I didn't see as much of Italy this past year as I wanted to.. Dublin, the Algarve and Helsinki were all wonderful in their own right (obviously) but there can only be one true love. So I spent July attending a crash course Italian, and left for Milan in August.
Milan is considerably bigger than, for instance, Firenze but it has a metro system and I love cities with an underground. The first day however, I decided to get a feel for the place and walked, which turned out to be an ambitious plan. But also totally worth it, because I planned it so I walked through the galleria (Vittorio Emanuele II) and then ended up in front of the Duomo. Cliché cliché - I know - but I did hold my breath for just a second when I first saw it. Things of impressive beauty tend to do that.
The first - and only - thing that I had planned beforehand and booked online was a visit to the Duomo, but I insisted on the whole shabang: rooftop, cellar, guided tour. I am also the type of tourist that asks for the audio-guide and listens to every single entry.
The Duomo has a chequered history: its construction began in the 14th century but it lasted as much as 500 years to finalize it. When Napoleon declared himself king of Italy, the building was unfinished and he made it a priority to finish it, and eventually had his coronation in Milan. Considering a trip to Milan was a tad harder in those days than it is now, it is however still no wonder that so many people went to visit it throughout history. Hemingway, Shelley.. they all sung the Duomo's praises.
I am also very grateful to the friend that convinced me to book a rooftop tour. Am-a-zing.
One of the perks about Milan - and there are many - is that there is plenty to see in the city but that it is also a good base to start from when visiting other places.
So I went to multiple markets, including the fiera di Sinigaglia in the Navigli neighbourhood on Sunday morning where I almost bought a vintage chanel skirt from the 50s (but decided it was too short). I visited a myriad of museums: la Pinacoteca, galleria dell'arte moderna.. One even more amazing than the next but I also discovered even I have my saturation point. I saw the Last Supper by Da Vinci - one must, no? I went to the fashion district, where I could feast my eyes but I never went further than windowshopping. I wandered through the castello sforzesco. I went into la Scala but there were no performances, I watched them clean the chandelier, which is an experience in its own right. The attached museum and tour immerse you in the abundant time of the 19th century when everyone who was anyone had a private balcony. I had just finished reading a book about Salieri - Mozart's nemesis - so I totally went with it.
I am sure that using a public transport system doesn't fill up anyone with sheer joy but in Italy I find trains run efficiently, punctually and are affordable. I spent a day at Lake Como, visiting Varenna, Bellagio, and Como itself.
I absolutely loved Varenna. One of those places for which the word picturesque was invented. I was there fairly early so the lakeside café was only just putting out the chairs and I watched the village wake up, in all tranquillity.
I took a ferry and reached Bellagio by lunchtime and even though it is gorgeous, I disliked it. I am not going to make friends by saying this but it was full of tourists (I know I know, I am one) but the majority of them were Americans. Not trying to diss everyone at once here but the ones I encountered were loud, didn't do their research (23 questions at the ticket office in a long slow queue anyone?), yelled "where is George Clooney's house?" and had probably bought a new wardrobe just to come to Italy. Anyway...
It was a toss up whether I would spend my last available day in Torino or in Bergamo because depending on which Italian I asked, I got a different answer. So I went to Bergamo, a cute hillside town that uses a funicular to connect the different parts of the city.