Since my previous blog about Milan was mostly pictorial, I decided to write more about this user-friendly and decidedly beautiful city.
It is easy to take the Malpensa Express train from the airport to Milan Centrale station. As novice travelers, when Seester and I came in 2007, we took a crazy bus ride from the airport to Milan to catch the train to Genoa. The Malpensa Express makes that journey much easier.
One of my favorite things about going through the Malpensa Airport to the train section is the marvelous little coffee shop just off to the right of the escalators. We get fresh coffee and a pastry-served on ceramic plates and cups. It’s a great way to start our new journey.
- You can easily use the ticket dispensing machine to buy your tickets for the train to Milano Centrale. Press the British flag, apply logic (forward = continue) and you’re good to go. Remember, always, to validate your tickets before getting on the train.
- Do not get cash from any place except a bank’s bank machine. The “Change” places will charge you too much. Another thing about money: in America you hand money to a clerk, in Italy and in most of Europe, there is a tray or dish. You place the money there, they return the proper change in the same fashion. This appeals to me as being very neat and civil.
- Speaking of change, make sure to get coinage immediately. If you need to utilize the restrooms in the train station (and numerous other public places), you have to pay E1.00. Don’t let the idea of that bother you—the restrooms are clean and tidy—worth the Euro after traveling for 24 hours.
Here, balcony and rooftop gardens spill over with various shades of green and petals in pink too far away for me to name that plant. Which buildings are old, which are new? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference because the architecture blends together so well.
Milan is crazy busy.
Walking around one of our first afternoons in the city, Alex remarked that there sure are a lot of stores here. I looked at him like duh, do you have three heads? but explained, Milan is the fashion center of the universe. To that end, ladies, it appears bell bottoms are making a comeback. Look for them in Pittsburgh in about four years. The boot thing is still reigning supreme here. We saw it in ’07 and it hit the ‘burgh a couple of years ago. Gauchos were also evident as were some weird Arabian Knights type pants that I saw more than once. I’ll keep my eyes open for other fashion trends so we can all jump on board before everyone else does.
The population is around 2.6 M versus Madrid at over 5M (too NYC-big for me). I felt very comfortable walking around all day even though it is a very metropolitan place. People look at you and smile. It was delightful to ask an elderly man for directions and discover he had enough good English to point us in the correct direction.
I have said that Italians have no sense of personal space. But in retrospect, I have to rewrite that sentence to: Italians have no American sense of space. We keep a certain distance between us and strangers; between us and friends; as we walk down the street we watch out for people coming toward us. Not so the Italians. They bump, they jostle, they apologize and on they go. This time I let myself flow into that experience and found that getting gently knocked about by happy people wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
I once went to Mass at the Duomo. It was most interesting because of course I don’t understand Italian and I’ve been to Catholic Mass only a couple of times in about a million years. We did the whole stand up, sit down, recite, kneel. Repeat. The priest was very elderly and had a gentle way of speaking and gesturing. Had I been able to “hear” him, I think I would have enjoyed his message. He was assisted by a woman in priest frocks–wow; and another elderly gent who looked like a giant next to the main fellow. I was quite touched when a couple of elderly men sitting near me made the effort to shake my hand at the Peace-be-with-you, part. Of course again, I had no idea what they were saying and thought it was: Howdy, How’s it going? Until the memory kicked in and I went, OH YEAH. I murmured something unintelligible, but smiled like I meant it. I did mean it!
The Duomo was started in 1386 and finished in 1809. There’s something about attending church in a place that’s been deemed holy for that many centuries. It humbles me.
One evening on a previous trip, our friend Lorenzo (his name had to be Lorenzo, right?) took us to the top of the Duomo. Having survived the 300 steps in the Cologne, Germany cathedral, I had intended walking this one. Glad I didn’t figure out how yesterday because it has at least twice that. We took the elevator and it was minutes–minutes–going up! What a view! The architectural detail is stunning. As Lorenzo, an excellent guide, pointed out: There are no duplicates and there is detail EVERYWHERE. There are statues on 135 spires and none of them are the same. Amazing.
This time we walked around inside the Duomo. Soldiers were guarding the church entrances and looking through purses, backpacks. This very, very handsome guard checked Alex’s bag and looked askance at him. Alex started cracking up and pointed at me. The guard pulled Muggins out to show to his partner. I did the best I could: Bambino blog. They were howling and trying to be serious with their sidearms, mace, etc. Inside, half the church was cordoned off for mass. I tried to record some video on my phone cause the priests/choir were singing. It was beautiful.
On one trip here, we had dinner at a Tuscan cuisine ristorante named Bagutta. A Restaurant started in 1924 and at some point taken over by writers! They now offer a Bagutta Prize for literary works. The walls are covered by paintings, drawings, caricatures. The food was outrageous. I had shrimp linguine with the lightest sauce; a salad made from slivers of artichokes with slivers of cheese; sampled Lorenzo’s battered artichokes, finished with a bit of tiramisu and Limoncello. AH! I love Italy.
Saturday night, we had dinner with Lorenzo and Silena. They are two utterly delightful people to hang out with. We ate at Eataly. It is a new chain around Italy (one in NYC and in Chicago) and focuses on selling and serving food from the local area. So Milan’s restaurant foods would be different from Rome’s, etc. It is a store with multiple restaurants and floors. If you have been in a Whole Foods it is like that on super steroids. They have bands every Saturday night and we heard a cover group that had just won an award. It was a hoot because they were singing American songs. Lorenzo said that most music listened to/sold in Italy is English with Italian maybe being 30%.
Oh, and I continue to hate Italian women. Yep; hate them. HOW DO THEY WALK IN THOSE SHOES? Lorenzo and I had a big conversation about them. The shoes and the women. His wise girlfriend refuses to wear them except, like me, for special occasions. I followed a woman with the perfect hair, perfect chic, and 4″ stilettos yesterday. Followed her for about four blocks, me in my hiking shoes going at my usual fast pace. She kept ahead of me. Are they born being able to do that?
In wandering the streets of Milan over the course of several trips, I have traipsed in and out of any number of churches, been to the Milan Castle Museum twice, marveled at the huge door men standing at the front of every designer store, and eaten incredibly well. It is a huge, busy city, but one that you can instantly feel comfortable in, letting yourself flow into the vibrance of the people and the age of the place.