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June 7, 2011

getting to Italy & the Duomo in Milano

I am now in Venice but will begin from the beginning…

Tuesday, May 31st:
A week before my trip, I started gathering all of the things I planned to pack using the same packing list I have used for the past few trips. I knew it was going to be a challenge this year to fit my new camera, lenses, and MacBook Air, as well as everything else into the same bags I took with me on my last trip. I was hoping to not have to take a larger bag. On the day of my flight, everything was going so smoothly until a couple of hours before I planned to leave for the airport when I tried to fit one last thing into my bag. That is when my mini-meltdown occurred. I tried over and over to fit everything inside my bags but nothing worked. It was getting later and later. At one point, I even dragged out my larger bag. I finally ended up unzipping the expander zipper of the original bag I planned to take, something I hate to do until the last leg of my trip, and managed to make everything fit.

I arrived at the airport just in time to check my bag, go through security, and arrive at my gate as the last call was being announced for my flight. Phew! I really cut things close this time! A big thank you to my dear friend who stood calmly by as I had my mini-meltdown and drove me to the airport.

When I reached my seat and began to lift my carry-on roller up into the overhead bin, the man sitting behind me offered to help. I thanked him and told him that I could manage. I have been working very hard the past few months trying to build up my strength in my arms and shoulders. My goal was to be able to lift my bag up into the overhead bin without any problems. My workouts paid off as I easily hoisted it up and even got a bravo from the man who offered to help me. I smiled and told him that my trainers would be proud! As I was settling into my seat, I realized that I had met this man years ago while studying Italian in Hawaii. He is the owner of La Gelateria in Honolulu and was also traveling to Italy. As I introduced myself, he told me that the man sitting behind him was the owner of an Italian restaurant in Honolulu and was also traveling to Italy. Small world!

My two flights were uneventful. I was able to sleep some on both flights. The wait in Newark between flights was long as usual. This whole Continental and United merger thing seemed to be a bit confusing. When I first saw that the name on the plane said United instead of Continental, I was worried that the plane was no longer one of the Continental planes, the ones with the little movie screens in front of every seat. I was happy to find out that the plane was still one of the Continental planes. I guess all the planes now have the name United on them. Everything else seemed to still be Continental although they no longer serve free food on the long 9 hour flight from Honolulu to Newark. At least they still serve food on the shorter flight from Newark to Milan/Malpensa (both dinner and breakfast). I heard a few passengers complain in Newark about the upgrade procedures. I think they were loyal United customers.

Thursday, June 2nd:
When we arrived at Malpensa, one of those stairway things was driven up to the door of the plane. I don’t recall having to walk down stairs when arriving at Malpensa in the past but I am always in a jetlag haze so I may have and just didn’t remember. Shuttle buses zipped us all over to the arrivi door. Passport clearance was quick. My bag also arrived very quickly which was a first.

There was a huge crowd waiting for four small elevators to go down one flight to get to the train station area. I figured it would take at least 30 minutes to get on one of those elevators, so I searched for another way to the train station below. I followed these green arrows and found both an escalator and stairs heading down to the train station. My plane arrived on time, exactly at 8:50. I just missed the 9:33 train. I took the 10:03 train and arrived in Milan 30 minutes later, finding a row of taxis right outside the train station. The train ticket cost 11 euros and the taxi cost 8 something.

My room was not ready when I arrived. I started switching some stuff around in my bags so that I could gather up a few things to take with me while I checked out the area around my hotel. Just when I finished getting out my camera and a few other things, I was told that my room was ready. The bed in my room was very inviting. I was so tempted to take a nap but knew if I did that, I would sleep the rest of the day. Instead, I unpacked my stuff, took a quick shower, and headed out to explore Milan.

It was gray and cloudy and a bit chilly outside. I headed straight for the Duomo. I visited Milan for a few hours with my friend Katia many years ago before the Duomo restoration work was done. I have been looking forward to returning to the Duomo now that it was all nice a clean.
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After taking a few photos, I walked around a bit looking for the Obika mozzarella bar that I had read about. This restaurant is located on the roof of the La Rinascente store. I was seated in the bar area and had a wonderful lunch. After lunch, I spent a few minutes checking out some of the other levels of the store while it was sprinkling outside.

