Both Chris and myself have always wanted to visit Italy so there was no end to our excitement when we packed our bags a few weeks ago and headed out for 13 days of exploring. Coming from Edinburgh, Milan was the easiest and most economical entry into the county so that was the first stop on our Italian Adventure (also known as “The quest to find out how much gelato two humans can possibly consume”). We only spent about 24 hours in the city but we crammed in as much food and art and architecture as humanely possible.
After arriving by bus into the city center we hunted down our lovely hotel, dropped off our bags and immediately set out to explore. We made our way to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest and arguably most beautiful shopping center in the world. The whole place is a testament to extravagance, from the intricately tiled floors to the painted and gilded ceilings. A veritable who’s who of Italian fashion design fills the storefronts while snapping tourists and impossibly good-looking locals meander through the embellished hallways. Immediately outside the shopping complex we were greeted by the Duomo in all its gothic glory. At this point it was nightfall, and seeing the marble marvel towering in the moonlight was nothing short of extraordinary. A sparse square meant no competing tourists, and we were able to admire the five towering bronze doors with great attention. With our rumbling stomachs beckoning, we tore ourselves away to hunt down some food, found in the form of margherita pizza and risotto Milanese, a delicious saffron and butter concoction. After dinner, chocolate gelato with all the fixings was deemed mandatory, and eagerly devoured as we made our way back to the hotel.
The next morning we checked out of our hotel, put our bags in storage and picked up some cappuccino and pastry as we returned again to the Duomo. Being the zealous sightseers that we tend to be, Chris and I arrived at the entry before they’d even opened the ticket booth. As such, we were the first ones up the few hundred stairs and arrived onto the rooftop before the bells had even rung 9. The cathedral is the 5th largest in the world and construction on the gothic beast began in 1396, although it didn’t finish until nearly 6 centuries later. I could go on about the actual building itself for pages and pages (which I’m sure will be a running theme throughout these Italy posts) but let me just say that it really is something to behold with reverence. A ticket allows you to climb to the top and wander along the rooftop, admiring the sky scraping sculptures dotted around the entire cathedral. Each vista seems to bring something new and even more exciting to look at, and the intricate details carved into every inch of marble are almost impossibly delicate. The inside of the Duomo was no less spectacular and a true testament to Italian Catholic extravagance.
Included in the price of the Duomo ticket was entry to the cathedral museum, a nice addition that took a bit of the sting away from the 15-euro entry fee. We didn’t know what to expect but were very pleasantly surprised when the museum turned out to be a fascinating display of extra sculptures, graphics explaining the construction of the cathedral, and an incredible scale model of the Duomo itself. At this point it was lunch and almost time for us to catch our train, so we hunted down Luini’s, a takeaway place that came highly recommended. What followed was an eager picnic of a variety of savoury doughnuts filled with hot pockets of mozzarella and ham and spicy sausage and spinach, and finished with plenty of fig and honey pastries for dessert. Properly stuffed and pleased as punch, we meandered back towards our hotel, picked up our bags and were on the train before you could say arrivederci.