Operation Spring Break: Milano!
Hello my glorious blog readers! Welcome to another addition of my spring break abroad. Destination: Milan, Italy. On this part of my journey, I traveled primarily alone, which was a unique and unforgettable experience. I was in Milan from April 15-18.
Before I departed for Milan, I spent a few days at Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This was intended for a nice relaxing few days on a beach, but it was mostly raining and chilly. Palma is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It has a beautiful cathedral with a nice city centre. I wish I was able to get outside of the city because it has pretty views and great hikes. I also realized how much Spanish I lost since I stopped taking it in high school. Whoops.
View of the city centre
A beautiful walkway along the city centre
Cathedral de Mallorca
Sunday, April 15 – I flew into Bergamo (about 45 minutes northeast of Milan) at seriously the smallest airport I’ve ever been in. I was in and out of there in about 15 minutes, and without an immigration check. Since I was in Spain before I arrived in Italy, I bypassed all immigration thanks to the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen area comprises of 26 European countries that eliminates border controls with other Schengen members. You do need your passport when first arriving into a Schengen country, but then you have free control to travel for 90 days in those 26 designated countries without stopping at border controls. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of the Schengen Agreement, so whenever I enter the UK and enter/leave the Schengen area, I have to go through immigration. It’s kind of a shame because I go to so many cool places, but I have very few passport stamps to show for it. But quite honestly, it is a massive time saver.
After arriving at the hotel, I went out for my first Italian dinner: penne arrabiata with pane, a glass of white wine, and a glass of champagne. There was quite an interesting mix at the restaurant. The two waiters were hilarious older men both fluent in English. They both made me feel welcome in my first night in Italy. The restaurant customers were also international, which added to the interesting mix of Milan. I found out very early that many Italians spoke English pretty well, and it could be that way because Milan is Italy’s industrial city.
Monday, April 16 – I checked out a travel book of Milan from the Cardiff library, and it had guided walks that I spent the entire day walking on. I walked to many different cathedrals, parks, ancient infrastructure from the Roman Empire, and castles. I stopped for a slice of pizza and ate it at the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church that holds Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The great thing about Milan is that it is easy to get around; the city is not that big. You can walk everywhere, and there is an underground train system for fast travel.
A bridge at Parco Sempione
Alter at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
The best known Roman ruins in Milan, Colonne di San Lorenzo, date back to the 2nd Century
Naviglio Grande, a canal that used to be important for trading is now home to cute restaurants and bars
Tuesday, April 17 – I went on a walking tour of Milan that included going into the Duomo, stopping for a café break, and checking out The Last Supper. The Duomo was very impressive, but I wish I had a chance to check it out longer. I would have liked to walk up to the top of the cathedral; the views are supposed to be amazing. There were large stained glass windows with tapestries everywhere. After the Duomo, we went to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is between the Teatro alla Scala and the Duomo. The Galleria holds designer stores with extremely overpriced restaurants. We later stopped at a café where I had a cannoli and some tourists had tiramisu. I met tourists from all over the world, but my group consisted of mostly Americans. After walking a bit throughout Milan, we ended up at Santa Maria delle Grazie where we saw The Last Supper. You need tickets in order to see the fresco, and they sold out. Luckily, the tour provided tickets, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Milan without seeing The Last Supper. The fresco is held in the most unbelievable room ever: it is completely pollution free. They are very strict about the amount of people seeing the fresco at one time, which is a huge change from years ago when tourists could walk right in without a problem. The painting underwent a massive restoration that took 21 years to complete, and it seriously looked stunning for a 15th Century wall painting. There is another massive fresco on the wall opposite to The Last Supper, but no one noticed. It is quite unfortunate because it is a beautiful fresco, but people overlook it because of The Last Supper on the opposite wall.
The stained glass windows at the Duomo
Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
With my cannoli!
At the Santa Maria delle Grazie on my way to see The Last Supper
Once the tour was over, I found an amazing gelato place that specializes in chocolate gelato. After a quick break at my hotel, I went out to dinner with a mutual acquaintance who was studying abroad in Milan. We went out for pizza, espresso, and cannolis at night. It was nice to see a different perspective of Milan through the eyes of a local student. We walked to the Duomo, and it was packed with people trying to sell you things. One thing I hated about the tourist places: it was crowded with foreigners trying to sell you useless things like stupid toys, umbrellas (even though I had one), sunglasses, etc. I found this everywhere I went, and I was always worried this was some elaborate scheme for them to steal my wallet.
My amazing gelato
At a chocolate bar enjoying a wonderful espresso
Wednesday, April 18 – I had a few hours to kill before my flight to Barcelona, but it was pouring. I toughed out the weather for one last gelato, and at the shop, I noticed two Americans ordering a gelato. They totally stood out with their massive backpacks and their mannerisms. At the airport, I ran into the same Americans from the gelato shop while in line to get on the airplane. I found out they were in a group of five students, all of them studying abroad University of Iowa students, and all of them from the Chicago area. It was completely unreal.
Italian word of the day: Bar. When we think of bars, we think of parties, alcohol, beer, whatever. When you see the word “bar” in Italy, be prepared for coffee drinks and desserts instead of ale.