Milan: big cathedrals and learning Italian in 48 hours

After a busy weekend of travel I have returned to the UK — with the sole purpose, of course, of updating the blog. I was in Milan, Italy, visiting my friends Mallory and Haley (who is in Strasbourg, France, for the entire school year but came to Italy for the weekend). I have a whole album of pictures, which I put up on Facebook — you can view them without having Facebook yourself, just click on this here link. If there’s a problem let me know; now, on to the blag.

  • I left London to go to Gatwick Airport at 4 am, which was simply an absurd time of the morning. Getting to Milan required every form of transportation imaginable — a train to Gatwick, a plane to Milan Malpensa Airport, a bus to Centrale train station, a subway to Duomo metro stop, and finally a ten minute walk to my hostel. I flew on easyJet, a budget European airline which I commend for its lack of classes (no PriorityFirstAdvantage PlusUltra Business Gold Class) but which I condemn for its lack of leg room, seats that recline at all, or drinks on board. (In other words, an ideal budget airline!) In total I was in transit for about six and a half hours, even though the actual flight was about an hour and a half. It was worth it, though, to come up from the metro in the heart of downtown Milan, right in front of the Duomo — the world’s third-largest cathedral which took nearly six hundred years to construct.

Notice the presence of blue skies! A nice change of pace

Notice the presence of blue skies! A nice change of pace

  • I met up with Mallory and we got some lunch. Food, of course, is a recurring theme in Italy because it is all so tasty. Among the things I ate: panzerotti (like calzones but lighter dough), spaghetti, red wine (technically not food but cheap and full of tannins, or lacking in tannins? whichever one makes wine taste better), focaccia con proscuitto (which I somehow ordered for myself entirely in Italian using the words “si” and “ciao”), gelato (dark chocolate…), and of course pizza with tuscan sausage. Food was definitely a trip highlight.

Here is a tasty pizza which somehow only cost seven euros

Here is a tasty pizza which somehow only cost seven euros

  • History-wise, the neatest building I saw was the Castle Sforza. On Friday morning, I woke up and walked west past the Duomo towards the castle, a pleasant half-hour stroll in the gorgeous weather. The castle dates into the 1500s, but parts of it have been rebuilt since then — I can’t tell you the exact details because the English translations tended to be… inexact. Interestingly, much of its history was spent being occupied by various foreigners of the Spanish, Austrian, and French persuasion before its inclusion in the (future) Kingdom of Italy in the late 1850s. The castle (and much of the city) was undergoing renovations as the result of “EXPO 2015” which is coming to Milan in two years, requiring new coats of paint across the city (Mallory and I couldn’t get into the the enormous Monumental Cemetery because of construction). Inside the castle are a series of art museums, which I entered after the desk lady consented to let me use legal currency to enter. (I tried to pay with a 20 euro note for a 1.50 ticket, and she said she wouldn’t take it, but thankfully I had a 2 euro coin in my pocket.) Cool stuff including the Michelangelo I posted here over the weekend — he was working on this unfinished sculpture up to the day he died.

Different style of castle, certainly, than the older ones in England

Different style of castle, certainly, than the older ones in England

  • On the last day, Saturday morning, we went inside the Duomo, which is big but not particularly beautiful inside. Lots of memorials to dead cardinals (Catholics, not birds) whose corpses are lying around being generally creepy. There’s a really big organ and lots of painting and sculpture, but the overwhelming impression inside is dark and gloomy. The roof, however, is another story — the architecture is spectacular and the views only slightly less so. It was a good way to spend a morning, the weather peaceful and pleasant at around 45 degrees.

Spires everywhere

Spires everywhere

Haley and I in front of the Duomo.

Haley and I in front of the Duomo.

  • Some assorted observations about Italy. The Euro is stupid — the bills are weird and feel like cheapo Monopoly money, and the coins make no sense at all. There is graffiti everywhere, which prompted the sudden realization that Italians must have invented the word graffiti. I was very proud of myself for this. There were, indeed, lots of fashionable stores (though fewer fashionable people), with the balance being about 20% clothes, 10% bags, 10% shoes, and 60% underwear, which makes perfect sense. In Italy, they drive on the right which felt like the United States, though many of the roads are really old and made out of cobblestones. And on the way out we flew over the Alps, which were quite spectacular and which I hope I’ll get to see again sometime soon. (Delaware is not a particularly mountainous state, with the highest point a mere 447 feet above sea level, so I’m always fascinated by them.)

Now I understand why mountains slow down your armies in Civilization.

Now I understand why mountains slow down your armies in Civilization.

I arrived safely back in the UK around 4 local time here yesterday, and back at my room around 5:30. The evening was spent recuperating, as three long days and nights without much sleep had taken a bit of a toll. I woke up and explored a bit to the west of my residence for the first time, stopping in a pub to enjoy a Sunday roast with all the trimmings (roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes?, and Yorkshire pudding). Back to classes tomorrow!

All the food I am intending on eating today. Plus, Chiswick beer!

All the food I am intending on eating today. Plus, Chiswick beer!

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4 comments

  1. Cathy · January 27, 2013

    Great photos, especially of food, Italian and otherwise. I think your other vegetable under the piles of British beef and gravy might be parsnips, not radishes, but I will leave that one to the other experts who comment here; impressed by the individual Yorkshire pud. The focaccia in Milan looked especially appetizing. Hope there is some sun in London this week!

  2. Laura · January 28, 2013

    Looks like you had a full pizza all to yourself. Well done. Gorgeous cathedral – what a view from the top!

  3. Jillian · January 28, 2013

    You know, they say that American portion sizes are the biggest in the world and absolutely ridiculous, but your pictures suggest otherwise

  4. Aunt D · January 28, 2013

    I like to see you cleaning up all the parsnips on your plate… (yep, parsnips, that secret component in lemon bars 🙂 …)

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