This is a continuation of Italy Trip series. Here are the previous posts for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and Day 6. Starting the day with cappuccino (cappuccio locally) I awoke the next day ready to venture through the city of Milan. My friends and I had decided to meet at my hotel and then head around town. When they arrived we all decided that the first order of business was to visit a local cafe and enjoy a cappuccio. We found a cafe about a 100 yards from my hotel and we sat down and ordered. The cappuccio was really good. We pulled out the map and the guide book and discussed our plans for the day. The first main stop would be Il Duomo.
The journey to Il Duomo We decided to take the most direct path which was down Buenos Aires which took us all of the way to the center of Milan. As we walked along this boulevard I took pictures of interesting buildings.
As we got closer to Il Duomo the buildings started to become more commercialized and touristy. Lot's of clothing oriented shops for both high fashion and not. Once we arrived at Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II the area changed to only pedestrian and bicycle traffic only but the number of people increased significantly. Also at this point we could start to see the spires that adorn the top of the Duomo. We continued toward the Piazza del Duomo passing by a living statue.
Just as we encroached on the edge of the piazza the sky decided it would open up and start to drizzle. Then the drizzle changed into a drenching rain just as we had time to duck under the overhang above an outdoor shopping mall. Of course everyone else that was in the piazza also decided to cram into this wonderful and partially dry area. So my friends and I had a short pow-wow and decided that we would explore this "mall" until the rain let up. On a side note, as soon as the rain started there were a ton of people trying to sell umbrellas. This totally reminded me of Disney when it starts to rain. Not knowing whether we would be dealing with rain all day I purchased one of these very cheap umbrellas. It cost me 5 euros (approx $7).
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This place was gorgeous! This was one of the most amazing malls I had been in. We walked toward the center where there was some construction going on and as a group decided that we should probably get something to eat at one of the restaurants/cafes that were in the galleria. We chose Gabbiano which resided at the end of one of halls from the center. The food was good and we watched as the small birds would dive from any purchases that they had found in the wall to the ground to snatch a crumb and then flutter back up to the wall. The food was good and my two friends also enjoyed a gelato which was like a little celebration in an over-sized martini glass.
I gave a short lesson on camera features and techniques as we sat around waiting out the rain and watched the people. A well dressed lady that was between middle-aged and elderly (I don't know the correct adjective) sat at a nearby table with her miniature poodle. She kept feeding it her food and also getting mad at it when it begged for more.
Outside Il Duomo So we finished up and paid the bill just as the rain was letting up. This was our signal to hurry up and make our way to Il Duomo. The crowds in the Galleria had thinned. As we exited the Galleria it was almost as the clouds broke away and the sun shone through. Well, not really. It was still overcast but now the piazza was filled with people. I took this opportunity to take some pictures of Il Duomo.
Scams As with any popular public location anywhere in the world there will be some bad apples. In the Piazza del Duomo there were quite a few foreigners (non-natives to Italy) that were going up to people that were definitely "tourists". There were two scams that I saw although I couldn't figure them out exactly. The first, and the only one really tried on me, was as I was walking along one of these non-Italian guys grabbed my hand and forced bird feed into it and then raised it up above my head. Within seconds a squadron of pigeons, aka flying rats, attacked the seeds in my hand. The guy then asked for my camera so that he could take a picture of me with the birds. I said No. The birds finished and then flew away. At that point the guy said give me five euros. I said no. Remember he had forced the seed into my hand. He demanded money again and at that point I walked away. Another scam that I couldn't figure out were many people were trying to hand out "free" bracelets. These were the small braided knot bracelets that many of us made when we were in middle school. I always declined the free bracelet but I was really curious about how that scam might work. Do they offer to put it on your wrist and while you are preoccupied does someone else pick your pockets? Do they say that the bracelet was free but putting it on costs five euros. Do they use the bracelets to flag "marks" for other scams? If anyone knows please put it in the comments or contact me because inquiring minds want to know! One of my friends did succumb to the bird feed scam but I guess that's why there are so many con artists out there.
Inside Il Duomo We had been separated during the whole scam period and so I searched for my friends. We found each other and we decided to go into the cathedral. There was a short line to enter the church with security personnel checking bags. There were signs stating the procedures while inside the cathedral including photography. I mis-read the signs thinking that I would not be able to take photos while inside. But once we were inside it was apparent that photos are allowed just as long as there aren't services. I took many photos but here are some of the more stunning photos.
We walked around the inside of Il Duomo for a while, marveling at the beauty and grandeur of this building and its art. This next photo is my favorite and I shot this from my hip.
