Today an interview with Audrey Smith Spotter for our Milan cityblog. We met Audrey in 2008, and had a drink with her Milanese boyfriend too!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I originally came to Italy to teach English in order to help fund my goal of seeing as much of Europe as possible. Being Australian, it’s easy to be fascinated by a continent which is smaller than my own but so packed with different countries… languages… cuisines! Milan was one of the best options for finding work and so it’s become my home for many years now.
Whilst I didn’t imagine teaching English would be the job of my life, I must say that I have found it to be quite a passion. Back in Sydney I used to work in an office, in front of a computer all day. Now, I meet lots of different people, move around the city and barely have time to check my email. It’s been a pleasant change!
More about me personally, I would say that I’m your typical Aussie. Down to earth, always ready to have a laugh and always ready to offer a hand. I love travel, food and people who care about people and the world and are prepared to do something for these beliefs.
Why Milan? What is a must do when you visiting Milan? What not?
If I was coming to Italy for the first time, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t put Milan on the list. It can’t compete with Rome or Venice. But it’s appeal for me is as a weekend-break city for Europeans. It’s easy to get to, train or plane, and often cheap with low-cost airlines. It’s not too big, so you can get a good feel for the place easily in a weekend.
For me, I love taking the stairs to the top of the Duomo and sitting up there. On a clear day, you can see the mountains. The cathedral is so intricate that I don’t think you get to appreciate the detail from down below.
For art lovers, think ahead, book yourself in to see “The Last Supper”. Many people don’t know that you need to book ahead.
In the evening, a “must do” is “happy hour”. A drink and an unlimited buffet of food. It’s such a fantastic way of eating on a budget.It was invented in Milan. Most bars do it, but check out the food before you enter, because sometimes it can be a little on the light side. Some good options are: Hora Feliz, Luca & Andrea and Slice.
As a “what not”, I would avoid the nightlife around Corso Como. It’s overpriced and overrated.
Which prejudices about Milan are true? Which ones are not?
A lot of people tend to associate fashion and design with Milan. This is true. But it doesn’t mean that everything is beautiful. I’m still often surprised about the contrast between beauty and ugliness you can find here.
I’ve read many reviews about how fashionable people are in Milan. Also true. Not everyone of course, but many people spend a lot of time and money on how they look. But at the end of the day, money can’t always buy style and style is something that Italians are stereotypically good at.
Another prejudice about Milan is that the people are cold and not very friendly. This is often made by Italians from other parts of Italy. In some respects we rush around so much because we are so “busy” working and being important but I tend to think that this prejudice is overexaggerated. Catching the underground is a little stressful at times but in my area, I know all the local shop owners and people always have time to chat and help out, even the local supermarket. It’s a city, but it can still have a small town feel.
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
Well I must say it would depend on the season but given this interview was given in winter, let’s go with that. I’d sleep late and start the day with a coffee and crossiant, maybe at Choco Cult. I’d then take an old tram around the city and then try to catch the latest exhibition at Spazio Forma.
I’d pick up a mid-afternoon slice of pizza or foccacia, maybe at Princi’s and take a stroll down Via Torino for a spot of shopping which will lead me up to Corso Porta Ticinese as well. I’d head up to the Navigli area (where there are canals) and take a stroll down Naviglo Grande to get myself a cold beer at Luca and Andrea’s which is always nice and cosy in winter time. After a beer or two, I’d head to a Milanese restaurant to tuck into some good and hearty cuisine. Maybe Locanda dei Du e mes because it’s on the naviglio as well.
Is there something else you want to share?
For me, Italian food is really a treasure. The thing to know is that every town, every place can have it’s own specialty. I recommend taking the time to learn a little about this for any place you go to in Italy. It’s not just pasta and pizza. It’s that, which is soooo good, but also more! For every place you visit in Italy, try to find out the names of a few local specialities, the differences from region to region are really interesting as well.
I have written about some places which specialise in local Milanese cuisine. On the top of the list to try I’d go for a risotto Milanese with Osso Buco or a la Cottoletta, the Milan version of the Vienna Schnitzel. No one knows who invented what first!
Follow this link to check out the other Spotter interview!