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Milan & the BIT Tourism Trade Show

It's been an exciting few weeks for Wild Sage as we went to our first international tourism trade show (the Bit di Milano), celebrated our "first birthday" with our friend Melissa, and completed a scouting trip in Sicily for a new walking/hiking tour.

The BIT ("Borsa Internazionale di Turismo") is one of Italy's biggest travel trade shows and is held every year in Milan. I had never been to a trade show and it was a first for our new company Wild Sage, so Manu and I were excited and curious to see what it was like. We also weren't that familiar with Milan so welcomed the chance to see a few things, even in the cold of early February. We couldn't believe how many people were out on a cold Sunday night!

The magnificent Duomo (cathedral) di Milano

The city is gorgeous at night.

More about Milan below but first a look at the BIT trade show!

Big signs greeted us as we arrived at Milano Centrale

The show lasts 3 days with the first day open to the public and the next two open only to tour professionals, with Italy taking up the ground floor and international booths upstairs.

It was amazing to walk through a world that was tailor-made for me and my career for the past 25 years: hiking specialists in Abruzzo, river rafters in Basilicata, balsamic vinegar producers in Modena, ceramicists in Sicily, food and wine stalls offering samples, hotels, boat charters, and guides from around the peninsula (the only areas missing were the northern Val d'Aosta and Alto Adige regions plus the enigmatic Molise, which most Italians jokingly say doesn't exist!).

We came prepared with company branding!

On our second day we went upstairs to let our imaginations run wild: where do I want to go in the future? Answer: EVERYWHERE! Three places on our "wish list" are Albania (neighbor of Italy, Croatia and Greece yet relatively untouristed), Jordan (the ruins of Petra, the red-sand deserts of Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea... we hope to get something going for 2025), and Uzbekistan (the "Silk Road" and exotic Samarkand!). 😍

After a hard day doing the meet-and-greet at the trade show we hit the pavement to see a few of the sights in Milan.

The trade show was held in a modern part of the city called "City Life"

I of course went back in time and sought out the Archaeology Museum. They had a small but interesting collection of everyone who passed through the region, from the Etruscans to the Celts, Romans and Longobards.

In the basement I was happily surprised to find an exhibit on the Gandhara Buddhist style, which flourished in Western Asia (mainly what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan) between the 1st c. BCE & 7th c. CE. It combines the heroic Hellenistic style inspired by Alexander the Great (who passed through the region in 300 BCE) with the serene figure of the Buddha, and Persian and Hindu touches like the moustache and abundant wavy hair. Fascinating!

You exit the museum via a beautiful church filled with frescoes:

Milan lacks the narrow Medieval streets of other Italian cities but has more modern buildings, especially in the Art Nouveau style, so you see a lot of this:

The Milano Centrale train station itself is a good example of this as it was designed in the early 1900s to be a "cathedral to movement." Its grand halls and Fascist architecture make it one of Italy's most impressive train stations!

Milan is also home to the soaring Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, built in the 1860s. It's full of high-end shops and restaurants and is a fun place to stroll and people-watch.

Quick tip on getting around: Milan is big but has a great metro/subway system (think London or Paris). And best of all, you can just tap your credit/debit card on the special turnstiles instead of lining up to buy tickets. Just look for the ones with the "contactless" icon. You'll need it to get in and out of the subway.

On our final morning we spent a few hours at the massive Castello Sforzesco, once the powerful bastion of the ruling Sforza family. You can wander in and out of the courtyard or go inside to see one of many museums. There's everything from prehistoric arrowheads and bronze-tipped axes...

... to Medieval and Renaissance wonders

There's a section on interior design, furniture and wood-working...

... and marvelous rooms with vaulted ceilings

I eventually got to the hall of paintings and saw I was out of time, so I started speed-walking past all of these fabulous works. I'll have to go back again to finish it!

I didn't have time to visit the Duomo but here are a few pics from my trip a few years back.

The Duomo di Milan (Cathedral) is one of the most beautiful in Italy

Appreciate the scale and beauty by climbing up to the rooftop:

We returned from Milan with our heads buzzing with ideas for future tours, and in the meantime the 2024 season is UPON US. I just went to Sicily for 8 days with Manu and our friend Melissa to review our upcoming "light active" (non-hiking) tour in Sicily and put together a hiking version for next year, and our first trip of the year (to CUBA!!!) is coming up in just 3 weeks, so there's a lot happening!

It's raining today in Florence but my favorite harbinger of spring is in full bloom so I know winter is on its last legs.

The marvelous magnolia tree in Piazza Beccaria, Florence

Happy (eventual) springtime to friends in the Northern Hemisphere and happy late-summer to those in the Antipodes. I appreciate you stopping by and hope to see you again soon! When you're ready for a tour you can find our offerings on our website (<-- click that link). We're mainly busy with private groups but have a few trips open in the Dolomites Mountains (and Val di Funes) this summer. And it's not too late to start talking about 2025!

Ciao e alla prossima !! 😍 💜 💚 💛

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Milan was my first stop for two days in 2014 before joining hiking group. I really could have spent more time there for sure! Thanks for great mini tour and updates about Wild Sage!

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Thanks! I didn't get to see the Last Supper or the Opera House so I'll keep those on my "to do" list for next time. It's always so much fun getting to know a new city!

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