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Italy for the New Year {Milan-Day 1}

Buon giorno!  I left on December 28th for a trip to Italy.  First stop was Milan, then Florence, Venice, and then back to Milan.  Today's post is about Day 1 in Milan.  But let me back up a little...

I wasn't planning a New Year's trip anywhere.  Then on Election Day, I saw a tweet about cheap airfare to Italy.  I always click these tweets when the flights are from DFW, but usually the dates don't work for me to travel, so I can go on about my business.  But on this day, the dates were for just after Christmas.  I went ahead and immediately booked the flight on Expedia since they have a 24 hour cancellation policy.  I went to court, then to school to teach a couple of classes, and then spent the rest of the afternoon seeing if it was truly workable (could I afford hotels, trains, find a Lola sitter, etc.).  And it was!  

Honestly, I didn't have high expectations for Milan.  I was going there strictly because that is where the cheap flight was taking me.
Just an aside: some people backpack through Europe, I DO NOT. 
My cheap flight left DFW at 9:45 a.m. on 12/28 and flew to JFK in New York.  I had a 4 hour layover during which I enjoyed some Shake Shack, a movie on my iPad, and made some work calls (boo!).
Then I arrived in Milan's Malpensa Airport just before 8:00 a.m. on 12/29.  I hadn't slept more than a couple of hours on the plane, but I never let that slow me down.  You can be tired at home!  I was able to clear customs quickly at that time of day, and make my way to the Malpensa Express train.  It took about 50 minutes, but I arrived at the Milano Centrale train station at about 9:00 a.m.
 Milano Centrale is a site to see itself.  It is a fascist built (1931) train station and it looks the part. 
I could have taken the Metro form Milano Centrale, but with the bags, I hopped in a taxi to my hotel instead.  My hotel (more on that at the end of the post for those interested) was able to check me in early, so I showered quickly and headed out.  My hotel was conveniently right by a Metro stop, so I bought a 24 hour metro pass for €4.50 and headed to the Duomo stop.  When you walk out of the underground station, this is what you see...
Oh Milano!  You had me at this view!
The Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
I decided to get tickets to the Duomo first.  Oops, should have pre-ordered! 
The line was LONG, but it didn't take too much time to get through it.  I bought a combo ticket to the inside of the cathedral and to go to the roof.
The details everywhere were stunning.
This Duomo is the 4th largest church in Europe.  There are 52 of these 100 ft. tall pillars.  Rick Steves describes them as "sequoia size pillars" and boy are they ever.  Simply amazing.  It was built to hold 40,000 worshippers, which was the entire population of Milan when the construction began.

I always adore the floors!










 This is the St. Bartolomeo Statue... a 16th century statue of an apostle and martyr skinned alive by the Romans (yikes).  This was carved by a student of Leonardo da Vinci, and apparently was a study in human anatomy which was learned by dissection, which was forbidden by the Church at that time.
 Behind the main alter, there are several of these windows that are beautiful, but it was hard to get a great pic.
After I exited the Duomo, I went to go get in line for the elevator to the roof.  I walked along the Christmas market and admired their wares.




It was well past lunch, and I had not eaten all day, so I grabbed a sweet and a bottle of water to eat while I stood in line.
So hungry I forgot to take a pic before biting into it!
This is the outside of one of those large windows I mentioned that are behind the main alter.
 The Duomo in Milan lets you go to the rooftop and walk along the spires.  You can climb stairs, or for a few more Euros, take an elevator most of the way up.  I did the elevator route.
 It really was remarkable.
 All of the detail isn't even visible from the ground, but every inch is beautiful.






After coming down, I went to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  This glass domed arcade opened in 1877.





I was amazed and wondered if I had died and gone to Heaven.  I'm pretty sure malls in Heaven would look like this.
I went back out to the Piazza del Duomo and took some pics...
 Hello pretty pink building!
I decided I needed some fuel to get through the rest of the afternoon and evening!
This Coke Zero was much needed...
and I ate my panini with a great view.


Next, I took the metro Castello Sforzesco



 This was a common site around all the "important stuff" in Milan and Florence.  Lots of heavily armed military.  
 After I looked around the Castle, I decided to walk to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  I wanted to pick up my tickets for the 6:45 p.m. showing of The Last Supper.  These next pics, are various things I saw along that walk.



 Lots of Christmas lights on almost every street.
 This is the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie...

 You have to purchase tickets way in advance, and since I booked the trip less than two months out, I was lucky to get tickets to the last showing of the day.  They allow a maximum of 30 people in at a time and only for 15 minute increments.

I went back to the hotel to rest for about an hour before heading out to see The Last Supper.  This is the street in front of my hotel.

 I took the Metro back to the closest stop to the church and then walked a few blocks.
 The Last Supper is a fresco by Leonardo da Vinci.  da Vinci was commissioned to paint this fresco on the wall of a Dominican monastery dining hall around 1495.  The church was bombed in World War II, but miraculously, The Last Supper survived.
 The wall opposite The Last Supper contains this painting of the Crucifixion by Giovanni Dunato da Montorfano
 Me viewing The Last Supper
After my viewing, I headed back to my hotel to call it a night.  

I stayed at the Carlyle Brera Hotel for my first night in Milan.  

More on the hotel situation for this trip:  That afternoon in November when I decided that I could make the trip to Italy work, I quickly booked hotels blindly using Hotwire.  I didn't do tons of research like normal.  I just selected the area of the city where I wanted to stay, and went for the 3 1/2 to 4 star hotels that had decent reviews.  For the most part, they were all pretty good.  No Four Seasons this trip, but I wasn't planning on this trip, and wanted to basically pay for everything up front, and not charge a dime.  
Because I was going on the cheap(ish), I booked singles at all of the hotels.  This generally means that you stay in an oversized closet, but since I only sleep in the rooms, that's more than fine.
My only complaints were about the showers.  I'm not sure if this was single room problem, or an Italian bathroom problem, but the showers were all so tiny.  In this particular room's shower, I literally turned the shower off with my elbow every time I tried to move!
Oh and the best thing is that this hotel has a bar/pastry place.  They make this while you watch and customize it (thus my chocolate and pistachio cannoli).  Yum!

Ciao!
Thanks for reading.
Stay tuned for Day 2 where I travel to Firenze (Florence)...

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