Italian Adventure Part IV: MILAN!

The final leg of our Italian Adventure was Milan - the bustling metropolis of Italy.

Our journey began in Venice, however, since we took another train. This one wasn't all roses, unfortunately, as we discovered the Venice water buses and taxis were on strike that particular day. I, for one, cannot understand why the ONE AND ONLY mode of transportation available on the Venetian islands would simply stop operating! Are you kidding me? And try getting this information out of disgruntled folks who only speak Italian and think you're a crazy American with your overstuffed suitcases and lack of multilingual skills. Grumble.

But all was not lost. Mike and I managed to get from Giudecca Island across the canal onto Venice, and from there it was all pulling and huffing and puffing and four little wheels. Our suitcases are becoming more threadbare with each trip and I'm sure after we dragged them over at least five canal bridges (which are complete with stairs, by the way, not smooth arching surfaces) and more than a mile, they might be missing a few more fibers. One of Mike's wheels was also injured in the process. Man down!

We started out all happy-go-lucky to be on our way to Milan, but ended up soaking in sweat and swearing at the water buses for not being in service the day we leave! By the time we'd scrounged up some lunch food and sidled our suitcases into storage on the train, I was fit to be tied.

Nearly 2.5 hours later, we surged in on a roll of steam to the Milan train station and snagged a taxi to the front door of our hotel. (I was secretly happy this process didn't involve a boat!) The hotel turned out to be nice enough and we freshened up then went in search of dinner. Our first sighting was the very impressive and ridiculously hard-to-miss Duomo di Milano.

This Gothic cathedral is so amazingly detailed and ornate, it's no wonder it took five centuries to finish building! It's also the fourth largest church in the world. It's inception is recorded sometime around 1386, and the final gate wasn't completed until 1965. Can you believe it? To this day, apparently, there are still blocks of marble waiting to be carved into statues. We didn't spot any, but I was flabbergasted by the level of detail displayed on this church. From far away it looks massive and lavishly adorned. Up close, you can see every minute aspect of each carving, adding up in the hundreds if not thousands.

Adjacent to the cathedral's piazza is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Rather than paraphrasing so much of its information, here's what Wikipedia has to say:
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a covered double arcade formed of two glass-vaulted arcades at right angles intersecting in an octagon; it is prominently sited on the northern side of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, and connects to the Piazza della Scala. Named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of united Italy, it was originally designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877.

The street is covered over by an arching glass and cast iron roof, a popular design for nineteenth-century arcades, such as the Burlington Arcade, London, which was the prototype for larger glazed shopping arcades, beginning with the Saint-Hubert Gallery in Brussels (opened 1847) and the Passazh in St Petersburg, (opened 1848) and including the Galleria Umberto in Naples (opened 1890). 
 The central octagonal space is topped with a glass dome. The Milanese Galleria was larger in scale than its predecessors and was an important step in the evolution of the modern glazed and enclosed shopping mall, of which it was the direct progenitor. It has inspired the use of the term galleria for many other shopping arcades and malls. The use of the iron structure has inspired also the Eiffel Tower, in Paris.

We ate dinner at a small cafe just off the Galleria, then wandered back into the main piazza so we could admire the cathedral a little longer. We found a cart vendor right next to the church and grabbed a couple Birra Moretti's then settled onto the stone stairs to people watch. Sometimes the nights you most enjoy are the ones that require the least amount of planning, you know?

Our second day in Milan, and the final day of our trip, involved some shopping, lunch at Burger King (we'd given up on more pasta, okay!?) and a surprisingly good time at a self-dubbed English pub we ran across. I browsed through stores like Zara, H&M and Top Shop, and we snacked on coconut and strawberry gelato one last time.

Then we meandered over to the Castello Sforzesco, a castle that used to be home to Milan's ruling family but now holds several art collections and museums. The castle was constructed in the 14th century, with a great deal of maintenance done after destructive bombings during World War II.

There was a BMX and healthy living convention going on in the grounds outside the castle, so we browsed that then found a comfy seat on a park bench to rest our feet. I'm so glad we took the time every now and then to just relish where we were, in Italy, and having the trip of a lifetime. It's good to see things, to check off all the sites on your list and get out and about. But to us, it's just as important to slow down and enjoy the small things that make a vacation so special. Like a cool breeze on a hot Italian afternoon in a park in Milan with my husband.

I also wanted to see the statue of Leonardo da Vinci in Piazza della Scala, near Milan's La Scala Theatre.


We grabbed a quick dinner that night, intent on getting to the pub as soon as possible! It'd been a little frustrating that we could never find a "bar bar" to grab a drink during our Italian excursion. All you could ever get was a cafe, which involved being seated and waited on, not ordering a quick cocktail at the counter or standing around bar tables inside. So we were thrilled to find a pubby atmosphere to watch the World Cup England v USA football (aka soccer) game. We were definitely outnumbered by the English, but there were certainly some USA supporters joining us as well. We loaded up on whisky doubles and coke and made friends with several Americans packed in next to us. It wasn't 15 minutes before that grubby little pub, filled elbow to elbow, was hot, sweaty and humid. But we didn't care - everyone was having a good time and cheering their country on! There's just something awesome about being able to chant "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-AAAAAAA!"

The game ended in a tie, a bit lackluster for us Americans who always want a winner and a loser, dang it! But we had a great time and it was a good experience for our last night. Even if it did take two showers to get all the sweat off.

And that, my friends, is the end of our Italian Adventure! We flew out the next afternoon, after a shrimp fettuccine lunch at a local wine bar. It was a bit odd to being going "home" to Scotland, we weren't exactly thrilled to leave Italy and arrive in cold and windy Aberdeen. But we knew that this trip only brought us closer to being truly home in Texas, and that all of this will be fond memories in the near future.

Only one more trip to go before our grand return to the States... the beaches in Malaga, Spain will be calling our name on July 8!

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” 
~Robert Louis Stevenson

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! My favorite part was your video....hearing as well as seeing the Italian experience. Think I am going to watch the movie 'The Italian Job'....perhaps I will send Louis Dean for some sherbert at Braums. No gelato here!


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