Today we decided to visit the artistic heart of the city, a section called the Brera district.
The Brera district is home to several museums that I definitely want to visit later, such as the Pinacoteca di Brera (the Brera Picture Gallery). The Pinacoteca di Brera, the main public gallery for paintings in Milan, contains some of Milan’s most famous painting collections (paintings by Raphael, Bellini, Mantegna, Rubens, Correggio and many others). https://pinacotecabrera.org
Brera also lays claim to a large number of antique shops. The streets and buildings are beautiful and as we walked along, I noticed several familiar private equity business names. There are businesses and banks housed among the nice shops enjoying this beautiful side of town.
For this evening, our destination is the Sky Terrace lounge, a rooftop bar atop a high end hotel. Kevin read about the Sky Terrace as a nice place for an aperitivo, and the recommendation could not have been more spot on. See for yourself. http://skyterracemilanoscala.it
After a hot day at work, Italians like to stop at their local bar for an aperitivo, which is a drink and light meal that takes place at the end of the workday as a type of warm up to dinner. Aperitivo time is typically between 7 and 9 pm, and, according to the Italians, serves several important digestive purposes. First, it allows the Italians to relax, unwind, and socialize after work- good for your stomach! It also supposedly helps with your metabolism through your consumption of a drink that includes a light, dry or bitter tonic rather than a sweet sugary cocktail so that you work up an appetite before dinner. Lastly, it prepares your stomach for the typical 4 course Italian dinner to come.
As we walked towards our destination, we passed a ground floor building where most of the windows were obstructed on the inside by large foam pieces that reminded us of the foam insulation found in our house, sprayed into crevices and then hardened into white, hard obstacles designed to keep the heat and cool in place. As we peaked between the white obstructions, one could see clothes hung up in long rows, and boxes upon boxes lining the walls. One of Milan’s two major biannual design weeks is happening soon, so I can’t help but guess that this is a space where a designer is storing a clothing collection for the week.
Into the hotel lobby we went (the Hotel Milano Scala) http://www.hotelmilanoscala.it and the nice receptionist called up to the Sky Terrace bar and secured us a reservation, which was lucky for us, because the place filled up quickly with businessmen, happy couples, hotel guests, and groups of college age revelers out for a nice evening. We settled in with the most beautiful panoramic view of Milan, including a view of the hotel and bar’s rooftop garden were they grow herbs, vegetables and edible flowers used by the bar for their special courses and finger foods.
I couldn’t help but think of our daughter Kelly and her experience tending a rooftop garden in Brooklyn at Roberta’s, where she watered the garden by dragging the hose through the restaurant and up a ladder to the garden. I wonder how the Sky Terrace Bar handles the water source. One must be innovative to work in the food industry!
The “Green Aperitif” is this bar’s name for the aperitivo or cocktail hour which happens typically from 7 to 9 pm, where drinks are accompanied by finger food made by their chef using local ingredients, including from their own garden. With our aperitif, we had the following: small glasses of tomato juice ( bloody mary tasting); small pork sausage balls in glasses with an interesting sauce that seemed to include dijon mustard; a bruschetta made with fresh vegetables including tomatoes and eggplant; and tiny little meatballs with bread that looked like miniature hamburgers. We also had some bar snacks (like pretzels and crackers) and some focaccia that resembled small pizza bites.
As this was Mom’s first aperitif, or pre-dinner drink, in Milan, we ordered a classic that you can find at virtually every bar in Milan; the Aperol Spritz.
This is an orangish colored drink, using the Aperol bitter, Prosecco, some soda water, and often a slice of orange. According to our bartender, you start by adding ice into the glass, then you pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol, and add a splash of soda, then top with a slice of orange. This serving avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom. After a hot day of walking around the streets of Milan, the cold drink hits the spot!
Another traditional drink is the Campari Spritz. Campari is a red herbal liqueur, and was first sold in Italy by Gaspare Campari. Gaspare was born in the Lombardy region and he was the 10th child of a farmer. He was serving his bitter-style aperitifs in the local bar by the time he was 14. This is another reminder of Kelly who was constantly concocting bitters for drinks. One Christmas she gave me a pecan bitter because I loved the Pecan Old Fashioned drinks at a favorite bar of ours in Decatur at The Kimble House. http://www.kimball-house.com
The original Campari took its ruby red color from crushed cochineal insects, although the practice eventually stopped in 2006. WHEW! Drinkers quickly took to Campari served from Gaspare’s bar in front of Milan’s Duomo.
We returned towards home by walking towards the Duomo, and we came upon the historic opera house, La Scala, as well as a famous statute of Leonardo Da Vinci.
The next thing you knew, we were at the back side of the Galleria, and through the beautiful building we went, back to the Duomo, and back to my now familiar tram stop that took us home. It was a lovely end to a nice day!