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Sant'Ambrogio

5 things you should know about St Ambrose’s Day

If you happen to be in Milan on the second week of December, here are 5 things you should know about St Ambrose’s Day, which is celebrated on December 7th.

1 – St Ambrose was the bishop of Milan at the end of the fourth century after Christ. He is the patron saint of Milan, and the Feast of Saint Ambrose is a day off for most people here. Besides, it is followed by another public holiday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th, so a lot of Milanese will take the chance to have a nice extra break from work just before the long Christmas holiday. But don’t worry: while companies shut down, shops and stores are well open and happy to welcome you! December 7th is also the best moment to visit the Basilica of St Ambrose, dating from the IV century AD. With the help of a local guide you will discover all the amazing stories surrounding such an ancient building.

"Oh bej oh bej" street market

“Oh bej oh bej” street market

2 – St Ambrose’s day is the official start for Christmas Season in Milan, and the moment when Christmas lights were traditionally turned on. But we all want to get into the festive spirit as soon as possible, so thanks to globalization nowadays we have anticipated to Black Friday the day when all Christmas lights are switched on. Yet in the case of the 30-metre Christmas tree standing in Duomo square it seems that tradition will be respected, therefore we have to wait until Thursday evening for the magic moment.

3 – The Feast of St Ambrose in Milan is synonym to “Oh Bej Oh Bej” street market. From December 7th to Sunday 10th , from 8.30 am to 9 pm, the whole area around the imposing Sforza Castle will be busy with people trying an assortment of local food and drinks, as well as shopping at colourful arts and crafts stalls. The funny name of this market, which sounds like “obey”, means “oh beautiful oh beautiful” in local dialect. According to a legend, on December 7th 1510 Giannetto Castiglione, delegate of Pope Pius IV, was visiting Milan and in order to ingratiate himself with the Milanese he entered the city carrying boxes full of sweets and toys for the local children, who welcomed him with cheerful cries: “Oh bej! Oh bej!”

Riccardo Chailly will be the conductor of "Andrea Chenier"

Riccardo Chailly will be the conductor of “Andrea Chenier”

4 – It is on St Ambrose’s Day that the world-famous La Scala Opera House starts its season. La Scala’s opening night is one of the most glamorous annual occasions in Italy, and tickets are only affordable for the happy few, but as usual the premiere – this year, Umberto Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier” – will be screened live around the city, so that all milanesi and visitors, and even jail inmates, can enjoy such high point of Milan’s cultural calendar. The opera will be broadcast live (and free) at many venues such as the Octagon of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and even on the national tv channel Rai5.

5 – If you are not really fond of opera, then you may like superstar pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, who is going to play at Teatro Dal Verme from December 8th to 17th. His shows are almost sold out, so hurry up if you want to listen to his minimalistic, mesmerizing melodies.

BONUS – 6 – If you have kids and you are desperately looking for engaging activities for them, do not miss “City Booming Milano” at Palazzo dei Giureconsulti in via Mercanti (just in front of Duomo). It is a spectacular diorama made of 7 million Lego bricks and representing a megacity with its skyscrapers, streets, shops and 6.000 mini citizens. Look carefully and, among the crowd, you’ll spot Batman, Harrison Ford and the Simpsons!

Carnival in Milan

Fly to Milan for Carnival!

Mardi Gras is just a few days away and you are already missing Carnival street parades and masked balls? Follow the advice of your trusted local guides, Mirella and Valeria, and fly to Milan, where Carnival will peak next Saturday!

Chiacchiere

Chiacchiere

Yes, in Milan we celebrate Carnival a little later than the rest of the Christian world. But what is Carnival? It is the festive season of parades, street parties, weaker self-control and crazy costumes that is celebrated just before the beginning of Lent. Lent is quite the opposite: the period of time during which Christians get prepared to Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, through prayer, atonement, and repentance.

In the Christian world, Carnival is celebrated on Mardi Gras, just before Ash Wednesday. But in Milan and its sorroundings, where we follow the so called Ambrosian Rite, Lent begins a little later, on the following Sunday. Therefore we have a few more days when we can indulge ourselves with crazy costumes, wild celebrations, masks and balls and above all with the typical delicious Carnival fritters. 

You’ll love tortelli, graffe, castagnole, ravioli fritti, and especially chiacchiere, that is angel wings, sweet crisp pastry made out of dough, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Chiacchiere in Italian means “small talk”, but the same pastry has a different name in the different regions of Italy: it is named bugie in Genoa, cenci in Firenze, lattughe in Mantua, maraviglias in Sardinia, and stracci, pampuglie, manzole, etc. etc. Whatever their name, next Saturday, or rather Fat Saturday, get yourself some chiacchiere and enjoy the parade floats that will fill Duomo square in the afternoon. But be prepared as well to a deluge of colorful confetti and streamers!

 

Street Food

Street food in Milan: a tasting journey through Italy with your local guide

A tasting journey through Italy in just one day. Is it possible? Yes, if you follow your local guide around Milan. This city is a crossroad of cultures, people and traditions and is the only place in Italy where you can find everything that you can desire in terms of food.

Italian culture includes a rich food tradition, as well as an incredible artistic heritage. So while visiting Milan, save some time for a mouthwatering food safari. Your stops should include cafés, deli shops, groceries, bakeries, farmer markets and definitely a feast of street food. 

Speaking about street food, we suggest an ideal travel from northern Italian specialties to southern delicacies. You should start with Sciatt: crunchy buckwheat fritters with a heart of melted cheese. This is a traditional dish from Valtellina, a valley in the Lombardia region bordering Switzerland.

Sicilian Arancino

Sicilian Arancino

For a taste of Tuscany assemble your ideal panino-to-go picking among a wide range of salumi (prosciutto, salame, pancetta, fennel-scented finocchiona, mortadella…), pecorino cheese, pickles and home-made tasty toppings.

Sunny south is warm and scrumptious as an arancino. For the ones who haven’t tried it yet, an arancino is a deep fried rice ball filled with ragù, mozzarella and peas. Arancino’s origin dates back to early Middle Ages, when Sicily was under Arab rule, and its shape is usually round but in Catania, the city at the foot of volcano Etna, it has a more conical shape and it’s so hot that when you bite it a puff of steam comes out.

Are you feeling hungry? Do you want some more? ;-) then ask your local guide for a tailor-made culinary tour in Milan.