We are off to take a cruise through the northern Mediterranean countries (Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain) and then stay on the ship to do an Atlantic transoceanic voyage and end by disembarking a few days before Christmas in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
We were scheduled to board the ship in Venice, Italy. We decided to fly a week before the boarding in order to visit Milan, Italy and adjust to the time change. We have never visited this city and our traveling friends had many wonderful things to share about it.
Our flight to Italy required for us to first fly direct from Los Angeles to Istanbul, Turkey and then after a short layover fly on into Milan. The 11-hour flight to Istanbul was very tiring but just part of the adventure. It was fascinating to see all the diverse cultures inside the Istanbul airport. I'll share details in upcoming article on this unique city since we will return and visit it as one of the ports we will visit as part of the cruise.
We arrived to Milan almost at 11 pm. Thanks to some of the city's residents that were on the plane with us, they recommended and guided us to take the metro subway train inside the airport directly into the city. It fare was relatively inexpensive and took only 30-minutes.
Even though it was the middle of the night when we exited the train station I felt comfortable with the neighborhood. It was clean and well maintained. The streets were practically empty but it was well lighted and quite stylish. We caught a taxi and he informed us that our hotel was only a few minutes away. He took us directly there and again we paid the meter price. We quickly noticed how friendly and honest persons were in this city.
The hotel we reserved was in the middle of the downtown area. In the morning it was busy with many people walking and the tram running through the center of the street. The streets in the middle are paved with rock blocks so it's bumpy for the cars and specially for the many motorcycles going by. The weather was just below 60 degrees with occasional showers. I found that unique that it would be this warm given that it's mid-November and slightly north are the Alps which get snow around this time of year.
We took the one-day Hop-On Hop-Off excursion bus tour to get an overview of the city. We were delighted with what we saw. The center area of the city was a combination of late 19th Century Italian and French buildings that have been modernized. Much of the downtown area was once large factories but now the area had been modernized but still seem to maintain a sense of what Milan is known for; fashion and design of clothing and accessories.
People dress in a practical but elegantly form. There are countless stores exhibiting exclusive wardrobe for women or men. The winter clothing is quite fashionable and elegant. There are many clothing boutiques and the colors and designs are a mixture and beautiful ( Armani, Dolce, Valentino, Ferre, Prada, Versace and others and they have main offices here). Even the shoes they showcased were quite stylish. The city seems to pride itself in its display for high ended furniture and fashionable housewares.
It was entertaining to be window shopping. It was quite easy to get around the city and one can walk from one side of the city to the other in 45-minutes but there are many things to see and appreciate so it takes longer. Metro lines runs throughout the city so it's comfortable and easy to get around.
The second day we went back to the local train station to take a one-hour train ride north to Lake Como. It's a major lake that rests at the foothills of the Alps. The area of the lake is 56 square miles. The train ride ends half a block from the lake area. From there we bought tickets to take a hydroplane boat trip up to the town of Bellagio. The boat we took serves as the local bus transportation system to various towns via the lake. The majority of the businesses in Lake Como and Bellagio were closed because the tourist season ended in September and we are now in November.
As soon as you get off the train here at the lake you can see Switzerland to the west and the rest is the Italian Alps. Being that it was a clear day the view was spectacular. One of my goals in my life is to visit Switzerland. This is the second time I see it at a distance but I still have not visited it.
Somewhere in the town of Bellagio the actor George Clooney owns a villa. There we many beautiful villas near the shoreline and I could see why one would have one here. People can arrive to the lake area via small sea planes so it is accessible from Milan airport to here.
Part of the Alp Mountains above us had snow on them and the air was getting colder as the sun started to set so we returned by taking the train back to Milan.
On our third and final day here we had reservations to visit the go see the original oil wall painting by Leonardo da Vinci of "The Last Supper". It is in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It's a small and quaint church. We bought admission tickets before leaving Los Angeles. Only a few can enter the room at a time since the air in the room is monitored and controlled to preserve the painting. During WWII the church and side walls by the painting area were bombed and destroyed. Only the wall with the painting survived. When Napoleon Bonaparte's army was here the building with the painting was used as a horse stable.
From the museum we walked over about 15-minutes to the Duomo (Milan's cathedral) in the center of the city. It took around 600 years to complete. It's quite unique since it was built entirely with white marble. We went inside and also purchased a ticket to go to the roof. As one walks up toward the top one can admire the intricacy of the art put into the sides and towers. It's extensive and clearly a photographers dream spot. Look into obscure areas of the rooftop and one sees art pieces in them. It was wonderful to visit and highly recommended.
At the end of the day we sat in the plaza to have some wine and admire the Duomo building. I thought of it as more of a large and lovely art piece than a church.
The next morning we took a taxi and went to the main national train station (Milano Centrale Railway Station) to get a bullet train to Venice. This station has the trains that travel throughout Europe (not to be confused with a small train station in the city that only serves the local Milan areas) that Traveling at an average of 180 miles per hour it was a two hour ride. We took the non-stop train and it still made 5 stops.
Thus we concluded a 4-day visit of Milan. It was a beautiful Italian city that provides individualized fashion clothing to the jet set and sets world trends.