The first time I heard the idea of au pairing was from my mum. In the late 70s and early 80s this was the equivalent of taking a three month J1 visa to America because times were tough and there simply was no option to shell out for a visa, flights and accommodation. At the age of nineteen I was in college in a course I hated and my mum always talked of the fond memories she had of being an au pair in Copenhagen, Denmark. I always had an itch for travel so the thoughts of ending up anywhere around the world excited me and this is the only advice I can give to someone contemplating a stint at au pairing. Have an open mind towards everything because something you think you might hate you could actually end up enjoying. In a matter of two weeks I had dropped out of college and moved nearly 2000 kilometres away from home to the fashion capital of Italy, Milan. My year in Milan was one of the best years of my life, I met amazing people, harrowing people, went to places you only hear of in romantic Shakespeare plays and overall experienced life away from home independently for the first time in my life.
The Duomo in the centre of the city. Well worth a visit!
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the perfect place to drop a couple thousand euros on designer brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and many other expensive designer brands.
Around a 10 minute walk from the Duomo lies the Colonne Di San Lorenzo and at night it comes alive. There are cocktail bars available for a reasonable and potent price. Everyone sits around, chats, sings, and drinks. A very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere amongst the students of Milan. On occasion you may find the character who might entrain your night or just question humanity in general. It is a great place to meet people and after a while you become immune to the overpowering smell of marijuana.
WATCH YOUR HANDBAG- Just because someone is well-dressed doesn’t mean they won’t attempt to rob you. Unfortunately this happened to me as I was always under the impression it would be a ‘down and out’ sort of character to do so. I was wrong. A man in an expensive suit, Ray Bands, and an attractive smile meticulously removed my purse from out of my deep handbag. Thankfully I only had a small amount of cash but I did have many identity cards, drivers licence and souvenirs. Trust me you don’t want to make a visit to the Police station as the only thing that will happen is that you will be chatted up by Italian men and leave in the same predicament as you came. Bawling your eyes out and cursing the world. Don’t get me wrong though the tram in Milan is extremely efficient and runs until around 1am or often later just make sure you know if it is a long weekend. Just remember to buy a ticket during the day as there are no ticket machines available at night(unless there are now) I literally must have thousands of euro in ticket fines since 2010. Practice your fake address. TIP- It is ILLEGAL not to carry identification in Italy but being blonde-haired mostly gets you away with pretty much everything.
Milan is a cosmopolitan city that doesn’t particularly offer a realistic view of traditional Italian life but it is definitely the perfect location if you aren’t willing to learn the language because nearly everyone speaks at least a minimum amount of English.
Lake Garda and Lake Como are just around one hour away from Milan which makes it possible to have a weekend getaway regularly and cheaply as the train is incredibly cheap in comparison to most European cities. Escaping the city heat and mosquitos is a must especially in the months of July and August.
Italian Gelato, also known as ice-cream to us foreigners is obligatory no matter how many calories it contains. Many Italians in the summer months will eat an ice-cream instead of a proper dinner because the humidity decreases your appetite.
The Italian Aperitif is a part of the day most Italians look forward to as it indicates a come down from a busy day of work. A Campari cocktail is the traditional alcohol beverage that is related to the Aperitif. Personally I am not of fan of the drink but a beer is always acceptable to order instead, especially if it is Italian such as a Peroni. An Aperitif can just be olives, nuts and crisps, or it can be a full meal of small dishes, the perfect opportunity to try many different Italian dishes.
Parco Sempione is the ‘central park’ of Milan. It is smack bang in the centre of Milan and is a great place to hang out during the afternoon. Word of advice- People are ALWAYS watching, especially at foreigners. Always ensure your handbag or belongings is in close proximity to you. There are many street performers in Parco Sempione, men selling knock off Prada handbags, and good public music. I highly recommend taking a picnic and a few alcoholic beverages into the park.
I was lucky enough to have the whole morning and a large majority of the afternoon free which made it the perfect chance to take advantage of the good weather and the bike I was lent. Although I was situated in the city centre, Milan is a wonderful city for ensuring there is appropriate green space for both children and adults.
Overall, Milan is one of the friendliest and happening cities of Europe. If you have the chance to live, study or just visit, I HIGHLY recommend it. Au pairing is a great opportunity to travel and earn money and Milan is a well-known city for this. A bonus is if you enjoy the fashion and beauty industry this city is for you! Fashion week happens twice a year and there are constantly photoshoots happening. At 4am walking home from the nightclub I would see a Dolce and Gabbana shoot happening. Not something you see everyday!
Let me know if you have au-paired in Milan or if you are planning to au-pair in Milan.