Hello everybody, I hope all of you had wonderful weekends with a lot of sun! I definitely had lots of warms and sunshines in Milano the past three days.
I must admit, the only reason for going there was that I thought it sounded like one of the cities you have to have been to in your life and that the SBB had some pretty cheap ticket offers.
I didn't know anything more about the place, and since I decided I had to get away for a bit pretty spontaneously, I didn't do any research at all.
When I arrived at the central train station on Saturday just past lunchtime I got me a city map at the tourist info and that was all of the info I had for the rest of the weekend.
On my way to the hostel (first time I've booked one on a trip ever since I joined CS!! oO) I was greeted by this trustworthy bloke:
The first thing I stumbled over when I hit the town was il castello and the park behind it. Well, it's so big even I would have trouble to miss it...
Of course I still got lost somewhere in the not-so-cosy suburbs somehow but then kind of found my way back and ended up at the archo della pace that reminded me of another city I know, I just can't really lie my finger on it... ;o)
I had really really nice pizza there, about twice the size of my plate and also about twice the size of what's healthy to eat oO
Sadly, that and the direct view on the arch was all the nice things about the place. I didn't know this but I've heard it from several people now, even Italians, that the Milanese people have a reputation for being really really unfriendly. It seems in my case they really tried to live up to that reputation. Everybody in shops, restaurants and other public places was unfriendly on a range that went from cold and desinterested to plain rude.
Everybody except the girl in the Lush shop who is my hero for that.
Milano's nice and historic (read: touristic) parts are all very close together and confine tourists to a small area. If you go around these parts they are also full of street vendors and beggars of all kinds that are sometimes very pushy. In addition, my hair just makes me stand out of the crowd and Italian people are much less shy than the Swiss. I've had myriads of reactions, from hissing and pointing to overwhelming compliments and really nice conversations. One guy came up to me with his daughter and asked me if she could touch it. They then invited me to come to a picnic in the park that they were having with their family. So sweet.
It also meant that I was hardly ever really allone with my thoughts they way I would have wished which proved a bit tiring. I did my best to find places to rest and be by myself - the best of which I must admit was MacD, just because of the mass of people going in and out nobody really noticed me sitting in a corner.
On Sunday I went to see the Duomo. I have seen my share of cathedrals, really, but this was just too magnificent to describe.
For once, it's just plain huge. The white marble glows in the sunlight it's almost too kitchy to say, but you really think of snow when you see it. It is covered with statues and sculptures and frescoes, you could spend days just walking around it and trying to see it all. Apparently, it took 600 years to build it. I believe that in an instant!
Away from the piazza di duomo leads a kind of shopping street complex that is called corso Vittorio Emmanuele. It's basically one big street with a smaller one crossing, lined with the most fancy shops in Milano. The floor is all mosaics and they covered the roof with glass. I think I read somewhere that it was constructed at the end of the 19th century. It is certainly very impressive and beautiful.
I had an early night at the hostel that day and finished my book and had some great talks about the city with two Dutch girls that shared my room.
The night before had been dominated by a football game or something where Italy apparently won because the people were celebrating until the early morning. Also I had a giggly group of French girls stuck in the room next to mine with the wall apparently made from cardboard and the people who got up at 5.30 on Sunday morning and kept slamming doors are certainly not going to hostel-heaven. Why again did I not couchsurf? oO
On Monday I met two street artists in the breakfast room and they showed me some juggling and Poi on the way to the Metro. They were heading to their 'workplace' close to central station but I wanted to spend the day in the city center before I had to catch my train back to Zurich, so I left them to their juggling and went off to practise my own art:
It was a bit chilly this morning, but the time I spent on the piazza del duomo was still worth it. On a weekday morning it was much less busy and I spent a great time just looking at the building, people watching and talking to the occasional strangers who asked me about my knitting or my hair.
One guy said it was a nice contrast to a piece of art that was close by:
He said that one was really ugly and destructive and he liked to see me sitting next to it making something beautiful. How sweet is that? And I even understood it, although he only spoke Italian. That's the frustrating thing for me about Italian. Because I studied Latin through highschool I can make out the sense of pretty much everything, especially if it is written down. But my active spoken vocabulary consists of about five words, so I can't even order a pizza properly. >.<
Another gentleman who looked like Berlusconi from a parallel universe whithout good dentists and a lot more gold said it was a pretty shirt I was making and if I wanted some money. I said, no thank you and refrained from trying to explain that it was actually a sock... oO
The day concluded with two of the biggest mysteries of this city unsolved:
1. Where are the post boxes??? I ran around the whole mainstation for half an hour and asked about a million people but maybe the Milanesi are still sending postcards to their grandmas via pigeon express?
2. Where the freakin f* do you guys do your grocery shopping? I looked out for a supermarket all weekend and couldn't find a single one. When I asked people they couldn't really give me an answer. One guy pointed me towards a street similar to Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich (big shopping area), and they had a tiny little shop there selling softdrinks, sweets and microwave food. That was the peak of my grocery shopping quest...
My train was 20 minutes late leaving Milano but once it crossed the Swiss border it somehow managed to arrive at Zurich on time...
Ciao Italy, you are still a riddle to me!