Saturday, August 29, 2015

Staying and Dining in a Milan Farmhouse

With my 3-day itinerary in Milan focusing solely on the Expo, and that the Expo's theme is on food and culture, I just thought it's appropriate that I stayed in a place which was somewhat related along that line. Un Posto a Milano, which literally means "a place in Milan", was housed in a 17th Century farmhouse which has now been converted into a combination of hostel, bar and restaurant, community space and urban farm, which sounded just perfect for me as a weekend accommodation choice. 

The place could be a bit tricky to find since it's at the fringe of downtown Milan near Porta Romana, and a good 10 minute walk in between 2 metro stations, but luckily I have been in this area previously so it's a bit easier for me to get around. And I quickly fell in love with the place once I arrived, after dragging my suitcase through 10 blocks under the heat after getting off the metro. This former farmhouse, known as Cascina Cuccagna, is located in a residential neighborhood, and went through an extensive urban regeneration effort to become what it is today. 

Through the gated entrance was the rustic building which houses a bar and restaurant on the ground floor. On the second floor and the rooftop is the space dedicated to cultural and social activities with events scheduled throughout the year. At the time of my visit there are running a serious of cultural exchange program showcasing goods from Japan's Mia Prefecture, and I had a good time sampling some of the sakes and snacks from that region. At the back is a vast garden accessible by the public during the day which was also an urban farm, supplying their own restaurant. and on the side was another building where the hostel and office is.

Within this complex, two types of accommodation were available for up to 16 people - either the dorm-style housing with 6 beds in each of the 2 rooms and shared bathroom, or the private room each with 2 beds and your own bathroom. I was staying in one of the private room and it suited my need perfectly. The facilities are basic - no TV, no room service and not even carpeted floor - but the room was clean and comfortable. Outside the room there's a cozy shared lounge space where people can hang out, access the wifi, read, drink and eat. Not as luxury as a 5-star hotel, but far better than a cheap youth hostel.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon, right on time for their weekly late Farmers Market which took place in the garden from 3-8pm, allowing people living around who can't go to the morning market to grocery shop directly from the farmers. I didn't manage to cook while I was staying there, but it didn't stop me from buying fruits and vegetables that I ended up bring home with. (The apples I bought turned into a great Tarte Tatin a week later!)

And the on-premise restaurant was beyond amazing - definitely not the type of cafeteria I had in mind and truly carrying through farm-to-table concept. The ingredients either came from the farm on premise or small farms and artisan suppliers in the region, and chef Nicola Cavallaro and his team turned these lovely ingredients into creative dishes, with menu changing regularly. I stayed in for dinner on the first evening I was there - it's fully booked for the Friday evening but they were able to squeeze one table for me late. Everything was wonderfully made - from the refreshing gazpacho (their vegan soup of the day) to the homemade rigatoni to the Fassona beef cooked Asado-style. No wonder the place was absolutely packed til late, and the restaurant was highly regarded by publications like Conde Nast Traveler and the Michelin Guide. I would even recommend people to come just for meal even if they are not staying here.

During the day, a self-service bar and deli was available with simpler dishes, homemade pastries and a full bar drinks menu. Their Mojito was one of the best I have ever had, made using homemade cinnamon syrup and artisan rum with of course, their home-grown mint.

I was glad I made the decision to stay here, and if I am back to Milan any time soon, this would still be my first choice. 

When? July 3 2015
Where? Un Posto a Milano, Via Cuccagna, 2, Milano
Menu Highlights? Gazpacho with Seasonal Homegrown Vegetables

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