I decided to stop in Milan due to, mostly, the fact that it was the cheapest flight from Istanbul, and had an express train to Rome, which was my real next destination. Apparently feeling money-conscious that day, I also booked a bed in a hostel instead of a normal hotel room. The hostel is quiet nice. They put me in a more private room with two beds and a bathroom (I booked a cheaper room with four beds), whether through accident, or benevolence, or clever planning, I do not know. To my delightful surprise, there’s no one else staying there my first night, so I have a nice, if simple, room with a private bath for about a fifth of what I usually pay for a room! The second night, however, I will get a roommate, and he was a nice Polish guy, but I decide I’ll probably stick to hotel rooms from here on out.
Milan, like most of these old cities in Italy, is gorgeous. Even the train terminal (of which my photo did not turn out) is beautiful – big, massive, stone columns and arches.
After a night in the hostel, I start my day of sightseeing by going to “the Duomo” – the Cathedral of Milan. This is a spectacular building inside and out – Gothic spires, numerous incredibly massive columns, hundreds or thousands of stained glass window panels, depicting biblical scenes.
Under the church I enter an archaeological site where they have excavated bits of the old cathedral that was here before this one, some tiled floor and a few fragments of art still in tact.
After touring the dusty basement, I ascend a winding staircase to get on to the roof for amazing views and close up inspection of all of the statues and art that decorate the roof and spires. I gather that, even back when it was built, the roof was a tourist attraction. Or, at least, a place where pilgrims and parishioners could ascend to appreciate the beauty of the cathedral and of the world around it. It is raining, and some of the gargoyles, which are part of the gutter system, are spitting on passersby (such as myself, earlier) underneath.
In the distance, from the roof, I see an intriguing, crazy looking abandoned building – bigger at the top than at the bottom, but most of the windows are missing on the top floors, so clearly is abandoned. I wouldn’t want to live below that…
I descend from the roof of the Duomo, grab a bite to eat, some rather spicy pizza, and wander towards Castle Sforzesco.
This is a pretty solid castle, and in good condition, as it’s been restored or renovated a number of times through the years. The large and (at the time of their construction, uniquely round) towers apparently have had their tops removed and rebuilt numerous times as siege weaponry progressed from bows to heavy artillery. In the castle courtyard, I see a cat guarding a.. the… uh… it’s a cat!
I wander through the castle gardens, enjoying the ducks and mermaids, head out the other side, and stop by what looks, from the outside, to be a very unassuming church – Chiesa di SanMaurizio al Monastero Maggiore, but the numerous tour groups in the area indicate to the contrary.
The inside is covered in colorful art. The church is split in two, as the back half was once part of a cloistered convent (one in which the nuns had no interaction with the outside world). There is an interesting little door in a niche to the right of the altar where the priest, saying mass in the public space of the church, would administer communion to the nuns in the interior portion. The art is almost overwhelming, as it covers every surface, but I quite enjoy the artistic rendering of the Noah’s Ark story.
One thing I found quite annoying in Milan – most restaurants do not open until 7:30pm for dinner! Lunch often doesn’t open until 12:30 either! I’ve been in the habit of having lunch around 11 and dinner around 5 or 6, so this is a bit of a pain. The next day, my short stop in Milan over, I hop on the express train to Rome.