Streetcars evoke the same nostalgia in me as big old public clocks and French doors in gigantic pre-war apartments. Like all backward-looking moments, I’m sure this is a misplaced affection for a time that was surely not nearly as poetic as it seems looking through disposable plastic glasses. (Just ask anyone who died from the flu that could have been cured with a Z-pack or, closer to home, the millions of jews who survived thousands of years just to be almost completely wiped out in a matter of 4 years).
Still, looking at one of these 1929 trams, a black and white image of a 5 year old beret and wool shorts-sporting boy clinging to the side of the car suddenly fills my eyes.
The hard lacquered wood benches, the solid metal straphangers, the fluted glass pendant lamps, the strange unidentified grinding sound the underside makes every few stops, being jostled on sharp curves. There’s something so romantic about permanence. Riding such a solid object screams confidence in the future. A predictability undermined by may of today’s objects filled with yellowing peeling plastic and uncomfortable chairs installed in the name of Contemporary Art.
If you have an unlimited metro ticket, a fun itinerary is to take the #2 tram from the Duomo down through the normal-person shopping district (regularly priced stores like H&M; Terranova, etc… no Louis Vuitton or Armani here) to the XXX. For a feel for the everyday Milan away from the tourist areas, the #23 is memorable for its forgettability. The photos below show some of the architecture you will see along those routes. We did not find one particular route that gives a good overview of the whole city (like you can find in Lisbon on the #27 line from end to end).
There are at least 10-17 different tram lines in Milan, but its one of the hardest systems to navigate. Here are some helpful tips:
- It’s hard to find a regular street map with ONLY the tram lines superimposed.There are individual maps at each stop but its a bit hard to figure out how they work together, as each map only shows its own tram line, not any others.
- Only about half the tram lines have the old streetcar style. The following definitely had the old style as of June 2015, when we visited:
- Many of the tram lines in the city center (Duomo area) are just a block or two away from each other. Check carefully to make sure you are getting on the correct tram. On a positive note, most of the tram shelters are printed with the line numbers that stop there