Sunday, September 13, 2009

A second chance for Milano

Breakfast here at the Hotel Tiffany Milano was very nice. They serve it until 10 am and we get down there about 9:45 am! Scrambled eggs, thin little sausages and speck cooked like bacon as well as the usual cereals, yoghurts, pastries etc - very nice. And really, no pressure to hurry from the staff which is nice.

Today we decided to go into Milano City by metro - finding the Metro Station was a feat in itself - the verbal directions of the receptionist were very casual, and where we are, and indeed the closest metro station (which is the furtherest one from the city on the line) are both off the tourist map. And we are only 13 kms from the centre of the City!

We finally find the parking station for Bisceglie Metro station and park the car. A few cars, but there are spots for some thousands of cars! This must be a really jumping place during the working week, and one I am not at all interested in experiencing (especially given the Italian driving - ugh.) Even on a Sunday, the trains run every 5 minutes or so. A train is due only minutes after we get down on the platform and it is an uneventful and fairly quick trip in to the Piazza Duomo. The metro trains area old but clean and the driver likes to slam the doors dramatically as soon as the last passenger has pulled their heel just past the door frame! BANG!

The Piazza del Duomo today is bright and hot and a mass of heaving humanity. There are so many people out. Lots of tourists but also lots of locals - it seems to be a popular meeting place for young people who move about in groups. Lots of families too.

The Duomo gleams in the bright sunlight. As we walk away from the metro entry we see that there are stairs to climb and then joy of joys we spy the sign telling us that there is a lift. I CAN GO UP TOO. You don't know how great that is because most of the time, I cannot go up - there is no way I could ever manage the number of steps involved with climbing up spires and towers. I gladly hand over €8 for the privilege of seeing Milan from on high. Helen and I climb up the 8 or so marble steps to the lift and find that we are travelling up alone - which is good because the people coming out had complained how hot it was.

We get to the top to be greeted by more stairs down then up then down. But Oh. My. God. the views were stupendous - not only out over the centre of Milan (ok, ok, no need to say it, I'm a rooftop junkie), but also inwards into the outer of the Cathedral. We are up with the flying buttresses, with the bosses and the finials and the grotesques and the gargoyles. Helen describes it as being on the inside of a sculptured alabaster vase with light reflecting off each intricately carved surface - both curved and angled. And the whole thing is made of pink marble - probably mined around Lake Maggiore.

The detail is mind blowing - there is as much detail in the small statues high up here near the heavens as there are on the main statues within the main body of the Cathedral. And the views through the arches to other parts of the church and to other buildings in the city are stunning.

Helen and Michael then climb the last 52 steps to the rooftop level. I knew I couldn't climb up there - the steps were marble, worn, and spiral. But the photos are gosh, give me another word for amazing or stupendous or breath-taking! Hels was a bit nervous at first of being on the roof, but this one is all marble - not like the copper we have found on most of them. High high up in the sky!

Back down on terra firma, we have lunch near the Plaza before we have a look at the inner workings of the Cathedral. Michael and Helen opt for pasta while I have the win of the day with a smoked salmon with butter and lemon panini. The controls to get in to the Cathedral are amazing - church security, local and national police give everyone the oncde over, checking bags etc before letting us in to have a look. One sign says no photos and we are slightly disgusted at the number of people who just ignore it and click away indiscriminately. Another sign near the back door says photos, no tripods! So we feel like cads, and then gladly join them! The stained glass windows are some of the finest and grandest we have seen on this trip and the mosaic floors need to be walked on to be believed - they are stunning. The Church is built in the Gothic style and has a quiet reverence and dignity about it. Truly beautiful.

Outside in the sunshine again, we split up. We know that there is a museum with some of Leonardo da Vinci's early drawings and models and Michael goes in search of them while Helen and I try to find some of those elusive shops that Milan is famous (?) for! He wins, we lose.

We go down through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a covered double arcade formed of two glass-vaulted arcades at right angles intersecting in an octagon. It connects the Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza della Scala. We marvel at some of the top end shops whose rents must be astronomical. This covered arcade would be oh so elegant if it were not for the McDonalds that holds ransom to one of the four prime positions facing into the mosaic laid centre court. Oh, and the filipino women selling cheap toys out of shopping bags hanging on their arms while constantly on the lookout for officials who will move them on and their african male counterparts who want to 'give' you little friendship bracelets!

Wandering right through to the back and find ourselves in a square with a stunning statue of Leonardo da Vinci in a garden that is surrounded by large and imposing government and banking buildings. We sit for a little while and soak up the atmosphere, watching the Milanese at play. There are some tourists here, but more locals and it is nice to see them go about the lives on a suny Sunday afternoon. Still haven't found the shops though! So up around the back of the Galleria and we come upon a department store - smick and smart. Of course, they are all the same everywhere in the world and so we enter through the perfumery. There are lots and lots of people here - this is where they go on the weekends obviously.

Standing in front of the escalators we see downstairs is much quieter than upstairs with the young people clothing, so down we go. As we are carried to the lower level which is all the homewares, we spy the loveliest coffee shop - all decked out in shades of purple - Helen's favourite colour. Wow, gotta try this one. And it was an excellent choice as the coffee was the best we have had in a while! I had a shaken coffee, shaken by one of the cutest young Italian men with the neatest little butt! Afterwards, we make our way slowly back to the Piazza where we are meeting Michael.

He arrives all flustered and sweaty. He finally found the Art Gallery after consulting the Tourist Information Centre. Its a bit of a walk and so he has rushed back. But he is oh so glad he went - saw lots of the originals of the line drawings of his fort and canals designs as well as the original letter written by him to the Duke of Borromeo seeking appointment - how special is that. No pics allowed though so you miss out!

In summary this is how we found the City overall:

but it does have some redeeming features:
Magnificent Cathedral
Interesting architecture
Luscious food
Animated and lively
Neo-classic in its own sort of way
Over the top

So its back on to the trains with the fast, thumping shut doors. This time there are quite a lot of people on the train and we stand for much of the trip.
Its nice to get back to the hotel and download the photos for a look. There are some stunning ones with some nice angles taken atop the cathedral.

We don't want to really fuss with dinner tonight so decide to just head down the road a few kms to a steakhouse. Wow, this place was jumping! Without a reservation we need to take a buzzer thingy and wait for our turn. About 15 minutes later we are shown to a table where the waitress in the fastest Italian is trying to help us decide. Turns out she is learning the ropes and the older (but not by much) waitress who helps her has a little English. Michael orders a T-Bone, Helen the ribs and I order lamb fillet. Accompanied by baked potatoes but not much else, they are just what the doctor ordered. These are some of the best meat we have had in a long long time! Like really really good and just what we are craving.

We leave Milan tomorrow - hopefully the car will be ready.

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