Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
Trip End Apr 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Galla

Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My first European adventure began on Tuesday 30th March with an overnight stay at Yotel (airport hotel at Heathrow). Due to my early flight to Milan and a not so easy public transport journey to make it to the airport on time, I decided to pay by the hour for a Yotel cabin. I'm not sure if you all remember when Hamish and Andy were in Japan and they stayed in those pods?? Well, it was not as bad as that, but very compact - I enjoyed it though! Didn't have the best sleep as people check in (at machines which spit out your room card) during the night whilst waiting for connecting flights etc..let's just say they weren't the quietest!
The flight to Milan was very quick. Just like going from Adelaide to Sydney..maybe even 10-15mins shorter. We arrived in Milan and due to our knowledge of the Tube in London, found it very easy to find a bus into the city and then use the Subway to arrive at Hotel Galla where we stayed for three nights. At the train station whilst buying our ticket, we encountered our firsy gypsy. Speaking some kind of gibberish Italian, she kept pushing the buttons on the machine whilst we were trying to purchase our ticket. When the machine gave us our tickets and change, one euro fell on the floor which the gypsy promptly stepped on, dragged towards herself, picked up and pocketed. Erma and I were very prompt to push our hand in her face and demand it back - we succeeded.

The manager of the hotel, whose name I THINK was Pasquale was very helpful and nice. The hotel itself was basic, but clean and had all we needed. We arrived before check-in time, so changed our clothes and promptly went in search of some lunch. We found a place closeby which looked quite authentic and was run by a family. With our minimal Italian and lots of pointing we ordered some pasta. The bread they served us was literally rock hard and kind of hollow inside. I had pesto pasta which was ok..the cheese in it was a bit strong and the pasta was not cooked so well. A little disappointed we left and wandered around some more until we found a gelati shop. Well, we just had to go in. Even though we are yet to sample to gelati elsewhere in Italy, so far it was the BEST gelati I have ever had. The weather was nice and sunny (a nice change from London) so we sat in a nearby park eating our gelati and soaking up the sunshine. By this time, we were able to check into the hotel and do as the Italians do and go for a much needed siesta after an early morning with not much sleep the night before.

 That night, we caught the metro (subway, train) into the city and wandered around. We found a small pizza place, and soon learnt we were quite early for dinner in Italy at 7/7:30. The pizza we had was delicious and our English speaking waitress was also helpful! After feeling very satisfied with dinner after a disappointing lunch we went exploring. We found the Sforza Castle which looked magnificent at night with coloured lights shining on it. We also stumbled across the Piccolo Theatre and a few other landmarks. After my first day in Milan my impression was that there are many crazy drivers (was weird seeing cars driving on the opposite side of the road) lots of smokers, people will park and drive ANYWHERE (I'm talking footpaths), lots of graffiti and there are sooo many people that own dogs and walk them in the street. That night I got in contact with my Nanna's first cousin Nella, who I have met twice before (she was born in Australia and speaks good English) and we organised to see her for dinner the following night. I was so glad and was really looking forward to seeing her and meeting her husband Sebastian and daughter Celestina.

 Thursday morning started off cold and gloomy and with a trip to the grocery store to buy some snacks. When we went to pay for our food there seemed to be a problem with the fruit we had bought. We were unaware that we had to weigh it ourselves, print the barcode/sticker and put it on the plastic bag. A good idea, which I think they should do in Australia. Anyways, we managed to buy our stuff, drop it back to the hotel and then go in search of some breakfast. We found a bakery which smelled great from the street and went in. They had many types of what was bascially oo-cook and was very tasty. We then caught the metro to central station to find out about getting a Eurail pass. After much confusion and no English, we finally found lady that could help us. We purchased our Eurail pass and booked our seats for Lucca via Florence for the Saturday morning - bright and early at 6:15am since there were no other trains available until the afternoon.
Now that we had that sorted, time for some more exploring. We went to look at some market stalls set up outside of the station and found a delicious looking chocolate stall. All kinds of truffles and these 'salami' type chocolate which was like a chocolate roll. We chose a few things and were very pleased with our purchases! Although, I am yet to try my 'salami' chocolate, the 2 vanilla truffles I bought were yummy! After this, it started to rain so we promptly headed back to the metro to go to Duomo to see the Cathedral. As soon as we come out of the metro our breath was taken away by this magnificent marble building. A few seconds after that, we were bombarded with men trying to put seeds in our hands to feed the pigeons that are in the square. Erma was obviously a lot more street smart than I was saying no, no and walking away, as me on the other hand thought - great! What a fun experience! He even got my camera and took photos of all the pigeons eating out of my hands. Little did I know this was later to cost me 10 euros, but hey, it had to be done!

