Food has always been a touchy subject for me. After years of running 40+ miles a week while limiting myself to 500 calories a day, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder back in 2013. My recovery hasn’t been a steady or easy journey, and I work through my maladaptive habits daily. When I arrived in Milan, I wanted to strive to be my body’s biggest advocate and to see food as nourishment and enrichment. In the States, I believed I needed to earn the luxury of eating food. Here in Italy, when I think of food— I think of memories. I think of laughter. I think of conversations with friends that last late into the night. Although fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King have slowly infiltrated into Milan, meals are considered a time of pleasure and leisure. The best way to thank a cook for a meal is to take a second (or third or fourth!) plate. And, most importantly, food is to be shared. So I decided to capture my meals for a day!
La Colazione (Breakfast)
The most important meal of the day! I started my morning at 9:30am with breakfast in the cafeteria of the Collegio di Milano (where I live). In Italy, breakfast is typically a sweet meal— think chocolate croissants and jam filled pastries. Today I ate chocolate and granola cereal. Common breakfast drinks include cappuccinos and pear juice. I chose an espresso and a lemon tea to get my voice and body ready for the day.
Il Pranzo (Lunch)
Since I live in the Collegio, I buy my own lunches. I usually eat lunch sometime between 12:30pm-3pm (depending on my schedule for the day). There are plenty of dining options around the IES Center in Milan. I needed a pick-me-up after my classes, so I had another espresso. My favorite meal for lunch is un panino (a sandwich). One great thing about sandwiches in Milan (outside of the fact that they taste amazing) is that they’re very affordable— around 5€. Here are some of my top places for lunch.
Generally between 7pm-9pm, aperitivo is the northern Italian tradition of a pre-meal drink to satisfy your appetite. Aperitivo is usually compared to American happy hour, but in reality it’s way more than that. There are two types of aperitivo: buffet-style (i.e. you fill your plate with the food you want), or one-size-fits-all plates chosen by the restaurant. I went with some of my IES friends to Ravizza (a restaurant right around the corner from the famous Duomo di Milano) for a buffet-style aperitivo.
Note: you don’t have to drink alcohol in order to take part in aperitivo, but you do have to order some sort of beverage if you want to eat.
La Cena (Dinner)
Even though the Collegio provides dinner everyday, I opted today to cook dinner with my IES friends who live in apartments. It’s easy to buy groceries in Milan. Esselunga and Pam are two of the most popular supermarket chain here is called, and generally no more than one metro stop away from where you live. If you’re like me, Esselunga is only a five minute walk away! There you can find produce, frozen goods, and pretty much anything you’d need for cooking.
One thing to know about living in Italy is that Italians eat dinner late.. like really late… like 9pm late. This is why aperitivo and snacking in general is super important. If you don’t eat something between lunch and dinner, you will be cranky and sleepy (and I can tell you from experience that you don’t want that).
My friends and I started making dinner at 9:15pm and finished around 10pm (which is late even by Italian standards). We cooked Chicken Farfalle Alfredo. My friend’s Community Assistant told us— multiple times— that chicken alfredo is not an authentically-Italian dish! Nonetheless, the food was delicious and reminded me of home. Finally, I paired my meal with a beer from a Sardinia-based brewery.