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Milan Pt. 1

ITALY | Wednesday, 6 November 2013 | Views [242]

Welcome to Milan (Italy – not Michigan):
    Yes, there is a Milan in Michigan.  Of course in Michigan it is called My-lan (as in Ann).  And, in Italy it is referred to as Milano.  But, everything seems to end in “o” or “a” in Italy (Italia), and if it doesn’t, they seem to add a sing-songy “o” or “a” at the end.
    The scouting report on Milan was not to miss it, even though the outer area was gray and industrial.  The report was that the Milan Cathedral (Duomo) was worth seeing.  Okay, the scouting report was correct.
    Northern Italy as a whole (below the alps) is quite interesting.  Very industrial, yet an abundance of farm land, and the usual center cities built hundreds of years ago.  In many industrial areas you’d think you were around Chicago, Detroit or Cleveland.  In the areas of farm land you’d believe you were driving through Indiana or downstate Illinois.  Yes, in the old center cities you’d think you were in Europe.
    Before the thought drifts away, the freeways (called autoroutes in France and something similar in the other countries) are superior to what we know in the United States.  Italy had especially well groomed highways (seamless asphalt, not the click, click of the cement seams you hear on U.S. interstate highways).  Of course, you pay for all of this.  All of these roads come with a toll.  Most tolls are $3-to-$8 dollars, though we did come across a $20 toll on one long stretch.
    The drive from Menaggio at Lake Como to Milan was probably 90 minutes and pretty easy.  Coming into Milan was like driving into any major U.S. city.  Flat land, factories and distribution centers.  Not too surprising, I guess, as Milan is considered the economic and commercial center of Italy.
    We had planned to spend a Monday in Milan, then spend the night prior to driving the 3-hours to Venice.  Well, we got a tip to avoid the very expensive Milan hotels, and to simply tour Milan on Monday and drive outside Milan to get a hotel.  It proved to be a wise idea.  We also read that one might consider parking at an outlining subway station and taking the subway to the center of the city.  Another wise idea.
    We selected a subway station in the northeast area of Milan, figuring we might avoid some rush hour traffic at the end of the day, as we were heading east.  The station at Sesto San Giovani was at the end of the subway line.  Much examination on Google maps had gone into planning the move to exit the autoroute, navigate to the station and find a place to park.  It looked like it could be a nightmare.  Well, it almost was.  We now know we got off one exit early and ended up in an area of high-rise apartments (let’s call the area of town “careful” – that’s safe, but not the best of areas).  We “felt” the direction we needed to go, but Milan is a big city (over 5 million in the metro area).  We pulled into a scruffy gas station and cornered two middle-aged women getting gas.  They couldn’t speak English, but Ken communicated enough and they figured out where we wanted to go.  They had us follow them and drove us to the subway station, about five minutes away.  That saved the day.  It was a busy area (it turned out to be a train station, as well as a subway station, and with plenty of commercial businesses around).  The neighborhood was still “careful” (it felt a bit like many New York City neighborhoods), and, of course, the two parking lots were full.  We got lucky again, as Marlene spotted what had to be the only parking spot available anywhere in sight.  As there were any number of folks kind of lounging around the area, we weren’t thrilled with leaving our car full of luggage out in plain sight.  But, it all worked out and the 15-minute subway trip into the center of Milan and back worked well.  Oh, my gosh, lots of people taking the subway (one of many subway lines in Milan) in the afternoon.  It was somewhat like Tokyo, where the subway stop was empty when a train pulled away, and 3 minutes later there were dozens of folks awaiting the next train, which seemed to come almost immediately. It was standing room only at 1:30 in the afternoon.  
    Though I’ve seen photos of high-rise business towers in Milan, we didn’t see any.  Unfortunately, the subway ride was entirely underground, so we did not see most of Milan.  We simply went to the square in front of the Duomo (Milan Cathedral), a main tourist destination.  The cathedral is huge, as you can see in the photo of Ken, Keaka and Sophia standing in front of the cathedral.  The detail on the outside of the cathedral is unimaginable, as you can hopefully see in the photos.  That’s Keaka and Marlene examining the iron work on one of the doors to the cathedral.  Maintenance on a facility like this has to be continuous, and in the photo of the inside you can see a crane on the left side.  Two workers were cleaning the detailed concrete work high up on a pillar.  There were dozens of rooms inside, all featuring detailed painting, marble work, statues, stained glass, etc. that you can’t believe.  La Scala, a famous opera house is nearby (closed and rather plain looking, thus no photos), with a shopping center connecting Duomo and La Scala.  The Galleria is the first shopping center ever constructed.
    A look at the square and the Galleria coming up.
The Wilsons



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