 We then located the tourist office to check out what else we should see. They ran tours, but nothing we exactly wanted to do, so decided to explore ourselves. We went into the Cathedral and there was a service happening. They have lots of security outside checking your bags before you enter. There are also signs saying no cameras, no video, no food, etc. I was both shocked and amazed at the amount of people taking photos inside the Cathedral and even more shocked that only one security guard inside attempted to stop them. Inside the Cathedral was just beautiful - the paintings, the sculptures and the huge columns. Also I have never seen so many priests in one area in my life.
After this we went into The Gallery (La Galleria) where we found Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. We browsed around, but unfortunately no purchases were made! We were just about to the end of The Gallery, when a group of ballerinas entered. The male ballerinas had uh, lots of padding in their tights which was interesting! A crowd quickly gathered around them and they did a short performance and then left. Very random. From here, we found a really nice restaurant for lunch and I was much happier with my pasta. Once lunch was finished we went back to Sforza Castle, which was not as pretty during the daytime. We walked inside and learnt that it was used for military and not princes and princesses. It hasn't been looked after very well, but they were beginning some refurbishments. It felt bizarre to be inside, like in other world.

 We headed back home and got ready to go catch the train to meet Nella's husband Sebastian who was picking us up for dinner. I spotted him easily from Nella's description and we got into his little car and off we went. Earlier I mentioned the crazy drivers in Milan..I think Sebastian has a few of those traits! So it was an interesting car ride to Nella's house, which is out of the city of Milan. It was so great to see Nella and talk with her about family. We had some afternoon tea (at about 6:30pm!) which included oval tarrat (taralli) they had potato in them and were really tasty. Nella then showed me many of her photos and it was nice to recognise people from back home - including my grandparents and mum! Nella's daughter Celestina (Cel) then came over from work and we went to a small place nearby for dinner. It is run by a family and Nella goes there all the time. We all ordered pasta for primi (first course) which also came with like a garlic flat bread for the table and for secondi (second course) we had this amazing octopus with breadcrumbs and a octopus salad with potato. THEN after that, they also bought out hot chips and offered dessert, but I was just too full! After dinner, Cel was nice enough to drop us back to the hotel and on the way show us a few sights we had not yet seen and also gave us some tips for shopping. We also organised to meet up the following night for some drinks. We were exhaused when we got home and went straight to bed.

 On Friday, we let ourselves have a small sleep in before trying another bakery for breakfast. I had a lovely spinach pastry. We then caught the metro to Duomo again and went to go see the Opera House. Unfortunately it was closed so we didn't get to go in. We made our way back through the gallery and were drawn into a leather glove shop. We both spoiled ourselves with a pair and were very happy with our purchases. We then made our way to Via Buones Aires which has some great shopping - both expensive and affordable. I restrained myself well on our shopping trip making only one other purchase (besides a present for someone!) which was a pair of stretch pants with an elastic waist in a bigger size than I normally wear! All this pasta is getting to me already! We also stumbled across a marzipan store here which made the cutest things from marzipan like fruit, bunnies and sea creatures! I got a watermelon one and it was delicious.

 We decided it was time to leave the shops in case any more damage was done and go for some lunch. We caught the metro down to the Canal (which has no water) and found an Italian pub. We shared a pizza which again, was amazing and also shared a serve of pasta. The sauce was delicious, but the pasta very undercooked. Surely, they should know how to cook pasta properly? We then went back to our hotel for our siesta before heading out that night. We were still so full from lunch so went to meet Cel and her friend down at the Canal train station. We went to a bar for drinks and then ended up ordering dinner very late. It was the best risotto and also strawberry caprioska I have ever had. Nella's grandson Matteo also came and met us. We then went with him to another bar and met some of his friends. I was grateful two of them spoke English reasonably well. It was getting late this time and looking like were weren't going to have time for sleep before the taxi came to pick us up at 5:30am to take us to the train station for our 6:15am train to Lucca. I somehow managed to book us a cab (in Italian!) and we made it back to our hotel at 5am on the dot, got our cab and as I type this we are about 30mins out of Florence where we have to get on another train to Lucca. Not feeling too tired just yet but will probably hit me this afternoon! I'm hoping to get the train from Lucca to Pisa today to see the Leaning Tower and then turn in for an early night tonight before hopefully going to church in the morning for Easter.

 Well, I'll leave it there and try for power nap before we arrive in Florence! Buona Pasqua and stay tuned for the Lucca entry!

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Angelica on

WOW Dani
You sound like your having an amazing time! So jealous right now!
Happy Easter Bella, cant wait to hear more!
Love the Pics!

Dot Capurso on

Hi Dani your blogs r great. I really enjoyed this one, Milan looks beautiful. Nella always looks the same age, looks like u guys had heaps of fun. Stay safe all my love xx

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