About a month ago, I finally went back to Milan. 

It had been almost a year since I'd actually properly visited the city I once lived in. For many reasons. Well, one big one actually. I've already written about it, here and here and in short, returning to those streets and piazze was quite a big deal.

There are hundreds of little things I'd forgotten about that make up trips to Italy and each one was revealed to me step by step. The battle to form a coherent queue at Stansted. The infuriating little shuttle buses that take you from plane to terminal on the other side, even if the two are barely twenty metres from each other. The surprising kiss of air that's a few degrees warmer than you expected. The heavy blooms of wisteria that appear so much earlier than ours. The driving. The food. La dolce vita.

I woke up that first morning and found myself in the middle of a memory. The scent of sandalwood from the reed diffuser, the rolling song of church bells, the warmth. (My goodness, the warmth!) Our friend Liam was staying too to so we jumped out of bed and went for a wander around the city to look for breakfast.

 We're incredibly lucky to have Piazza Gae Aulenti practically on the doorstep. I've said it once and I'll say it again - it's one of the best places to spend a lazy summer day in Milan. The piazza is ringed by pavement cafes and shops from which you can watch toddlers and dogs splashing happily in the fountains. By evening, the atmosphere transforms as pop up bars open and chairs and cushions are scattered across the pavements.

 One of the establishments circling the fountains is the RED cafè within the Feltrinelli bookshop. It's an absolutely wonderful spot for a bit of people watching and a good cup of Italian coffee!

From there, we made our way across the bridge towards the new apartment buildings and out towards the Giardini Pubblici.

 We ambled lazily around the periphery of the park, watching the joggers and the dogs. Giardini Pubblici are the oldest public gardens in Milan and are still some of the most important and beautiful in the city. They're well situated too, positioned between the modern city and the historic centre, the high-street shopping on Corso Buenos Aires and the high-end on Via della Spiga. They're also home to the excellent Natural History museum too which is well worth a visit for any taxidermy fanatics (wow that's an old post, hello iPhone 4 photography!).
 From there, we wandered back down Via Moscova towards home for lunch.

 Where I opened the fridge to find a block of parmesan that was bigger than my head! Oh the happiness.

(I took an empty backpack over with me and pretty much filled it with cheese for the journey home - it's been a good five weeks and I still have pecorino in the fridge!)

We clubbed together to cook leek, lemon and parmesan pasta whilst enjoying the golden view from Michele's kitchen window.

 Lemony, cheesy pasta is hands down my favourite pasta dish to eat in the summer. It's light, refreshing, still carby as hell and cheesy. There is nothing wrong with this dish.

To complement the perfect pasta, we spent the early afternoon with the rest of Milan in the queue for the Gelateria della Musica.

They easily sell some of the best gelato in Milan and have recently opened up a few more shops around the city. We went back to the original on Via Pestalozzi.

Don't be put off by the crowd, it's an incredibly fast-moving queue!

 Gelateria della Musica is still one of my favourites but it wasn't quite as good as I remembered this time. The pistacchio was a little bitter and the cassata tasted more like rum and raisin than cassata which was quite disappointing. It might be due to them having opened a few more shops or it might simply be that they had an off day. Either way, I'll probably be going back again to find out!

From there, it's a ten minute walk back to the Navigli and la Darsena, which were both full to bursting with flocks of people and flower markets.

 Our aim was to give Liam a proper walking tour of the city so from there we slowly made our way back through the city centre and towards Moscova in the golden evening.

 Back home we collapsed and put our sore feet up for a well-deserved minute before heading out again to La Santeria for an aperitivo with some recently engaged friends.

La Santeria always feels like a secret, no matter how busy its secluded courtyard gets in the summer months. Hidden away down an otherwise residential street, it's very easy to miss.

 ^ What the picture says.

The aperitivo was wonderfully vegetarian and exceedingly tasty. It's not quite as abundant as some other offerings in the city (I mean, the aperitivo by definition is supposed to be an appetiser, not a meal) but we felt reasonably well fed by the time we left.

We ended our evening at Birrificio Lambrate where we joined the crowds and Michele and I almost won free t-shirts in the raffle. We could easily have gone on all night but sadly some people had work and so the night came to a close.

But not before a drunken ride home on one of the classic trams, still in operation from the 1920s!

(I think they should get rid of all the other kinds and just make more of these to be honest)...

By the time we got home, appetites were absolutely raging again so we staggered into Baladin for steak and beer (well, for the guys anyway) before finally crashing into bed and sleeping our long, long day away.