Milan – July 2023

Day 5 (Milan) – Hotel Ibis Milano Centrale

Before I begin waffling on about the Milan Malpensa airport experience, let’s briefly discuss the hotel room. As Ibis is a global chain, you know what to expect (mostly!) in terms of accessibility. Ones room was called ‘luxury’ compared to the other rooms due to its size, amenities and environmental controls, quite a contrast from the hotel in Athens…

Anyway, back to today, thunderstorms were predicted for the morning time, however we were presented with a light show and the loudest thunder claps one has heard for a while at 1am. Trudging through the soaked streets at 6am, we headed back to Milano Centrale to catch the Milan Malpensa Airport Express. Although the station is gigantic in size, its easy to find the dedicated platforms situated on the far left.

Approximately 60 minutes later, we arrived back at T2 which is dedicated to EasyJet hence its prudent not to expect luxury! After a while of insisting that 105kg was acceptable on EasyJet, we were hurried to the gate even though the flight wasn’t scheduled to depart for another 2 hours…efficiency once again.

Unfortunately the rainy weather conditions in Bristol did not favour the cable on Superbunny finally accepting defeat…good timing that!!

My next adventure takes one to the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, on the 19th September with a train journey to explore Lake Sevan, the biggest lake in the Caucuses. As there are wheelchair accessible taxis available in Yerevan (surprisingly!), Superbunny will be joining to see what the city has to offer access wise. It’s also the first time that Superbunny will journey on connecting flights (heard bad things about Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris though) so that will be interesting to say the least!

Day 4 (Milan) – Modern Milan

As one explored the historical side of the city on day two, it was time to explore the modern side of Milan including TOWERS (how I have missed towers this year!). The city seems to have two distinct areas for this purpose, one, very coincidentally (well…) is located near our hotel. I have always wanted to visit the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) ever since it crept up in various architecture blogs hence that is what happened…(it’s two apartment blocks so the view from below had to suffice!)

The M5 Metro is conveniently located to the rear of said buildings and takes you to the CityLife district which is a little like Canary Wharf in London with a gigantic shopping mall located below several skyscrapers. Opposed to the M1, M2 and M3, the M5 is relatively modern hence has level access, elevators etc making for a smooth journey.

Although the area only boasts three skyscrapers, it was enough to fulfil ones tower quota for the trip…

As I mentioned, the area has a gigantic shopping mall including shops and restaurants and you know that said places are ones preferred location to eat as they are enclosed away from pigeons right? It’s just my luck that one decided to fly in (doors automatically shut mind you) and become trapped, what is it with this trip!

Anyway, the final stop in Milan was the Branca Tower observation deck, however the challenge was to get to the thing as it is located in a park which has been shut since the tornado last week (to be fair, it did look like a mess with numerous debris, even around it’s perimeter). Trusty Maps refused to accept that the park was shut hence logic was required to reach the entrance.

As the tower was constructed in 1933 for the Triennale, I did imagine it to be akin to the Petrin Tower in Prague with the smallest lift possible to reach the top. However the difference between Czechia and Italy is that the latter country has way more health and safety rules meaning that even ones manual wheelchair would be too heavy and big for said lift…ahh well, we tried!

As the day was hotting up and the remnants of the tornado were becoming endless, we hopped on the M1 back to the hotel (with the same assistance as per the M2…can’t fault it really!).

It’s an early start tomorrow as we head back to Milan Malpensa Airport via Milano Centrale and return to rainy Bristol.

Day 3 (Florence) – Wonders of Florence

Today was a ‘train’ day (let’s call these days this from now on!) as we headed down to Florence on the Frecciarossa from Milano Centrale. When booking, I was instructed to be at the assistance point 30 minutes prior to departure (one is usually told this in the UK, however 30 minutes means 10 with me, thought I would behave this time) and, like that, a guy from Sala Blu (Assistance division of Italian Railways) was waiting for us to assist through the station and onto the subsequent train…

It always intrigues the way that different countries load Superbunny onto trains, the majority of European countries use swivel lifts and Italy is no exception (bar the fact that this one actually worked unlike Croatia!). The swivel lift is a simple piece of equipment where you drive on, it lifts up to the level of said train and then staff twist the thing so you can drive straight onto the train (although nothing can beat a good old ramp to whizz down when one is in a rush in the UK!)…

Spacious wheelchair space also…

After reaching speeds of 300km/h through the Italian countryside, said train pulled into Florence. When visiting European cities, there is always the issue surrounding level access into restaurants (even in Milan) thus I was pleasantly surprised to have a plethora of accessible restaurants to choose from, perhaps due to the number of tourists?

Our first stop was to marvel at the gigantic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore which is much taller than imagined…

The accessibility entrance is located to the side although not signposted whatsoever…just bang on the door with a ramp until someone let’s you in! Again, disabled individuals can enter for FREE!

