for it. Besides, SAT is a globally recognized certificate with numerous publishers providing instructions and preparations for its tests. With having SAT certificate and a high GPA, you would ensure your place at Bocconi.

If you owned a Time Machine, would you change anything in what you did?
I don’t think I would! I made many mistakes and I had my regrets in life, but I rely on those experiences as my personal mentor. They influence you, teach you and build your personality more than anything else, I believe. Yet If I knew I would have difficulties with finding an apartment, I would have been more careful in my choice.

When did you start looking for an accommodation?
I had already found an apartment prior to my arrival. But things didn’t go well, and in September I had to move. You can imagine looking for a place in September is not always easy. I had to look for one or two apartments each day after lectures since my contract was ending. Eventually I found a place in one of Bocconi residences and I am still residing there. This waste of time for me preceded other problems too.

Is there any tip you want to give to students looking for accommodations from abroad?
I just have to mention to those who are looking for accommodation online, they have to be ensured about the nature of housing websites. With those like craigslist you have to be more cautious and knowing that there are many scams! I would suggest the housing websites that are available in Università Bocconi’s website that you can find in house haunting section. I also found and useful.

… While once you are here?
Announcements for renting are almost ubiquitous around university. From Notices pinned to trees outside to others on the boards inside the buildings you can find numerous rooms, apartments, and lofts to rent.
Of course, real estate agencies are always available however they charge a commission fee if using their service.

What are the steps to follow to come to Italy as a Non-European citizen?
This – Takin shows me a detailed sheet – is something they gave me in Bocconi: “Relocation in Milan”.
Within 8 working days of arrival, NON-EU citizens who hold a valid student visa for Italy must apply for a permit of stay for study purposes (Permesso di soggiorno per motivi di studio) that is issued by the local Police Department ( Questura – Ufficio Stranieri ).

To be identified as an individual person in the Italian state when dealing with public offices and administrations a Fiscal Code (Codice Fiscale) must be requested and obtained from “ Agenzia delle Entrate”.

In Italy, national healthcare is provided by a public healthcare service (SSN: National Healthcare Service) and only foreign nationals with a valid permit of stay can apply for the service.
Opening an Italian bank account also requires having a Permit of stay and a Fiscal Code.

About softer topics… Let’s talk about cuisine, do you miss Iranian dishes?
Of course I do miss them and nothing would replace Iranian dishes for me. But it comes without saying that if you are in Italy you will above all relish their delectable cuisine. You don’t have to be a chef to prepare a delicious meal because it is easy to make using Italian ingredients.

And what about the habits you had while living in your homeland that you cannot do here?
I cannot recall a particular habit, but studying abroad in general is different than living with your family in your hometown. The spread spectrum and the variety of choices you have in a cosmopolitan city like Milano is not comparable to my hometown.

What’s your attitude towards Milano? Are there any special places in the city you would suggest to go to?
After I strolled around the city center for the first time, one thing that really stood out for me was the most stunning piece of architecture, the gothic cathedral of Milan, Duomo. Milan is a wealthy city of glamorous people, full of stylish boutiques, marvelous restaurants and on-trend nightlife. On Friday and Saturday nights Colonne di San Lorenzo is packed with people of every kind. It is a great place to get to know new people and socialize. I would like to mention that Blue Note is my favorite place. This venue is known for hosting top-notch jazz in a classy atmosphere. Since the ticket prices are a bit steep, a student life will not allow you to be a frequent visitor. If you appreciate jazz music, I would most certainly suggest visiting Blue Note. From nightclubs like Alcatraz with its retro nights and 60s, 80s style, to commercial clubs like Old Fashion and Just Cavalli, you have everything to make your nightlife enjoyable in Milan.