First Day of Exploring Italy...

Trip Start May 03, 2008
Trip End May 07, 2008

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

We got up super-early and headed out to the subway station. Subways in Italy are very cheap, and very easy to use. 3 Euros for a full day pass! We took the subway to Duomo station, and found some breakfast after much wandering around the empty early morning piazza. Brioche, orange, and water for breakfast. Which seems to be all they eat for breakfast in Milan (except coffee, which we don't drink). Which is fine. The brioches are fantastic. We visited Il Duomo, the Milan Cathedral. Begun in the 14th century, it is the second largest church in Italy, and the second largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It's amazing. It's still in use - there was a service going on in the crypt when we visited. The immense heights within make you appreciate the awe this must have inspired in people throughout the centuries it has existed. And the exterior is decorated with so much detail, flourishes, reliefs, it looks impossible.

Then we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is essentially the world's first shopping mall. Despite this, it's a beautiful building. On the other side of the Galleria from the Duomo is La Scala, the world's premiere opera house. We weren't able to see a show, but did visit the museum, and got to look inside the theatre, which is stunning. We checked twice to try and get tickets for the current production the next evening of an adaptation of Orwell's 1984, which would have been fantastically interesting, but alas, the only seats available were well out of our price range.

Next we walked up to Pinacoteca La Brera - the Brera Art Gallery. It was "chiuso lunedi" - closed Mondays. Much of Milan is chiuso lunedi, we discovered. But we added to our ever expanding Italian vocabulary once we figured that out. Then we walked up to Castello Sforzesco, a 14th century castle in the middle of Milan. There are tons of cats living in the moat, lazing in the sun or on old cannonballs, chasing insects through the grass. (No, there's no water in the moat.) And there was this old Italian lady who rode her bike in and fed all these stray cats. This is one of the best things about Milan. And the castle is amazing, too.

We walked through Sempione park to the Arca della Pace (Arch of Peace), and noted that the Italians have a different perspective on what the appropriate level of affection to show in public is. They also seem to not mind taking naps in whatever location they happen to be - park benches, the subway, on the lawns, in the castle courtyard. And two weddings were happening, and the locals were applauding the bride and groom as they left the park. There's so much green in Italy, trees and lawns and especially balcony and rooftop gardens.

We had lunch in an outdoor cafe off of a pretty piazza. A panini caprese, coke and water. Delicious. Then we headed back to Cadorna Station (the main train station in Milan), and boarded a train for Como Lago (remember, everything else was chiuso lunedi). Como is a lake about an hour's train ride north of Milan, in the foothills of the Alps. It's a stunning, idyllic place to visit. We ate gelato and walked around the lake. (Gelato is one of the main reasons to visit Italy.) There's a large monument to Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery. He's from Como apparently. We also found a beautiful piazza with a small cathedral, where we chanced upon a human statue who wasn't very still - he liked winking and making kissy faces for the camera! Then we had appetizers and beer by the lake, and learned we should stick to wine while in Italy. We're not saying the Italians may not have good beer, we're just saying we didn't manage to try it.

We boarded the train back to Milan, made it back to the hotel about twelve hours after we left it, and took a long nap.

Later walked down via di Giorgio Washington, where our hotel was, and found an open restaurant with outdoor seating, the Cafe Pace. We had caprese salad, pork chops, lemon & apple cake, along with a bottle of Grumello. All were fantastic. And the people were consistently so friendly. They appreciated our attempt at speaking to them in their own language and helped us out. On our way back to the hotel we saw several men dismounting scooters and going into our hotel. There was a Vespa convention going on! Then, at day's end, some much needed sleep.
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Where I stayed
Marriott Grand Milan
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