Friday, September 27, 2013

To do in Milano

While sitting on the stairs of the Duomo in Milan waiting for a friend to get off work, a guy seated next to me struck up a conversation. In our five minute exchange he mentioned he was staying in the city for ten days. What he would do to fill up the week and a half in Milan was beyond me, especially since I had seen most everything in one day. The four days I was spending in the city would have been too long, had I not been visiting Anna. But even then, I supplemented it with a day trip away. So I thought, and thought, about what there is to do in Milan and this is what I came up with:

Go inside the Duomo. It may not be the most spectacular Italian Cathedral you've ever been inside, but it's beautiful. There's even an option to walk along the roof, which is quite a treat since the outside of the building is near the top of the list of most spectacular Italian Cathedrals.

Shop. Shop on all the streets behind the Duomo, along with all the ones leading towards the castle. And if you're there during sale season, unless you're a backpacker trying to get by on $15 a day, you can even do more than just try on the clothes.

After walking towards the castle on your shopping extravaganza, visit the castle. Not that it's very exciting, but you really don't have much else to visit, so you might as well take a peek.

Check out Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. You may never have had a yearning desire to see it, but go.  Tours are given daily, in 15 minute intervals. Reservations must be made in advance, but you could be lucky by showing up the day of and stand in line behind a lady who asks if there have been any cancellations, even though signs dotted around the visitors room say all tickets for the day are sold out. The person behind the counter may tell the lady there happen to be a few openings available. That's when you pipe up and ask if you can be squeezed in too.  The wall sized painting (not a fresco) will blow your otherwise blasé perspective of the painting out of the water. Reproductions can't give it justice.

Laugh at the rain. Laugh at it because the droplets are so large and so spread apart you can avoid every one that falls. That is, laugh until you must run and hide yourself against a building when the rain gods of Milano grow angry of your mocking and send water gushing down like a waterfall for hours, adding in giant balls of hail for emphasis. Just pray that the shop owner near the window you're squeezed up against waves you inside to wait it out.

And when you can't wait any longer for the rain to subside, make a mad dash for the California Bakery where you can have a nice cup of herbal tea and some of the best cake you've had in a long time while you dry off.

Also... don't miss the Italian Happy Hour. Bars all over the city offer a free buffet from 5-9pm with the order of one drink (alcoholic or non).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Romeo, O Romeo...

Verona Italy. The setting Shakespeare used for his iconic love story.

With a large wall surrounding its medieval and renaissance  architecture, bordered alongside a winding crisp blue river overlooked by village topped hills, it would have been hard to choose a more beautiful location.

Hoards of tourists flock to the city in search of the location where Romeo proclaims: "But soft, what light from yonder window breaks?" And the city has made provisions for them to find it. During the day, Casa di Giulietta is overrun with Shakespeare enthusiasts. Teenage girls rush up to the balcony that was added to a random house in 1936 to attract tourists. Men touch the right breast of a full size statue of Juliet in the courtyard. It's said to bring good luck, although it's not likely luck is their reason.

All along the entryway are love notes, wishes and other letters to Juliet scrawled in any available space. Plastered to the wall directly across from the balcony is chewing gum, once said to be fashioned into the shape of hearts but are now only a collage of blobs. The final tokens of love are locked to the wall next to Juliet's statue - the keys no where to be found.

Not being one who has ever been fond of his literature, I only went to the house to take pictures. (The best time to go is early morning to avoid the crowds, I later discovered).

My purpose in visiting Verona, though, was for an entirely different love story. An Egyptian one written in the city 100 years ago, played during my stay in the open Roman amphitheater... making Aida trump Romeo and Juliet any day. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

unplanned detour

The plan was to stay in the Tuscany region, with a short venture to Milan visiting a friend. Instead, thanks to a (very) last minute piece of information, I took a 1 o'clock in the morning bus from Pisa to Florence, a 4 AM train to Bologna, and 6 AM train to Venice where I took my final train at 9 AM to Trieste in order to meet up with a friend who's trip home just happened to coincide with my trip.

Near Venice, Trieste is a non-touristy port town located on the Slovenian border. So close to the border, in fact, that as Giulia's mom drove us around, we weaved in and out of the country multiple times.

Why so few venture as far as Venice, but don't take the added trip to Trieste is beyond me.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mambo Italiano

My plan was to leave Europe at the beginning of the summer. Figuring the amount of time I've lived there, I wanted to start exploring Asia early.

But when my mom interjects, plans are usually foiled.

"Why are you leaving before the summer is over? Europe in the summer is the best," she would say.

As I would explain my position, she would eloquently respond, "Yeah, but... yeah, but..." or try laying on the guilt with "Don't you love your mother? Don't you want to spend more time with her?"

I'd be on my guard by that point, as you must be to fight off the fiery darts of manipulation. But I just wasn't ready for what she spewed out next...

"Hey Claire, do you want to go to the Andrea Bocelli concert in Tuscany with me?"

She had done the research. She knew the date, the cheap flight, and was able to get the time off. And she knew I wanted to see him at his open air concert in Tuscany for a few years, although never made it a priority. This time I had no reason not to.

So I stayed a few weeks longer, and made my way to Italy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

a now untainted view...

Clock Tower
the John Lennon Wall
Charles Bridge
Krusta Bakery, home of the greatest star-shaped, donut-esq gingerbread ever
center square