All the main sights of Florence such as the Ponte Vecchio and Pitti Palace are within walking distance and can be done in a few hours…

Providing that you stick to the pedestrianised centre, everything is pretty accessible. Granted that there is a small number of cobbled streets, however, Superbunny seemed to have no problem tackling these (either that or one has become accustomed to such areas after visiting Riga in Latvia or Tallinn in Estonia). The issues start when you begin to venture out of the centre where the pavements narrow considerably and you have buses approaching that are the width of the road…good for hunting Gelato places though!

As our train back to Milan wasn’t until 20:55, there was plenty of time to sample the Tuscan cuisine and general wandering. Outside the city centre, Florence is home to a tram network which uses modern rolling stock with level access alongside buses with conventional ramps.

Although our wandering and cuisine sampling was passing the time, it was decided that we would try our luck catch the 19:55 train instead (trains from Milan to Naples stopping at Florence seem to run every hour). With the assistance of Sala Blu, we were able to change our tickets for just 5 euro per person.

Tomorrow, we explore the modern side of Milan by catching the M5 to the CityLife district with a visit to the Branca Tower to round off this Italian adventure.

Day 2 (Milan) – Landmarks and Metros

Last week, Milan experienced a powerful tornado thus you are likely to stumble across fallen trees (even a crushed car near the hotel) if you are wandering around the city currently which is a little difficult if it’s blocking the pavement!

As a result, a few parks were closed thus it was the road way down to the centre, quite pleasant to wander the streets without watching out for potholes or drop curbs for once…

Eventually, the marvel of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II presented itself before us, it probably goes without saying that it is nice and accessible whilst packed full of designer shops and restaurants…

Rolling through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II leads you swiftly to the Duomo di Milano…

Now, as I am attempting to do this trip on a budget, I was in two minds whether to go inside. However it transpires that a disabled individual and one companion can enter for FREE and, even better, access the rooftop via a lift…who wouldn’t say no to that!!

I will say that the walkway to access the rooftop from the lift is quite narrow, Superbunny only just managed it (with a little manpower). However it provides panoramic views over the city…

The next stop on the list (bar McDonalds) was the Naviglio Grande canal located to the South of the city for some food. Now, you know how picky one is about restaurants being inside away from my furry friends, we found a nice quiet restaurant without many pigeons around, 10 minutes later, the outside seating became a bird party. This was fine until the people seated started to become frustrated with said birds and, yes, a few decided to fly in for a brief moment before realising that it was the inside. Needless to say, the owners had to close every door and window for one to re-enter!

Anyway, after that ordeal, it was time to sample the Milan metro, however, before I discuss that, let’s briefly talk trams. The city uses two types of rolling stock (as in many European places), unfortunately Milan opts for the older stock on the majority of lines (perhaps to maintain the feel of Milan?) which are completely inaccessible with steps leading up to the vehicle hence the metro or the buses are the best way to traverse the city in a wheelchair.

Milan has 4 metro lines with another under construction (as of 2023) with nearly every station being accessible. However, it is worth noting that some stations have stair lifts rather than elevators which can be confusing if you are used to seeking out lifts in back alleys…

From prior research, I knew that the rolling stock on the M1, M2 and M3 had quite a big gap and step up hence needed to ask the staff for a portable ramp. As per the London Underground, the staff contacted the destination station with ones location in order for Superbunny to get back off…

Tomorrow, we head back to Milano Centrale to board the Frecciarossa (high speed train) to Florence taking just 2 hours! Who knows what Florence has to offer a wheelchair user…

Day 1 (Milan) – Milan Malpensa Airport Express

It may seem incomprehensible that one has visited over 40 countries but is yet to visit Italy which is practically on the UK’s doorstep? Well not any more as the exploration of Milan and Florence begins.

With a few new cables for Superbunny and the Cerberus heatwave keeping to the south (for now!), we took the 1.75 hour flight from Bristol landing in Milan to 27C. Upon disembarking onto the ambulift (which arrived before the passenger shuttles…now that is efficiency!), the captain explained that they were unable to turn off the chair in Bristol. Most airports would simply leave it after checking that it wouldn’t move but no, Bristol had to mess around with the cables and rip apart the one that I have yet to replace meaning that the chair won’t turn on unless the connection has been made (swear that one should train to be an engineer), Ahh well, perhaps by the next trip to Armenia, every cable will be brand new!

Anyway, enough of the usual airport drama, let’s discuss the Milan Malpensa Airport Express which transports you from the terminal to Milano Centrale in around 60 minutes (slightly longer from T2). As one had already bought tickets online (saving around £40), we headed onto the platform in the hope of catching said train that was scheduled to leave in 1 minute. Luckily, the driver saw some British tourists approaching and kindly waited for us to board. Akin to the Heathrow Express in London, the train doors are level with the platform (well, there is a really small gap if we are getting picky!) thus easy to roll on and off.

Our hotel (ibis Milano Centro) is conveniently situated around 10 minute walk from Milano Centro making it easy access to said train, the metro network and high-speed train services (which we will be using to travel to Florence)…wonder who booked that?

Tomorrow we plan to head into the centre and take in the usual tourists sights including the Duomo di Milano and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II plus sampling the Milan Metro

(I must say that it is nice to be back in a city with actual drop curbs!)

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