Aperitivos & Sempione Park in Milan

The walk to the Castello Sforza from the Duomo is a straight shot of a about a mile down a shopping street geared towards tourists or everyday shoppers. Regular brands like Desigual, H&M, and Promod line the street along with numerous cafes and bars. The section of the street closest to the park is completely blocked off to vehicle traffic to allow pedestrians to walk through the center. A few blocks before the park, there is a huge Decathlon sporting store which we spent almost an hour in picking out a few shirts and some sports drinks which we hadn’t had room for in our limited suitcase space. A Perugina chocolate store was right next door, so I couldn’t resist picking up a few places from one of my favorite Italian chocolate brands.

Before we made it to the large water fountain in front of the Castello Sforza which serves as the main entry to Sempione Park, we discovered two big temporary tents dedicated to promoting Expo in the city. We stopped in to look at souvenirs and information, which only served to get me even more excited about visiting Expo the next day!

water fountain by the entrance to Castello Sforza
water fountain by the entrance to Castello Sforza

We walked through the Castello Sforza complex, which now hosts a collections of museums I have never visited since they are considered to be only average by Italian standards. Once through the huge complex you find yourself in Sempione park which is a large park with many paths cutting through it. We headed towards the opposite end of the park where the Arca della Pace is located, a big triumphal arch dedicated to the victories of Emperor Napoleon. But on our way there it started to rain! We picked up the pace to make it under the arch before it really began to pour.

the Arca della Pace
the Arca della Pace

Our objective of making it near the Arca della Pace was to select a few bars to enjoy an aperitivo on Corso Sempione. Going out to eat in Italy can get pricey very fast. For two people to enjoy an appetizer, main course, and dessert with a bottle of wine can easily top 100 Euros if you are not careful. In Milan, we decided to bypass the sit down dinner idea all together and instead just go for aperitivo, the concept of which is that you purchase one full priced cocktail during the aperitivo hours and have access to a buffet of assorted snack foods as well. We tried 3 different aperitive places on Corso Sempione for about 8 to 10 Euros each.

Our first stop was Jazz Cafe, where I ordered a mojito and enjoyed this selection of food from the buffet:

aperitivo at Jazz Cafe
aperitivo at Jazz Cafe.

Highlights there included the bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, the meatballs covered in a spicy red sauce, and the egg and pea frittata. The mojito was also excellent and refreshing

But of course, the point of an aperitivo crawl is to make your meal out of multiple different aperitivo locations, not to mention that it is considered very rude to return to the buffet a second time. One drink, one plate of food at each locations is the protocol. So our next stop was the Bhangrabar, just down the street. This restaurant offered a bit of an Indian fusion, but my absolute favorite food from the buffet were the lightly fried lobster bites, you can see one piled right on top of my plate piled with carrots, spinach, meat and peas, and a little piece of simple pizza. Although the lobster bites were excellent, unfortunately overall this place was our least favorite in terms of overall food quality and ambience. To drink, I sipped on a lemon soda with pear vodka, which was an excellent combination I will have to replicate in the future.

aperitivo at Bhangrabar
aperitivo at Bhangrabar
Joey eating the yummy lobster bites!
Joey eating the yummy lobster bites!

Our next location just across the street was Deseo. This was my favorite spot! Joey’s pick went to Jazz Cafe, but I think that is because he really enjoyed their old fashioned. I loved Deseo because I think they had the best food and the best ambience. We sat inside at a little table and candles lit up most of the cafe. Before we even hit the buffet a waiter brought out a small tray with prosciutto and melon and cucumber and mozzarella. To drink, I ordered a Tequila Buzz, a mix of tequila, lime, triple sec, and sparkling wine. From the buffet, the smoked salmon was amazing but so were the grilled veggies and grilled chicken.

the pre-aperitivo from Deseo
the pre-aperitivo from Deseo
smoked salmon! veggies! at Deseo
smoked salmon! veggies! at Deseo

By the time we hit 3 different aperitivo spots we were feeling quite full and a little buzzed. We walked back through the Sempione park and in the Castello Sforza we stopped to listen to a free concert for a while. We walked back to the Duomo to see it light up at night, which is stunning. Then we took the metro back to our apartment to rest up before the next day when we would finally get to go to Expo. I was like a little kid the night before Christmas or on the way to Disneyworld, so excited to finally get to go to Expo! Little did I know it would be even more amazing and more fun than I had imagined. All about our visit to Expo in my next post!

ambiance at Deseo, loved that place!
ambiance at Deseo, loved that place!
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