Hello again! I've been having a writing block, but I don't want to let that stop me from documenting my adventures.
My flight to Milan was hindered by delays, but I still made it in good time. The plane began it's descent over the Alps, which looked huge and impressive even from high up in the plane. The snowy mountains were deceptive, though; one of my first impressions of Milan was how hot it is. The heat was a bit of a shocker after wintry Oslo. I didn't mind at all because I was thrilled to be back in Italy and enjoyed a 45 minute train ride through the countryside into town.
I walked to my hostel and my second impression was that someone really went to town on the graffiti, like the most I've ever seen in one city. Oslo had graffiti, but Milan feels dirtier, older, and less organized. I love it. My hostel is located at the entrance of a charming alleyway. It was clear from the moment I walked in that this is probably the best hostel I'll experience on my trip. The ground floor is an inviting common area with dining tables and a bar. My room is spacious and vibrantly colored. There's a kitchen upstairs, a living room with instruments downstairs, and small terraces facing quiet Italian homes on a couple floors. Just about everything a traveler would need is here, and a lot of it is free. I have no complaints about the hostel itself. The only downside I've experienced is that I'm staying in eight person rooms because most rooms were booked by the time I made my reservation, and people are coming in, turning on lights, and being noisy every hour of the night. It will be nice to stay in four person rooms again.
On my first full day in Milan, I walked to Sforza Castle. This 15th century building houses many museums with exhibits including medieval art, Egyptian artifacts, instruments, and armor. This is one of the most fun venues for a museum that I've been to. Paths between the mini museums led through passageways in the walls with tiny windows overlooking the castle grounds and through courtyards. Afterwards, it was nice to hang out in the grass by a pond where many Italians were chatting and enjoying the sun.
There is a large park directly behind the castle, and I explored that too. Many of the trees were in bloom with white, yellow, and pink flowers. A large pond in the center was home to many fish, a Great Blue Heron, and dozens of sunbathing turtles.
The following day, I met up with a couple of my mom's friends who were also in town. It was surreal and wonderful to see people I know. We walked around the Duomo area and had lunch at a restaurant in Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, a sort of open air shopping mall. I had my favorite dish, risotto nero, again. I'll probably try this everywhere I go in Italy and see which place did it best in the end. After lunch, we explored a shopping district for a bit, and then headed back to the Duomo. It's one of the largest cathedrals in the world and absolutely breathtaking in person. The building is covered with intricate carvings and spires that took hundreds of years to complete.
We took a lift to the top where you can walk outside on the terraces. Here you can get a closer look at the spires and see the Alps in the distance. The symmetry and precision of the stoneworking is amazing.
Like the ski jump, this challenged my fear of heights in a way that was exciting and not too much.
That night I went to dinner at Pizza Am, which appeared to be one of the best pizzerias in Milan on TripAdvisor. I wasn't disappointed. The staff immediately welcomed me in and gave me a small glass of white wine and a cheese/bread type appetizer for free. I ordered a Margherita pizza. The crust was super thin with just the right amount of crispiness, olive oil, and sauce. Perhaps best of all, the waiter talked to me in Italian the whole time, even though she spoke in English to the people next to me. I was so thrilled I could've cried. When I was in Rome, I always spoke in Italian with waiters but they spoke in English to me. This experience made me hope that my speaking Italian has improved. I know that my comprehension has improved and I can generally follow conversations, but my speaking is still something that gives me a lot of worries. This was a great experience, at least.
Yesterday, I tried to walk to a museum only to realize that it wasn't there and I had gotten the address confused. I was in the area near the castle park, so I walked there and sat down near Arco della Pace. The weather was pleasant and I stayed there for about an hour writing in my travel journal and drawing some of the statues on the arch. Then I walked to Via Monte Napoleone, one of the most famous fashion streets in the world. I must've looked very out of place in my simple traveling clothes. Everyone was dressed extravagantly and the displays in the windows were out of this world. This was one of the best people watching places I've been to so far.
The street ends near the Duomo, and I took this chance to go inside. It looks big from the outside but somehow seems even bigger on the inside. The light filtering in through the stained glass windows looks hazy towards the ceiling and at the other end of the room, which made it seem even more massive. Really large enclosed spaces have always made me feel queasy, kind of like reverse-claustrophobia. Looking up the ceiling made my stomach do flips. The ceilings, pillars, and complicated stained glass windows were truly impressive and I wish that I could've taken pictures.
Overall impression of Milan so far: though there aren't ruins everywhere like in Rome, it still feels old and there is plenty of history. It's a fashion capital with an emphasis on shopping, and this has been an interesting aspect to be around, even though I don't do much shopping myself. It's wonderful to be in Italy and I'm glad that I made the decision to come back here.