Thursday, September 20, 2012

Milano, Italy

I apologize for the delay in this post but I am so excited to finally share this post with the great adventure I had last weekend! It's rather a long story though so I am posting the beautiful pictures of Milano (pronounced: mee-lawn-oh) first and then feel free to continue reading.. Or not :) 

The Duomo: a massive cathedral that occupies a large part of the main piazza in Milano. Larger and more ornate than even Notre Dame in France. It technically can hold 40,000+ people in its cavernous interior brimming with paintings, history, and entombed popes, all visible by candlelight. Fun fact: The Duomo was built in the 14th century and consists of 3,400+ marble statues. 


The Galleria Vittorio: 
Adjacent to the duomo on the other side of the piazza. This shopping center is home to the Prada flagship store along with Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Gucci.So fun to walk around! The murals around the dome represent all the continents. 

How to Get To Milano:  YOLO Style
Thursday Night: 
Decide that I am headed to Milan for the weekend. Book a hostel and look at train times. 

I started packing at 5:00pm and by 5:30pm I was walking down the road with my backpack and camera, ready for an adventure. And it so it began..

There are direct trains from Lugano to Milano but because we were being frugal we decided on a  route that would only cost us $17. Lugano--Chiasso--Milano Portia--Milano Nord Dommodossola, 3 trains, 2 switches, easy right? Even Google Maps agreed that we would be there within 2.5 hours, just 20min longer than the direct train. 

So we boarded our train to Chiasso (a town on the border of Switzerland and Italy) and headed out. We got to Chiasso and walked over to the Italian side of the train station without any delay, but we forgot to account for the fact that unlike Swiss trains, the Italian trains are infamously late. Our train departed 20mins behind schedule which meant that an hour and a half later upon our arrival at Milano Portia Girrabaldi Station we had missed our connection. At this point we had been traveling for 2.5 hours. So I wandered around the abandoned looking underground station in Italy trying to find a sign with the name of the line we were supposed to take. Eventually I found a worker and asked him in my limited Italian which train line would take us to the Milano Nord Dommodossola stop, he smiled and told us to take the Dommodossola train and get off atthe very last stop. This train was leaving in another hour from Platform 2 so I thanked him, wished him good night, and broke out a granola bar to  prepare myself for the wait. finally it was time to board the train and I settled in for a quick 40min ride as promised by google maps. But between the Portia Girabaldi station and our destination we stopped for what seemed like every bush in the middle of no where. Although to be fair it was pitch black by this point. 

2 HOURS later I disembarked at the Dommodossola Station with nothing but a backpack and directions to the hostel in hand. It was now close to midnight and unfortunately most street signs in Italy are either non-existent or on the side of buildings or alleyways. The first step said to head SW on via Dommodossola, so I broke out my compas app and decided to head SW on the street we walked out on, hoping it was the right one and searching in the darkness for a street sign of any kind. After walking a few hundred meters I quickly decided to stop and ask for directions. And  luckily the station was in the centre of town so I had a plethora of bars to choose from. The first one I walked into was filled with a dozen old Italian  men sipping their espressos while gathered around a table playing cards. Not one of them spoke a bit of English but I was able to say enough that they understood I needed directions, upon looking at the address I gave them they all began shouting in rapid italian at one another and then  looked at me very quizzical and asked if this hostel was in Milano. I replied that it was and they informed me that I was in a town 25km away from Milano and the next train didn't leave until morning. But instead of freaking out about being in a strange town with no place to stay for e night and no plan I couldn't stop thinking about how I want to be cool enough to play cards in Italy on a Friday night at midnight when I am in my 70s! If you met them you wouldn't blame me, nothing beats a cute old Italian man. 

I thanked the cute old men for their help and headed down main street hoping to find some pizza but ending up in another bar asking if anyone knew of a hostel nearby, they didn't but all the patrons were ridiculously kind. They said they knew someone who spoke a little English so they called him over and I was surprised when he spoke about as much English as I did Italian (read: not a lot) yet he said everything in an Irish accent! This man had a friend of a friend who owned a local hotel, he called him up and negotiated a good rate for us of 59euros for the both of us for the night but we were a little weary of spending more money and told him we would just sleep in the train station. But he refused to let us do that, (Italian hospitality <3) and his friend settled on a rate of 50euros for the both of us. 

The man then drove us over to the hotel, and his friend greeted us at the door. No one seemed upset by our arrival or bothered by us, everyone there was just so relaxed and just hanging out. I attempted to use my credit card to pay but that didn't work and I didn't have any euros so the hotel owner said I could pay in Swiss Francs and that it converts to about 67frans. But I only had 50 francs and he just smiled and basically said for you, no worries. Homie! He even whipped out his iPad and helped us look at the train times tomorrow and pick the cheapest direct one. I wished him a buona notte and headed for bed. 

Im sure he chilled with his friends mich later into the night but I went to bed and the next morning I planned on paying for breakfast downtown but he woke up just to fix us a quick breakfast of tea, bread, and jam. We chatted with him about his family looked at pictures of his 3 young daughters and then we were off! 

2 hours later we finally had arrived in the Milano Centrale Station but with no clue where to go from there. Luckily my adventurous spirit hadn't failed me yet! So I set off to find a map. Milano Centrale is the Italian equivalet of Grand Central Station-- Massive, beautiful, and busy--with a glass dome, white marble floors and the slund of trains wooshing by the hundreds of people pourinonion and out. And as I am contemplating what an adventure I am on the air starts vibrating around me and I hear this deep bass rattling slowly along with the sound of the trains, it took me a minute to realize that it was some kind of music. " I am so sick, I am in Inception right now" was my first thought! The music combined with the trains and the glass dome and the adventure all made me feel like I really was in the middle of a movie with great background music. This wasn't just music cackling over the radio either. 

As I found out later, this band was testing their setup for a performance later that night (skip to 1:10 to get the best feel for it) 

But no worries. Despite gypsies trying to steal my change and a few other minor set backs we eventually made it to the main Piazza! And got to see the beautiful cathedral in the whole world. Definitely worth a daytrip there if you are in Italy, maybe not a whole week, but do allow yourself a solid day to take it all in. And of course also allow yourself plenty of time at the train station to switch trains! ;) 

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