Monday, December 19, 2011

Final portion of fall break-405 takes Milan & Venice Part I

The final portion of my fall break: 405 takes on Milan and & Venice.  It was pretty epic traveling around Europe with Meredith.  Let me clarify by saying that Meredith and I lived in Harkness 405 freshman and JA 405 sophomore year, with that being said, we consider ourselves the 405 roommates.  We flew from Paris to Milan on RyanAir again—survived…again!  This time around, some of my toiletries got confiscated unfortunately.  My three most valued toiletries: hair gel, facial moisturizer, and make up remover.  Seriously!? I should have known that I ran such a risk when I packed the non-travel sized containers.  Going from Italy to London was not a problem, but Paris caused me some grief.  Oh well, my mistake!

Once we landed in Milan we got a bus to the train station, near where our hostel was supposed to be located.  However, we couldn’t find it.  After asking for directions we finally got settled into our hostel and we were ready to see Milan.  We knew that the Duomo (what we wanted to see most) was only two Metro stops away so we decided we could handle the walk.  Well, two hours later we were still wandering around Zone 2 of Milan (the industrial part of the city, where we stayed…Zone 1 is the city center) asking storeowners and newspaper stand vendors “Dov’è il Duomo?”  They would point this way and that. We managed to find a Metro stop and ended up taking it straight to the Duomo.  Come to find out, the two hours of walking only took us one Metro stop.  After some frustration, we sat at a café and enjoyed some lunch and cappuccinos at the Piazza del Duomo.  We were dragging a little bit so we decided it would be a good idea to have two cappuccinos each.  After enjoying the two cups each of warm, frothy goodness, we take a look at the bill--4€…for EACH drink!!  So I paid 8€ for some energy to keep me going for the rest of the day.  Rip off!

Enough of the aggravation because the day did get better, I promise!  We went inside the Duomo, which was extremely lavish and grand.  There were enormous paintings hung up all around the interior.  There were also sarcophagi, or stone coffins, of archbishops plotted around the cathedral.  It was kind of creepy to be standing so close to these coffins but I was so drawn to them at the same time.  The only thing separating me from the coffin was a small iron railing.  I was in admiration of all the stained glass adorning the windows of the Duomo.  They were beautiful and brightly colored.  We also went downstairs to visit the crypt of Cardinal Borromeo.  It was eerie and enticing at the same time.

Of course, because we were in Milan, we had to go shopping! We stumbled across this makeup store, Kiko.  We were in there for what seemed like hours!  We were obsessed with all the nail polish and each picked out a stylish color.  Then we became easily amused by the eye shadow they had, which when mixed with water, made it look metallic.  The saleslady was persuading us to buy this “special” solution-we tried the eye shadow with water and it did the exact same thing.  Needless to say, we didn’t leave the store empty-handed.  On a side note, after coming back to Perugia, I realized that there is a Kiko on the main drag here, literally less than five minutes away from me.  Awesome!

After walking some more along one of the main streets leading away from the Duomo, we stumbled upon this giant castle, il Castello Sforzesco (the Sforza Castle).  The Sforza family was ducal, meaning members of the family became Duke of Milan.  The family also often commissioned work for Leonardo da Vinci, as I have learned in my art history class.  This castle is the other “big” monument to see in Milan.  I didn’t know that at the time.  Like I said, we simply stumbled upon it.  So we went into the courtyard and admired the size and atmosphere of the place.  It was a beautiful afternoon so we sat in the courtyard for a bit…and played with cats.  We found at least 10-15 cats just lounging in a small section of the courtyard.  Meredith adores cats so we found ourselves snapping away pictures and trying to play with them.  It was very entertaining! I saw a grandmother and her two young grandchildren come over to where the cats congregated and throw bread out on the grass.  Well, that invited the pigeons too!  The little girl ran about in excitement and fright.  It was quite cute.

All over Milan, there were elephant statues in different positions and painted in a different fashion as some sort of art project for the city.  This is part of the Elephant Parade that is the most popular open-air art exhibits in the world.  It was in London last year (2010) and was elected event of the year there.  The parade is an effort to save the endangered Asian elephant.  If any of you remember the cows that were placed all over Boston, this is very similar to that.  Mere and I got pictures of each other at a bunch of the different elephants.

Most of our time in Milan felt like it was spent wandering and stumbling upon different sights, which is one way to see a city.  It was very unlike us to travel without some sort of plan or itinerary; we just went with it.  Although we only saw a very small portion, it turned out to be a very cool city.  I wasn’t as impressed as I thought it would be, though.  I thought Milan was going to be very fashionable and chic, as it is considered one of the fashion capitals of the world.  Perhaps it was because we were in a different section of Milan, I don’t know.  I now know that Milan is an industrial, economic, political hub since it’s the biggest city in Milan (thanks to my art history professor).  I will be returning to see the Duomo and The Last Supper (at Santa Maria della Grazie) with my art history class this upcoming weekend so I’ll be able to experience more of Milan.  I always hear about how great of a city it is, but I don’t feel like I experienced the best parts.  Don’t get me wrong, Milan is beautiful, but I would like to see other parts of the city to compare.

To be continued…

il Duomo

Mere @ the Duomo

Really neat door of the Duomo

Candles inside the Duomo

My candle!

Looking down the aisle

Beautiful stained glass


More of the catacombs

One of many plotted around the inside

The Galleria

Inside the Galleria


Il Castello Sforzesco

More elephants!!

Mere & I outside the Sforza Castle

Courtyard of the Castle


Behind the Castle

Oh, she LOVED the elephants!

Galleria at night

Duomo at night

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