Milan

Trip Start Apr 26, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, May 16, 2005

May 8. Sabrina came to see us off at 08:15 and as it turned out Diego (from above) is her good friend and was her "go between" for he wedding. He even prepared prints for her to give out to her wedding guests. Small world - too bad we didn't know it yesterday - may have gotten a little more discount:-). We pulled our suitcases over the 2 bridges and back down to the St. Angelo vaporetto stop for the trip up the Grand Canal to the train station. We had a 1st class seat, but for some reason the first class car was the one furthest down the line of rail cars. We took our seats in the 6 passenger compartment and off we went to Milan, about a 2 hour train ride. Once in Milan we had to wait about 45 minutes for a taxi to show up at the taxi queue at the train station. Guess Sunday is a tougher day to catch a taxi there.

Milan is definitely the fashion capital of Italy. Our hotel was located close to the fashion district and we did a couple of hours of window shopping that afternoon. If there's a name brand you want in fashion, shoes, or bags then Milan is the place to go.

We were also close to the Duomo, which is one of the largest churches in the world. It has 135 spires and 3,400 statues. It was commissioned in 1836, but it wasn't finished until the early 1800s. It's very lofty inside, but also quite gloomy, especially compared to the outside. Entering the Duomo is free except for the museum of the treasury in the basement, which costs 1 Euro. There is a Duomo museum next door, which we saw a couple of days later, but half of it is closed for renovations at this time. On top there is a statue of the Madonna which was completed in 1774. We had a great view of the roof and the Madonna from our hotel window.

May 9. Since most of the museums are closed on Monday in Milan we decided to take the tram tour. It is on a tram the was built in 1820 and has been renovated for tour rides. It starts near the palace and goes all round the city for about 90 minutes (cost, 20 Euros). Headsets are provided with a choice of several languages and the narrator explains the sights along the route. Once we completed that tour we had a walk through the Castello (Castle) Sforzesco and the park behind the castle. This castle was built by Francesco Sforza as his residence and fortress in 1450 (nope, he doesn't live there anymore). The castle has a museum, but since it was Monday, it was closed. Ah well, next time. Meanwhile, to see what it looks like have a visit to http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~lbianco/project/home.html.

We were able to get tickets for the Milan Philharmonic at La Scala theater for a superb performance. I made one small mistake - we bought tickets for 12 Euros rather than 20 and although we could hear the performance just fine we could not see the orchestra, other than the timpani section since we were way up in the top tier. If you go, spend the extra 8 Euros if you want to see the orchestra, and if you go for an opera get the best seats you can afford - the opera definitely requires a good view.

May 10. A cloudy and cool day, but fortunately no rain, so off we went on our walking tour again. We walked over to the Cenacolo Venciano where Leonardo Da Vinci's famous masterpiece, which he completed in 1498, is housed. Unfortunately there were no open slots for visits as the museum only allows 25 visitors at a time and then for only 15 minutes per group. The museum was booked solid - through the end of May they told us - so we weren't able to get in. Next time we'll book ahead (be sure you do that if you're going to Milan). From there we walked on over to the Science & Technical museum where we saw models of some of Da Vinci's inventions - or the improvements on items already in existence during his lifetime.

From the museum we decided to continue walking through the city and went to see the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore, which was built between the 4th & 5th centuries. In front of this church stand 16 columns made of marble, which are the most important remains of Mediolanum, capital of the Roman Empire of the West, and belonged to a Roman building of the late Imperial period (2nd or 3rd century B.C.), either baths, a temple or a palace. Then, in the IVth century they were brought here and lined up to form the front of the portico of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, which was at the time under construction. Pictures and history can be seen at http://www.discountmilano.com/tour/Giubileo/SanLorenzo/

Dinner tonight was at the restaurant Stendhal (http://www.osteriastendhal.it/index.html) which was recommended by the hotel's concierge. The food was good, but the ambiance was spoiled by a group of very lous American tourists having a celebration of some type. Having fun is great, but spoiling the evening for every other diner in the restaurant brings the phrase "ugly American" to mind (and I'm an American). In fact, 3 other American tourists at another table apologized to the waiter after that noisy group had left for the behavior of our fellow Americans. Anyhow, getting there was also an interesting walk as we walked up the street beside La Scala and that's where many Thai (we think) and North African vendors have their stalls set up for the night selling a variety of trinkets. Only one was selling the fake designer bags, unlike Venice, where there were fake bag vendors on almost every other corner - some even right next to the shops selling the original goods!
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