In Venice there is a bridge from the Doge’s palace to the prisons called the Bridge of Sighs. The reason, so the story goes, is that prisoners taken over that bridge would look out the window, see Venice for the last time, and sigh in despair. I caught a12:45ish train out of Venice and saw the city for the last time and crossed my own sort of bridge of sighs, although hopefully I’ll be returning some day.
After Venice, I decided to go to Milan. This decision was completely based on the price of plane tickets to the UK, so I really didn’t know what there was to do in Milan besides fashion, which I’m not super interested in and, either way, can’t afford. The trip was completely uneventful. Found my seat next to this young American couple, who were watching a movie together on their iPhones. I would like to rant a bit about technology, for a second. Here we are, traveling through northern Italy, and they are watching a movie and ignoring the scenery. In Venice, I saw a child (maybe 10) walking around with his parents playing a handheld game. Have we become so addicted to being constantly entertained that we can’t go to a beautiful city, or through a beautiful countryside, without constant stimulation? It was a 2 hour train ride; it wasn’t even enough time for them to finish the movie and yet they ignored what was happening outside in favor of a movie they could obviously watch any time. Anyway, that’s my little rant. It makes me feel a bit sorry for these people that they aren’t really experiencing their travel.
I got to Milan without incident and headed to my hotel. I ended up staying at the Hotel Demo which was right next to Milano Centrale train station, very convenient, but which is not a great part of town at night. The hotel, however, is very cute and my room was small but cozy, I highly recommend this hotel if you are traveling on the cheap. The only issue is that there was a giant reproduction of a painting on the wall above the bed that was Jesus being taken of the cross (I think) and the way the room was set up when I used the bathroom, I was staring at a bloody Jesus. It was a bit disconcerting.
After checking in I decided to wander around Milan for a couple hours. I got a map and decided to go to the Castello Sforzesco and the Duomo. I walked down to the Castello and it was pretty neat. The Castello was the home of the Dukes of Lombardy, I think, and now houses a bunch of museums, all of which were closed when I got there. Luckily it is HUGE and has lots of places to sit. At one point I was resting (it was about 2.5 miles from the hotel) and a woman dumped a bag of bread in front of me. The local pigeons tore that stuff up! Flinging it around, fighting each other for the choicest bits, it was quite interesting. Anyway, by the time I got there the museum was closed so I didn’t get to learn as much about the history as I normally do, but it was nice to walk around away from the bustle of the cars.
Then I walked down Via Dante to get to the Duomo. In case you haven’t noticed, I always visit the main churches in any city I’ve been in, and sometimes the minor ones. There are a couple reasons for this. 1. it is a free way to see some amazing art; 2. whatever the weather outside, the climate in the church is usually controlled enough that it is much nicer inside; 3. they are usually wonderful places to rest and get away from the tourists. Either way, the Duomo was amazing! I’ve never seen a church like this, it was more gothic than any gothic church in my experience and really, even the outside was magnificent!
I wasn’t sure if I was too late to go inside but I thought I’d try anyway, and lo and behold, they let me in (luckily I was dressed appropriately). The inside was really lovely. It was huge and gothic and decorated with amazing huge stained glass windows. I think I prefer the gothic churches to the byzantine style basilicas that I saw in Venice and Padua. The main difference to me is that in the basilicas, the color and decoration come from mosaics on the ceiling or paintings with some stone carving, whereas in the gothic churches, the color and decoration come from windows that not only decorate the walls but, depending on the light, decorate all over the church. I think I prefer the glittery light rather than the mosaics, but that’s just me, of course. The interesting thing about this church was that it was also decorated with paintings.
There were two mummified bodies of previous bishops in glass coffins along the wall, both of whom had been beatified. It was a bit disconcerting but after all the sculls I saw in Paris, it didn’t phase me all that much. The prized relic, however, can be found in the wall high above the altar. There is a cross with a glass box in the middle the holds a nail from the crucifixion. It was apparently once owned by Constantine and gifted to the Duomo at some point. It is reached by a strange elevator of sorts (ropes and pulleys), which is set up once a year so the bishop and a couple other people can take it down and process around the church and then put it back up.
After my time in the Duomo, I decided to have an early dinner (which was around 6, I’ve completely gotten on a European eating schedule). I found a place on the piazza overlooking the Duomo and ordered a salami pizza. It was terrible! It had clearly been made previously and just reheated with toppings because the middle was cold, like really cold, like the cheese wasn’t even melted cold. I ate the outside and vowed to never eat pizza in Italy again, unless it was in Naples! I walked back to my hotel, stopped in the train station for some gelato and to buy my ticked to Lake Como for the next day, and went to my room to mess around on the internet.
My thoughts on Milan: I’m not a fan. Granted, there were some extenuating circumstances: 1. I didn’t do my research before I went. This is a problem for me because I like knowing what I’m looking at when I’m looking at something. 2. the weather had turned windy and cloudy, it puts a bit of a damper on dinner when your hair is blowing in your pizza. 3. dinner wasn’t good and after I didn’t feel all that great. 4. it was just too much like an American city. After Paris and Venice, I was expecting something a bit less dirty and modern, so I was disappointed by the honking cars, yelly drivers, ugly buildings, and dirty streets. If I go again, hopefully, I will know what to expect and be more prepared.