Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekend Travel to Milan

Charlie, Kat and I in front of the Duomo
­Lately I have done lot of traveling outside of Italy. I decided it was time to explore what Italy had to offer. Garrett, one of my traveling buddies, lives in Milan and so Cat and I couldn’t resist the idea of another adventure.  Plus it was my birthday weekend. So I had to celebrate somehow.  Milan is about a four-hour train ride north of Florence. There are two options, take the fast train, which is more expensive, or the slow one. Depending on what time you leave determines the price. To be cost efficient we took the train from Florence to Pisa. It is a little under six Euros and takes an hour to get to Pisa. From there, we took another train to Milan and because we were cheap, it was only 16.50 Euros one way. I highly recommend you bring snacks, because we got hungry on the way and I was glad to have my apple.

We had a two hour lay over in Pisa. When you have lemons turn it into lemonade! The Torre pendente di Pisa, (translating into English: Leaning Towner of Pisa) is a fifteen-minute bus ride from the train station. The bus ticket was only a Euro. (One of the best Euros I’ve spent since I’ve been in Italy.) When we arrived, it was after sunset, but lucky for us lot of lights were around so we were able to take photos. We couldn’t stay too long but we definitely got a taste of Pisa. Did you know that the tower has 296 steps! That would be a great workout, however I don’t think it is possible.  Right next to the tower is a Cathedral, and from what I learned it is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s square.  After taking in the sights, it was time to return to the station. We couldn’t be late!

All I can say about the Milan train station is BIG! It reminds me of New York in the sense that it is busy, busy, busy and rush, rush rush! There is a lot going on and we got there around 11pm. Downstairs is the metro.  So it was very easy to navigate to the hostel. We stayed at the Zebra Hostel, located Viale Regina Margherita 9. I would not stay there more than two nights. Socially I met so many people, but the bathrooms were pretty gross and at night it was extremely loud (bring ear plugs). On the second night I went to bed at 2:30am and it was still really loud! I got what I paid for so I cannot complain too much.

During breakfast the first morning at the hostel, I met two Irish guys. It is amazing how friendly people are when they are traveling and so easy to get along with fellow travelers. It turned out we spent the entire day with the Irish guys exploring the city. I found from staying at the hostel that many foreigners perceive Americans as unintelligent. I hate saying, but after I said I was from the United States, most people assumed that I wasn’t too smart or the typical American. I understand how they draw their conclusions because from what they watch on TV and reality shows, we don’t seem very intelligent at all. So I was determined to prove the Irish wrong. They challenged us to a game of Trivial Pursuit, and I am proud to say after 4 long hours Cat and I won! I was proud to represent America and change how foreigners perceive Americans.  
Love how many friends I made on this trip
While in Milan, I visited many places that I highly recommend. Below are suggestions for anyone traveling to Milan.

1.  Duomo Di Milano. It is one of the most famous building in Europe and the largest Gothic cathedral and the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world. It is breath taking and it almost seems unreal. There isn’t an entrance fee, which always helps being on a student budget. The interior has five wide naves that are reflected in the hierarchic openings of the façade. What interested me the most were the stained glass windows. You aren’t supposed to take photos, but everyone does and the security guards don’t seem to enforce the rule. The only thing they do enforce is volume control and if you step somewhere where you are not suppose to. It’s a must see! However, the piazza in front is swarming with pigeons. In my mind pigeons are flying rats! There are vendors who sprinkle bird seeds and they come to you in flocks. One of the vendors threw bird seeds and within a matter of seconds, I was ducking for dear life because they came so close. I hate pigeons! This experience traumatized me to the point that when we had to cross the piazza, I walked all around to avoid them.
This puts it all in perspective of how big the Duomo is

2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. You might as well go to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele because it is right next to the Duomo. Inside the galleria is a shopping mall, mostly high end brands names such as Gucci and Prada. (I didn’t shop there, certainly not on my budget.) It was designed in 1861 and built from 1865 to 1877. The roofs are made out of glass so there is a lot of natural light to support  the viewing of the interior paintings.

3. Castello Sforzesco. It was my first castle I have been to and I have to say I was not disappointed. This castle was built in the 14th century. There are a number of rooms with interior decoration, but the most common and popular is the Sala Della Asse with is a ceiling painting by Leonardo da Vinci. On an interesting note, there were many stray cats. In fact I got to see one try and stalk its prey—a pigeon.  However a kid scared the pigeon and that was that. No dinner for the cat!
4. Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace). If you are visiting the castle you might as well walk through the park Sempione. It is a short walk. In fact, you can see the arch from the castle. The walk through Sempione is beautiful, especially in the fall because all of the leaves on the trees were bright orange and yellow.  The construction of the arch began in 1807 by Luigi Cagnola and was completed in 1838.  Under Napoleons instruction, he asked Luigi Cagnola to build the arch.

5. Palazzo Reale. Currently there is the Salvador Dali exhibit. Unfortunately it ends Janurary 20th 2011. Plazzo Reale  used to be a royal palace in the 18th century. Sadly in World War II it was hit by bombs and lost its neoclassical interiors. However, Sala dell Cariatidi survived and is where exhibitions are held. The Dali exhibit was taken by surprise. I did not plan on going but Cat, my traveling buddy, wanted to go. My only advice is go to the exhibits in the early morning. We got there at 10:30 and already there was a long line. I don’t mind lines but a long line in addition to being extremely cold made it challenging. Once we got into the exhibit it was well worth it. Salvador Dali was a Spanish Catalan surrealist painter. He was known for his striking and bizarre images in his work. Prior before going, I had no idea who Dali was but by the end I was fully educated. That’s the beauty of traveling with different people; I get to experience things I would never do on my own.

5.  Milan fashion district—Quadrilatero della Moda. For those who don’t know, Milan is regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world. The Italians know how to dress! Milan hosts the Milan Fashion Week twice a year. Although I couldn’t afford anything in the district, I knew I had to visit. For a moment, I got excited because on the main street there is an “outlet,” so I thought I would be able to get a little something for myself. However, when I found a pair of mittens it was 119 dollars. Forget that! The coats averaged a thousand Euros marked down from two thousand Euros. I guess it would be a good buy if you had the money. I rather spend my money on traveling rather than fashion. To be quite honest, fashion doesn’t interest me, although I am jealous when I see a well dressed Italian. I wish I could dress like that, but then I realize when I do try, I am uncomfortable—especially the shoes.
A Versace dinning room! Never could afford this.
Milan was a great trip! It is a big city and for anyone who loves the big cities, Milan is a must!

Yours truly,
Roamin’ Roman


  1. So I guess I shouldn't expect a pair of Prada stilettos for my birthday? Oh well...a girl can dream. ;-)

  2. You got to see the Dali exhibit! Pure bliss. Well if we run out of Hieronymous Bosch puzzles next year we can look for a Dali puzzle

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