Well, so much for that plan. I had intended on doing some blogging in Istanbul, but the hostel I was in did not have a public computer terminal and I was too busy to use an internet cafe. Currently I´m in Madrid, Spain, though I leave for Seville tomorrow. This post will detail the first city in the Italian leg of my journey, Milan.
The train from Nice, France, took me to the Italian border and the coastal town of Ventimiglia. Last time I was in Europe I had to stop there for an hour or so, and this time was the same. I had a one hour layover before the next train to Milan, so, like last time, I walked through the town to the beach and stayed there for a little while before returning to the station. Ventimiglia is a rather dull town with nothing notable about it and it appeared to not have changed a bit since my list time there. From the rocky beach you can see the French Riviera, and wonder why you´re here and not there. Thankfully it was only an hour before the next train, so I didn´t have to spend much time in Ventimiglia before getting out. The train to Milan stopped in Genoa and a few other towns, though nothing I saw out the window grabbed my attention.
Upon arrival in Milan I checked into my hostel, which was conveniently close to the train station. Normally I stay in places closer to the city sights, but in this case I was only passing through Milan so a place by the train station made more sense. After settling in I walked down to the area around the duomo (cathedral) and got a few photos of Milan at night. Next to the duomo is large shopping center, built back during the fascist days, which has a bull mosaic on the floor. People like to spin around on the mosaic, with their heel on the bull´s testicles, for good luck. Last time I was in Milan I was an overachiever and jumped and stomped on the bull before doing a Micheal Jackson-esque spin. My logic was that if just gently spinning on the bull mosaic draws out good luck, then forcefully doing it should gain me even more good luck. I had hoped to repeat my experience from three years ago, but was disappointed to see that the bull mosaic on the floor had been altered, for the worse. Now there was a depression in the floor which made spinning around much harder and made repeating my antics impossible. I did a “regular” spin on the bull, but it didn´t feel anywhere as good as three years ago. After looking around some more, I returned to the hostel and went to bed.
The following day I had a few hours before my train departed, so I returned to the duomo area. The plan was to largely repeat the sightseeing schedule from my last visit to Milan, which was also limited to just a few hours. I went into the duomo, which was free last time but now costs €2. Inside I noticed that they had removed the massive paintings that had been hanging between the columns three years ago. On one hand this made the inside seem larger, but the old look was more distinct. A lot of gothic churches have similar interiors, and I always appreciate ones that try to stand out. There was also a mass going on when I visited, so the area around the altar was blocked off to visitors. Exiting the church, I went around the side and ascended up to the roof. Last time I was in Milan it was cold, gray, and raining, so my view from up there was limited. This time is was just cold and gray, so I could see further, though still not as far as a clear day. While walking around the roof and the church exterior I could see the progress being made on cleaning the stone on the outside of the church. Hundreds of years of exposure to the weather has dirtied the exterior of the church, but the city is in the process of scrubbing the whole church and the cleaned stone is a vibrant bright manila color. I imagine it will take at least a year or two to clean the entire outside of the church, given how large the Milan duomo is. If I remember right, it is the fourth largest church in the world, but I could be wrong about that. When I was done with the duomo I went over to the Duomo Museum, since entry to the duomo also covered that, but being Monday, I found it was closed until 2:00pm and I would be gone before then. To finish up my short time in Milan I walked through town towards the Sforza Castel and checked out the area before catching the metro back to the hostel. There I got my backpack and then I went to the train station for my train to Vernazza. My time in Milan was largely a repeat of my visit three years ago, with a few differences. One of these days I´ll stop in Milan for more than just a short stay and see more of the city, but for these last two times it has just been a stopover city on my way to other places.
With that we have finally broken into Italy. Next in line for blogging is my time in the Cinque Terre, aka the Italian Riviera.