Saturday, April 5, 2014

Milan! (Or Paige vs Trains round 2)

Maria Carla, Marianna and I got up early and had breakfast before heading by foot to the train station. The goal, to take Milan by storm. Just kidding. We got our train tickets and headed onto the train. Preforming a ritual of cleaning the seats before sitting down. I did not know of this ritual the day before. Who knows what kind of cooties I have on me now.

The train into Milan is about two hours from Domodossola. The scenerary can be quite lovely if you can see past the windows. Some of the cars are covered in graffiti making it impossible to see through the windows, some are just dirty. We were able to see through ours enough to see Arona, the pretty little town we plan to go on Sunday. It rests of Lake Maggiore.  We passed the time with a bit of talking but I tried to have a nap.  That made things pass a lot quicker and soon we were in Milan, heading from the train station into the metro and off we went.

After getting off at our stop Cadorna, we wandered around the train station and found Parco Sempione.  The park is quite large, but we only explored the south east end that contained Castello Sforzesco or Sforza Castle.
I was happy to see the castle as it was on the small list of things I wanted to see in Milan. My knowledge of Milan is that it's a city of fashion and they have something called the Duomo. I still need to learn more of the city because it really is beautiful.

Here Maria Carla and I enjoy the outside of the castle. It looks really old with the vines growing up the sides. It looks pretty old, probably because it is.

It was built in the 15th century by Francesco SforzaDuke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. That makes it almost 400 years older than Canada.  It was later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries and was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Largely remade by Luca Beltrami in 1891-1905, it now houses several of the city's museums and art collections. 

The first time I had ever heard the name Sforza was from the television series The Borgias, where Lucrezia Borgias marries Giovanni Sforza. Another one of the characters from the tv series is Catarina Sforza.
The castle is free to enter but the museum parts are not free. We skipped out on these and headed around the outskirts of the castle. On the other side there is a very beautiful fountain but there are a lot of people trying to sell you bracelets "for free." No thank you. We left the park and walked back towards the station and went to Maria Carla's cousins bakery Marchella's to have an appetizer for lunch.  Everything looked so good but my eyes and stomach screamed for the pizza. Happily I got my wish for the cheese pizza.

It was the best thing I had ever tasted. I have tasted a lot of good things but this was Italian pizza in Italy. My mind exploded along with my tastebuds and before I knew it the cheesy goodness was gone.  We strolled around the corner to Bar Boccaccio where we would sit and have lunch. I chose the pasta because when in pasta. Doesn't really have the same ring as 'when in Rome' but you get my meaning.

It was very delicious and I wanted more, and more of that pizza. We finished and moved to leave but Marchella stopped us and treated us to affogato.

Affogato is a coffee based drink, with the vanilla gelato being topped with a shot of expresso. Affogato translates to drowned in Italian. I was a bit hesitant but it was really nice. Taking the time to scoop the coffee up and pour it over the gelato and eat it.  After saying goodbye 'ciao ciao' to Marchella we headed the very short walk to Santa Maria delle Grazie.  We poked our heads into the beautiful gardens.

 Santa Maria delle Grazie meaning Holy Mary of Grace is a church and Dominican Convent that contains Leonardo da Vinci's mural of The Last Supper. Unfortunately due to high demand for tickets, the tours to see it were sold out and we were only able to check out the replica of it that rested behind bars.

After leaving the church we headed for another church. I am visiting a lot of churches this trip. It seems to be a more common occurrence than I thought it would be. They are beautiful and like nothing I have ever seen before. They have so much history behind them and I have enjoyed each one I have entered.

The next church we visited was San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore which was originally attached to the the most important female convent of the Benedictines in the city. Construction on the church began in 1503 and was finished in 1518.  The building was split into two different sections, one for the faithful and the other for the nuns. Until 1794 the nuns were forbidden to cross the wall.

 The churches walls are covered in beautiful frescos of biblical scenes. Still beautiful after all of these years.

My favourite painting, please not the unicorns proudly marching onto the ark.

We left the church and went to the Duomo di Milano or the Church of Milan.  I had seen photos of it but never realized it's great scale. It was beautiful.  It is the seat of the archbishop of Milan.
 The Duomo is a Gothic cathedral and took nearly six centuries to complete with building starting in 1386 and finishing in 1965! 1965! That wasn't too long ago. It is the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in Italy. The cathedral I visited in Liverpool is the seventh largest in the world. To give ideas of scale. They were both massive.

Here we see a smiling tourist posing for a photo in front of the Duomo. It looks like she has done some shopping. Hopefully she is not broke in Milan.

 The entrance to the Duomo is free but it does cost if you would like to go to the top of it. Cheaper if you take the stairs. I wanted to go up but was told due to the cloud cover the view would not be worth it. The next sunny time I'm in Milan, I'm going to climb you, Duomo!

The fee for taking photos inside the Duomo was two euros but I paid it happily and snapped away. Since the cathedral is so large, its hard to capture all of its beauty.

We left the Duomo and headed back for the train station, walking through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The Galleria is one of the world's oldest shopping malls. It is named after the first King of Italy.  It was very fancy with Prada, Louis Vuitton and the like.

 As we walked through it Maria Carla told me that we had to go and spin on the bull's balls. Pardon? I thought I had misheard her. I didn't. As we got closer we found a small mosaic of a bull and where his balls were people we stepping on them and doing a quick turn. Apparently you are supposed to turn three times to ward off bad luck but I had to do it twice as the camera did not go off the first time. I'll count that as my warding off bad luck.
Maria Carla also gave it a spin.  Leaving the Galleria we stopped to take photos of the Teatro alla Scala more commonly known as La Scala. La Scala was on my list of things to see but due to it starting to get late we were unable to check it out. So that and climbing the Duomo are still on my list of things to do.  La Scala is a world renowned opera house. 

After leaving La Scala we found a metro station and got on a train and headed back to the main train station where we caught the next train to Domodossola. 

Next post: Finding my roots in Mozzio.


  1. Like I said on FB, I'm so thrilled you have connected with everyone. I wish I was with you to meet all our cousins again. Please let them know I' will be back one day for sure! I'm so happy for you Paige. What a great adventure you are on. Thanks for keeping us posted.

  2. Lovely Paige. Your family looks so nice and welcoming, the food delicious and once again, your pictures are amazing! <3