I was in Milano, sitting on a comfortable armchair beside my husband, inside a warm herbal shop while outside it was freezing cold and dark. I don't remember any other time when I really enjoyed a steaming (or rather boiling) cup of cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) on a very cold winter night than that time.
My legs were dead tired from all the walking we did around the city the whole day. Traveling without the kids was much easier but at certain moments, when we pass families with young children, my husband and I exchange looks, our eyes speaking in unison that we are incomplete and pangs of guilt strike us. Sometimes, a break from our little noisy ones is what we yearn for, but in effect, it makes us feel that something is not right and incomplete.
On that very cold night, it was purely relaxing to scoop the first few teaspoons of the very hot chocolate and enjoy the silence of each other's company while our tired legs were stretched out and we recounted our thoughts about the places we have been to.
The cioccolata calda can be very thick and creamy, that at times, it's easier to scoop it with a teaspoon than to drink it. It's one of the perks of winter that I wait for because I think the Italian hot chocolate is one of the best that I have tried. Just remember that it is ALWAYS scalding hot so give it time to cool down by stirring. If you happen to be in Italy in winter, especially in the north, a cup of cioccolata calda in a warm bar is one of the best ways to relax.
The gothic Duomo of Milano is the icon of the city. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and it took six centuries to build. The construction started in 1386 by Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo and finally completed on the 20th of May 1805 in time for Napoleon Bonaparte's coronation as King of Italy.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built between 1865 and 1877 and is the oldest shopping mall in Italy. It was named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. From the mosaic floor to the glass ceiling, the mall is a spectacular sight and you can just gaze at the immense structure of beautiful architecture.
It was nicknamed as the Salotto di Milano (Milano's Drawing Room) due to the important shops and its importance as a meeting place of the locals. Still, after more than 130 years, it maintains luxury retailer brands and some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milano like Biffi Caffè owned by Paolo Biffi, pastry chef to the monarch, Ristorante Savini, the silverware store of Bernasconi and Bar Zucca.
One interesting story I heard and read about is the city's refusal to renew McDonald's tenancy in the mall in 2012 after 20 years of occupancy. Of course, the restaurant sued the city, which is the owner of the mall, for damages. On their last few hours of occupancy, they offered free food and drinks to over 5,000 customers. The vacated space will house the second Prada shop in the mall.
The Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore was originally attached to the most important female convent of the Benedictines in the city, which is now Milan's Archeological Museum. Construction started in 1503 and was finished in 1518. Originally, it had been divided into two parts, one of the faithful and one for the nuns until 1794 when the nuns were forbidden to cross the dividing wall.
Have a good week everyone and I hope you enjoyed this very simple recipe and the pictures of Milano.
Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate)
Makes 2 cups
- 300 ml. milk
- 10 g. cornstarch (you can replace it with flour)
- 40 g. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 40 g. chocolate in bar (60% - 70%), chopped finely
- 20 g. sugar (adjust according to the sweetness you prefer)
- In a saucepan, mix cornstarch, cocoa powder, chopped chocolate & sugar.
- Pour milk little by little and while doing this, keep on whisking. Keep fire low.
- Adjust sweetness by adding sugar if still needed. Turn off fire when the hot chocolate becomes thick.
- Transfer to a cup and serve hot.