"We are here on this planet only once and might as well get a feel for the place." -Annie Dillard

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The finale: Milan and wrap up.

November 22/23

And so it ends.......This trip is something I have wanted to do for several years. I distinctly remember writing in my journal summer 2008: Intention - go to Italy and start learning Italian.

And now, in Fall 2011, I made it happen.... I have met new friends, done unexpected things, seen a country through the changing of the seasons. I've tried new food, swam in the Mediterranean, toured the cites, and hiked in the Dolomites. This country and it's beautiful people and language are really going to be missed. New intention: Some day come back to see my new friends - and be able to properly speak the language! I'm going to hold myself to it.

And so my last day and half I spent in the last Italian city left for me to see: MILAN

Home to this:

Leonardo Da Vinci's famous "Last Supper"
(not my photo - no photos inside;the building!)

And this:

Milan's Duomo - taking SIX centuries to complete,
it is the fourth largest cathedral in the world.
Plus the walk on the roof that is out of this world.

But perhaps most importantly...

Meet hometown girl, Francesca Schiavone, one of my favorite players
currently on the WTA tour.
- also not my photos.... :-)

Which speaking of, I saw these posters around town and am SO BUMMED to be missing this exhibition doubles match by only a week!

But I digress. SO MILAN. I arrived from Venice around 6:30 PM. My first train trip in the dark! Inquired at the train station about a missing journal... nope, no lost and found. It was discontinued in 2009. Then, accepting the fate that my journal was gone, I headed to the Metro to go to my hostel. (I left it on the train when heading to Venice. The train was bound for Milan.)

Metro stop: Duomo. Arriving above ground to this:

The Duomo at night.
A beautiful scene.

And then headed to Ostello Bello, basically the coolest hostel ever. Actual this hostel, rated one of the top five in the world and just having opened in August, verged on being too hip for my quiet little self, but the free arrival drink, folk music concert, hosts sitting down and chatting with you, cozy lounge and basement area with good music and instruments, and free "Aperitivo" dinner pretty much negated the over hip factor and made it definitely my top hostel experience. (Just getting ready to go join other hostelers in watching the Milan/Barcelona soccer match (happening tonight in Milan - no way to score tickets.)

I think Milan was the perfect city to end my trip with. It's a bit different than the other Italian cities I visited, and it felt kind of like a transition city between Italy and heading back into the world! You see, Milan is the working city of the north and also the fashion capital of Italy...Here's what Rick says in comparing Milan to Rome, which also applies to the general North/South Italian squabble:

"The Milanesi say the Romans are lazy.....Roman's meanwhile, dismiss the Milanesi as uptight workaholics with nothing to live for - gray like their foggy city. Romans do admit that in Milan, job opportunities are better and based on merit. And the Milanesi grudgingly concede the Romans have a gift for enjoying life...... In Milan, bureaucracy (like social services) works logically and efficiently, while in Rome, accomplishing even small chores can be exasperating. Everything in Rome - from finding a babysitter to buying a car - is done through friends. While people in Milan are not as willing to discuss their personal matters, they are generous and active in charity work..."

Anyway I could go on, I could definitely feel the difference here. It felt like a city I was used to - like New York. And I hate to say it, but I actually felt in my comfort zone here. The always doing something, punctuality matters kind of life!........ :-/

Fashion shoot outside the Duomo

But perhaps this was all affected by the start of my day. I walked out of the hostel, saw it was a beautiful day and realized it would take me just as long to walk back to the Duomo than it would to walk to the church where Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' is. So, even though I didn't have a reservation (which they recommend you do at least two months in advance), I placed my bets on being solo and coming in the off season and decided to see if by chance I could get in. And guess what! I got there at 9:15 and by 9:45 I was inside staring at the masterpiece!

Statue of Leonardo and his understudies

Afterwards I made a quick stop to see the Sforza Castle, what used to be the entrance and guard post of the city, then headed down Via Dante, a warm up shopping street in preparation for my window shopping adventure down Via Montenapoleone, home to the big names. Anyway, on this walk I decided it was cold enough for me to go order my new favorite: "un latte caldo con cioccolato." You may remember what a "hot chocolate" is in Italy - literally melted chocolate. Which you must try, but a couple sips and you will be done, or have a major sugar headache! But thanks to Nicola, I have discovered my new way of doing hot chocolate, and I don't think I will be able to go back to the regular way again! Plus, it's a nice way to order cheap. Basically you order hot milk, then take the little cocoa shaker that they place in front of you, shake a couple of shakes of cocoa on top, grab a packet of unrefined sugar, and voila - frothy, milky goodness that still as quite a taste of milk and bit of chocolate but not too much. It's wonderful! And this particular order was even more wonderful because after drinking it (they way to do this in Italy is to stand at the counter sipping your drink - no sitting!), I asked how much and the server said told me it was on the house! Woohoo! My last day in Italy was really starting out well.

mmm...hot chocolate will never be the same.
Then it was Duomo time. I'm not sure I can really describe just how enormous this church is. Apparently when they started construction, they wanted to show off to kingdoms to the north just how strong and powerful the Milanesi were and please the Vatican at the same time. And so they set out to building this thing. The interior was definitely not the most beautiful I've seen. Pretty dark and frankly the decorations were okay, but by far the point I think was supposed to be the "I AM BIG" factor.

Notice the height of the people...

BIG stained glass window. You get more of a feel for it's size from the outside.

But perhaps the coolest thing about this church is you get to walk on it's roof! (Which can be a bit scary if you look down too much!

Up on the roof!Roof statue looking out at the business district... and yuck, pollution. No wonder the old monuments are constantly having to be cleaned

And then, well I just wandered. Window shopped the Gucci's, Armani's, Dolce and Gabbana's... noticed that apparently the in colors for winter are the vibrant black, grey, and lavender. Exciting...... :-/ But that '40's era fashion styles seem to be in vogue. Exciting!! :-)

And then well, darkness was settling, I realized I hadn't tasted tiramisu since being in Italy, so I stopped by the recommended patisserie, ordered some, and headed to the hostel to enjoy the evening.

Some darn good tiramisu to end the trip.

And then it was goodbye. Back to Belgium for a last weekend with my host family, last chance to be able to immerse myself in French, and then back to the States. Back home to Montana for the holidays. And a chance to show off some newly learned Italian cuisine!

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