Milan (Milano): Our Gateway to Italy

Trip Start May 09, 2009
Trip End May 27, 2010

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Milan was our first stop in Italy.  We came two days early to ensure that any travel delays wouldn't impact our starting the tour on time and to see some of the city.  We did have travel delays from Atlanta - mechanical problems whereby we had to switch planes.  Pat had gotten us advance tickets to see The Last Supper (good thing since it was sold out for weeks).  Due to the flight delay, we ended up going there almost immediately - no rest for the jet-lagged!  It was worth it, though.  It is an amazing piece of art to see in person.  It recently had undergone a multi-year restoration that was controversial because it resulted in some of the colors being faded.  We thought it was still fantastic - much larger than expected.  Da Vinci did not want to do The Last Supper on wet fresco, because it has to be done more quickly; so he painted it on dry wall, but that has resulted in a lot of damage and decomposition.  So we feel lucky to see it before even more eroding occurs.

The next day we saw the Duomo, Milan's cathedral - the 2nd largest in the world.  It would be the start of what we began to jokingly refer to as "another beautiful church"!   This was started in the 14th century and was amazing (OK, I need another adjective) both inside and out.  You could walk on the roof and get great views of Milan.
We also went to Galleria which is an open shopping area under a glass dome.  The stores are in centuries-old buildings, with mosaic floors and statues throughout the Galleria.  Being on our newly limited retirement budget, we didn't partake of the shopping there (all high-end designers) but loved the surroundings.

The lasting impression of Milan is the congestion in the streets - we have never seen so many cars and scooters (Vespa-type) all contending for the same space.  All the cars are small - Smart Cars or Mini-Cooper sized cars - since gas prices are so high there.  Motorcycles and scooters in Italy apparently have no rules to follow - except that the driver must wear a helmet which given the traffic is an excellent rule.   As a pedestrian, you have to look sharply before crossing any streets.  A little too crazy for our liking!

The next day we traveled to our first stop of the tour - Lugano, Switzerland (see next entry)...
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