Once the rain stopped, I went inside of the Duomo. The entrance into the Duomo is free. Here are a few photos from inside the Duomo.
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The climb to the roof was the top thing on my to do list in Milan. There are two ways to get to the roof – by foot (5 euros) for by elevator (8 euros). As a fan of climbing towers, I of course went by foot. I followed the signs and went to what I thought was the entrance to climb to the top. I was told that I needed to purchase a ticket at the office located in a building nearby. After purchasing my ticket, I returned. After scanning my ticket, the man told me that I was in the wrong place. That entrance was to take the lift to the top. I walked around the corner to another door. This time when the man saw that my ticket was scanned, he tried to send me back to the lift entrance. I had to explain to him that I bought a ticket to climb to the top! Finally, I was let in. I have been working out regularly and thought I was in good shape, but the climb was pretty tough, tougher than I thought it would be. When you reach the top, you traverse along the roof and then reach a second staircase where you get to the very top.

I took tons of photos. Here are some of my favorites.
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June 10, 2011

day 2 in Milano ~ Castello Sforzesco

Friday, June 3rd:
After a wonderful breakfast at my hotel, I headed out to the Castello Sforzesco, stopping in a few shops along the way. The weather was nice and sunny and warm. After walking past the Duomo, I arrived at this street with flags hanging from many countries which leads to to the Castello.

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Milan has many interesting types of public transportation. Here are a couple of types I encountered on my walk. By the end of day two, my feet really would have appreciated riding one one of these buses or trams but I did not have time to figure out the system.

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The Castello Sforzesco was very cool place to visit. After taking a few photos of the exterior...

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I decided to tour the many museums inside. The cost of the ticket, which included all museums, was I believe 6 euros. I was thrilled to find out that I would be able to take photos inside the museums. Here are a couple of my favorite rooms of the museum.

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I am going to post this now and write about the rest of my day later. Happy Friday everyone!!

June 15, 2011

the rest of day 2 in Milano

I am now in Bologna taking Italian lessons. Way behind here and not much time to catch up this week. Busy all day with lessons and homework at night.

Here is the rest of day 2 when I was in Milan...

Friday, June 3rd:
While looking out from the castle, I saw this very cool arch called Arco della Pace or Arch of Peace. It did not look that far away but ended up being quite a walk.

Here's a photo looking back towards the castle from the Arco della Pace to show the distance from the castle. Somehow the arch looked much bigger when I was in the castle than the castle looks when at the arch.

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AND here are a couple of photos of the Arco delle Pace.

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By this time, I was pretty hungry but I did not want to stop for lunch because I wanted to make sure to find the place where Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper was located. For some reason, I thought I needed to be there 30 minutes in advance. I found it very easy to follow a map and find places in Milan. I almost stopped in a couple of restaurants along the way but continued on. When I arrived, I found out I only needed to be there 10 minutes in advance. However since it was booked for the entire day, I did not want to miss my opportunity to get in and so I found a bar (a place to eat) nearby. The food ended up being pretty bad but it filled me up.

I returned about 20 minutes before my reservation, told the man my name and got my ticket. When it was the time for my group to go in, we were let in to a hallway, where we stood and waited about 5 minutes. This hallway was cooler in temperature. Then the door opened and we were let in. The last supper was bigger than I imagined and definitely worth a visit. We were only allowed to stay in the room to view it for 15 minutes. I would have loved to stay longer. Photos of course were not allowed inside. Here is a photo of where the Last Supper or Il Cenacolo is located.

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By this time, my feet were tired from walking all day but I did not see any taxis around. I took what I thought was short cut instead of walking back towards the Duomo. I am so glad I did this because I stumbled upon this amazing Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, located on the corner of Corso Magenta and Via Luini. There were amazing frescoes covering all of the walls with a dividing wall in the middle.

By this time, my feet were tired from walking all day but I did not see any taxis around. I took what I thought was a short cut instead of walking back towards the Duomo. I am so glad I did this because I stumbled upon this amazing Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, located on the corner of Corso Magenta and Via Luini. There were amazing frescoes covering all of the walls with a dividing wall in the middle.

If you are ever in Milan, definitely plan to visit the Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. Here are a few photos:
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I continued on back to my hotel. Along the way, I came across these Roman Columns located in front of San Lorenzo Maggiore, the oldest church in Milan.
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I went inside for a peek and then continued on towards my hotel. I started seeing lots of people walking by eating gelato, turned the corner and there in front of me GROM! YUM!! I bought a gelato, walked by Rossopomodoro, a chain place that makes fabulous pizza, and finally arrived at my hotel. In the evening, the rain began. I walked back to Rossopomodoro for dinner and had a fabulous pizza, packed, and went to bed.

I did pretty well dealing with the jet lag this year, probably better than most past trips. Milan was wonderful. I am really glad I finally visited this very interesting city. I would have been happy to spend a few more days in Milan and will probably return one day.

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