We left the church and started on the path to the next destination. Here are some parting shots.
By the way, there are some military/police types in this photo that looked very serious. That's why this photo is from way down the alley.
Around Milan The first place we wanted to check out was Palazzo Reale which was located right next to the Duomo. As we walked to it we saw signs stating that it was closed for renovation. So on to the next location which was an odd church that supposedly had some really dark and strange sculptures. But due to my general lack of knowledge of the area and poor map reading skills we couldn't find that church. We did find Università degli Studi di Milano where I took the following picture.
Castello Sforzesco Our next stop is Castello Sforzesco. This was the castle for the Sforza. Leonardo da Vinci designed many of the armaments of this castle.
There was another living statue at the entrance to the castle. Although maybe this was someone associated with the museum to show period clothing.
At the far side of the castle was what I assume is the living quarters for whoever resided in the castle throughout time.
Cafe and crepe Our next stop was going to be a botanical garden but we couldn't find the entrance. Once again my failure in determining the correct path to the destination. So we were off to following location which was an art museum that housed all of the art that Napoleon had accrued during his expansions throughout Europe. As we walked there it was threatening to rain again. Also my compatriots were pleading that we stop and rest and get something to eat. So we stopped at a little cafe called El Beverin. I think it was supposed to be a German beer bar but everything on the menu seemed the same as other cafes that we had been in. Oh well. I wasn't hungry but one of my friends ordered a crepe which I believe I had a bite of. Who can resist a crepe? While we were inside the rain poured outside. So we were content on chilling indoors for a while longer. When the rain finally let up we paid our bill and headed on to the next destination.
Napoleon art collection We made it to the art museum and walked around the courtyard taking photos. Here are some of the statues.
We found the entrance to the actual art museum portion but then we all decided that we could skip it.
Too tired to continue As we exited the museum we discussed where we should head next. I was out voted and we decided to head back to the hotels. The quickest route seemed to be to go through the local park and on the far side split up and go to our respective hotels. We did this with minimal fuss and I think we were all wore out from a long day of walking around. We made plans to meet up for dinner after relaxing for a while.
R&R or Resting and Rain Once I made it back to the hotel I completely flopped on the bed. As I rested the rain came again and this time it really poured down hard. I was so tired from the walking and all of the walking the night before. I tried to watch tv but there wasn't anything on. I looked out the window on Milan in the rain but the bed kept calling me back. The time passed. I got cleaned up and headed over to my friends' hotel. Once again they wanted to try something other than Italian and I had recalled an Argentinian restaurant just a block or so away that we had passed by at some point. So off we went.
El Paso de los Toros We arrived at the restaurant and to me it looked like the place was being overrun by a pirate party. Well OK there was one table with like 8-10 people dressed in pirate-like garb. The host led us to a table in the back room and sat us. I think he was our waiter too but my memory is failing me. Anyway, our waiter arrived and gave us "English" menus. We ordered drinks and one of my friends ordered a glass of red wine. Here again I may be getting the details a little wrong but the story still works. When the waiter returned with the drinks he had brought white wine for her. We attempted to explain that there was a problem and he left and when he returned he brought an opened bottle of white wine. At this point I had to break out my limited Spanish skills as apparently communicating in English wasn't working and I hoped that in this Argentinian restaurant that this waiter would understand Spanish. He got the gist and in a huff he left and returned with a glass of red wine. Other than the wine mix-up the food was good. I had a grilled steak, churrasco, as that is by far a Latin American delicacy especially when presented with chimichurri. Yum!
And of course more gelato After dinner we decided that we would get some gelato. On the previous night's excursions around Milan we had located a few different gelaterias and one in particular was very busy so we surmised that this must be the "good" one of the lot. So when making the decision it was clear which one we wanted to try and we made a beeline for it. Again on this night it was busy and we waited in line which gave us some time to try to decipher the menu. It's difficult enough that the ingredients are in Italian but there is also a whole other language associated to gelato flavors. Sort of like the crazy language spoken at Starbucks. Well, I decided on the "house" flavor which from what I could determine was just a mixture of the leftovers of other flavors. But it was good! From there we decided that we should be turning in because we were all very tired and we had to get up early to get to the airport. We parted ways and I returned to my hotel.
Paranoia When I entered the hotel I asked the front desk clerks how early I would have to leave to get to the airport in time for a 10:45am flight. They were adamant that I be at the airport no less than two hours beforehand. Therefore I would have to checkout and what not around 6-6:30. Ugh! I had a clerk call my friend's hotel so that I could share the news that we would have to get up extra early the next day. Then off to bed.