In the first part I went over our trip there. Now onto what you really wanted, which is what we did when we got there! Of note, it rained almost continually for the four days we were there.
First off, our room in the Best Western Mozart was in a good area, in the NW of downtown Milan, near the Parco Sempione, and about a 30 minute brisk walk to the Duomo and the shopping district. and the front desk staff were both bilingual and charming, but the room itself was a little underwhelming, with two stiff single beds, and a very tiny shower (again kicking myself for not taking pictures!). First thing I did was visit the local Carrefour to buy bottled water and snacks, so as not to utilize the minibar. After that, we walked around a little, ate dinner (which I’ll review tomorrow), but the rain and cold were relentless, and we hadn’t slept much on the plane, so we crashed early.
The front of La Scala, treading the same ground as Verdi, Puccini, and Toscanini
The next day was a day I had arranged a half-day walking tour of Milan through Viator, based on good reviews I’d read online. They offer tours in German & English, Spanish & English, Italian & English, Portuguese & English, and English only (so it’s ok if you only speak English!). This tour covers the most famous areas and sites in Milan, including a guided tour of La Scala, the world-famous opera house, a tour of Sforza Castle, the massive edifice of medieval Milan, the Duomo di Milano, the massive cathedral which is probably the 2nd most famous landmark there, and then finally Da Vinci’s The Last Supper(TLS), which is probably the most famous attraction, and the main reason I and most people book this tour. Unless you get tickets beforehand, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to walk in and see TLS, due to high demand, and the limited amount of people they let in.
Inside of La Scala (you’re not actually allowed to take pics inside…oops!
Sforza Castle is absolutely enormous!
It was a great tour, and at around $75 per person, including entrance tickets to La Scala and TLS, was well worth it. Our guide was very good, and spoke great English. Because there are so many tourists in the areas we visited, they give you a radio connected to the tour guide’s mic, with a headphone so you can hear over the crowd. It was 9/10 – the only bad part was we only got 15 minutes at the Duomo, because our tour fell a little behind schedule, and we had to be at Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (where TLS is) on time. They provide a bus to get between the sites (despite it being a “walking” tour).
What an unbelievably huge edifice – this pic does not do it justice!
This is not our picture – you are absolutely not allowed to take pictures!
To me, TLS was the highlight of the tour – to be gazing upon one of Da Vinci’s masterpieces for ~15 minutes…priceless!
The next day, we slept in, got some decent Best Western breakfast, then made our way downtown again to really check out the Duomo and the legendary shopping district. In addition to going inside the Duomo, which is breathtakingly huge, you can take stairs or an elevator to the roof, and check out the intricasies of this massive creation, in addition to Milan’s skyline. It took over 600 years to complete, and is made entirely of Italian marble, even though there is no marble nearby! I am not poetic enough to describe the beauty and complexity of this cathedral (the world’s 7th largest Christian church), you’ll just have to look at pictures or see it yourself. Some pictures:
The intricacy of each of the hundreds of columns and buttresses is astounding!
Google+ actually knitted these three pics together!
The shopping there is ridiculous (fortunately my wife doesn’t like to shop!). The oldest shopping mall in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle, is pretty cool, and has original shops like Prada’s first shop and Borsalino’s first hattery.
Hard to imagine this was built in 1865!
Later that night we attended a Milanese aperitivo (in tomorrow’s post). The next day, we decided to get out of the city, so we rented a Fiat Cinquecento (500), to drive to Lake Como
Very fun, very tiny car. I highly recommend getting a manual transmission.
and check out Bellagio. George Clooney invited us to his lakehouse there, but we politely declined 😉
The road there is ridiculous – it is about the size of a golf cart trail, but accomodates two-way traffic, including cargo trucks and buses! I’m pretty sure we barely escaped with out lives driving to and from Bellagio, especially since it was raining the whole time!
Not our picture, but this is what most of it looked like!
We stopped at Bellagio, a quaint little village at the tip of the peninsula in the lake; I’m sure it is lovely and charming in the summer, but it was mostly closed down in the winter. Fortunately there was a bistro open that had great espresso!
My wife photoshopped the heck out of this, the sun never came out once!
It is recommended during the summer to take the train to Varenna, at the bottom of Lake Como, and then just take ferries all over the lake, but when we went the ferry schedule was very infrequent, plus would’ve been miserable with the cold and rain.
We flew out early the next day, but did a substantial amount of walking over the 4 days we were there. It’s a very walkable city, but also has good public transportation if your feet get tired. Overall we had a lovely time despite the weather!