Daily Rituals in Milan - Part 1
The Milanese are busy people and live a fast paced life in a busy and fast paced city that may even seem chaotic from time to time. So if you had the idyllic image of Italian life in mind, the so called „dolce far niente“, sitting in the sun in a street café having coffee... forget about it or visit Naples .... Milan is different.
The morning of a typical Milanese starts with breakfast just like everywhere else. But here people have breakfast outside the house in a bar. That is why there are so many Bars around because they play an essential part in Italian life. An Italian Bar cannot be compared to a Bar in the US or a Pub in the UK where you go in the evenings. The patrons of Italian Bars arrive at any time of day and are people of all ages and families.
So back to breakfast: Italian breakfast at the bar is normally a quick thing. People don’t sit down, but have their breakfast standing at the counter the so called “bancone”.
There are no rules as far as your type of coffee is concerned. Anything goes in the morning. Italians choose Latte Macchiato, Cappucino, Cafè, Marocchino or their “Orzo” -barley version together with brioches that are offered with or without filling and also in whole grain for those who like healthier food.
The Barmen, the famous "barrista", are used to “personalize” the coffees or cappuccinos. Everybody has their own preferences and you’ll see that after visiting a particular Bar for three or four times the guys know exactly what you want. Choose the temperature, the mixture, the adding of chocolate powder or cinnamon and so on until you find your perfect breakfast.
Latte Macchiato and Cappuccinos are only “admitted” until 11:00 o’clock in the morning because they are considered breakfast. Italians are convinced that the milk is blocking their digestive system so no one would have a cappuccino after lunch or dinner. But we as foreigners with no Italian culinary culture can order Cappuccino whenever we like accepting the fact that we might get funny looks.
Lunch is also a fast thing. Fast but not “Fast Food” and rigorously no food while driving or on the streets. Italians always eat in a space that is dedicated to eating. Quick lunches are available everywhere in town and once again the Bar plays a crucial role. Lunch at a bar is uncomplicated, inexpensive and fast. Different from what is happening in the morning the Milanese sit down for lunch.
The Bars offer a variety of ready made pasta or main courses as well as salads and of course the famous "Panini". After that deserts and a coffee. Coffee means Italian Coffee, Expresso Coffee. Remember what I said before… no Cappuccino or Latte after 11:00 o’clock!
If the Milanese have more time during lunch break or if there is an important or formal business lunch they go to a restaurant. The atmosphere in the restaurants at lunchtime is less hectic than in the bars and more suitable for conversations or negotiations or simply to find a moment of relaxation in the city. The menu, it depends a lot on the type of restaurant you go to, but all restaurants are used to prepare Italian dishes that are not on the menu or to modify their offer for you upon request, and a smile will always help you get better service!
Daily Rituals in Milan - Part 2
In the afternoons most adults just stop for a quick cafè at the bar. But for kids it is the hour of “merenda”. There is no translation for the word “merenda” but it means something like afternoon snack. After school at around 4pm kids are hungry and so the “merenda” is what helps them hold over till dinner. “Merenda” is usually something sweet. Ice cream in the summer and some chocolate snacks in the winter. Kids who prefer salty food choose “foccaccia” a plain pizza bread.
At around 7pm “aperitivo” time starts. In all the bars you’ll find people gathering after the office for a drink and a snack. Aperitivo in Milan is probably the most important ritual and it is more likely that the Milanese skip dinner than aperitivo time. Maybe that’s why some bars offer aperitivo buffets that are so rich that they can easily replace a dinner. Apart from salty snacks like crisps, pizzette and small sandwiches you may find hot or cold pasta, rice salads, cheese variations, vegetable sticks with dips, meat balls and all other kinds of finger foods.
The buffet is always included in the price of the drink and you can eat as much as you want. The most trendy drinks at the moment are all the Caipirinha and Mojito variations as well as the Frozen Strawberry Margarita. If you want something less strong, opt for wine or prosecco. All bars also offer non-alcoholic aperitivos either home made on a fruit basis or the classical “Crodino”.
Dinner in Italy is always a celebration. A classical Italian dinner consists of a starter, a first course, a second course, a desert, fruit and coffee. The starters are called “Antipasti” and restaurants often have antipasti buffets where you can choose what you want. First courses, called “primi piatti”, are normally pasta or rice dishes. Second courses are called “secondi piatti” and are meat or fish dishes. They come without anything n the side if you do not order a “contorno” which can be potatoes, vegetables or salad.
Most restaurants in Milan have adjusted to the habits of the Milanese and so tables can be booked in two different time frames: An earlier one between 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm for those who go out afterwards to a late cinema or dancing and for families with kids, and a later one at 22:00 pm or later for those who have been at the cinema or the theater and have dinner afterwards. Especially in the fashionable and famous restaurants it is always recommendable to book a table especially from Thursdays to Saturdays.
After dinner or “dopo cena” in Milan means going out for dancing, cinema or drinks or even a walk. Especially during the summer you will notice that all the streets are still crowded until late at night and that people are having drinks outside the bars or just walking to “watch and be watched”.
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