Sunday, May 1, 2016

Daytripping (and back) from Milan

To break up our visit to Milan in the middle, we took a local train to the town of Como Lago and got right on a two hour ferry boat to Bellagio.  The lake was a deep blue green and the surrounding hills were full of lush spring greenery, with picture perfect little villages at the bottom.  Beyond the hills we could could see the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.  After the helpful crew of the ferry took apart one of the walls on the boat to extract Trevor’s fallen iPhone(!!!!), we disembarked in Bellagio and climbed up the cobblestone steps to the streets of the village with shops and cafes.  We picked a simple place for some pizzas / salads / pasta and had a nice lunch.  Then we wandered along some streets away from the center of town along winding skinny roads with ivy covered walls and pretty homes and hotels.  The view from everywhere was lovely, especially at one point that looked out over the lake.   A shorter boat ride took us to the town of Varenna, were a short walk to us to the train back to Milan.   Back in our Brera neighborhood, we had some good modern pizzas at a bar called Dry (no, not like Drybar in NYC) and some dessert at the Milan Eataly, where they have a dozen flavors of soft-serve gelato. Eataly is HUGE, and way less crowded than the NYC location on 23rd Street, so it made us look forward even more to the opening in the Financial District this summer.

On Thursday morning, Matt and two kids had some American style breakfast at the “California Bakery” near our apartment.  At noon we showed up at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie 
to see “The Last Supper” as part of a tour with “Walks of Italy”.  Our tour guide handed out little headphones and a walkman type necklace so we could hear her easily, and took us into the church, in which viewing time was strictly limited to 15 minutes.  It was really cool to see a painting that has been so influential in the world of religion, art, and even modern mythology in person.  The tour had many more stops, so we continued to add to our daily steps as we made our way back to the Brera neighborhood and the Castello Sforzesco from Day 1 and on to the top of the Duomo.  It might have been a lot for the kids to put up with, but they were really good sports about it and we were all certainly rewarded with the views and the novelty of just standing on top of the great cathedral!  It was so cool.  We decided that if we lived in Milan, the top of the Duomo would be the place we would bring EVERY visitor!  I also liked that the tour guide told us a few things we might have not thought of ourselves and that she took us inside another church I might not have visited - the Church of San Maurizio at the Monastero Maggiore, which was a Benedictine convent in the 16th century, and we learned how most girls sent to the convent were just the second or third children in their family who would not inherit any land of their own, so were sent to the convent instead, where they still lived in relative luxury, though they would never marry.  The artwork on the walls here was colorful and beautiful.  
After the roof of the Duomo, we went to the roof of the big department store, La Rinascente to “il Bar” for some aperitivo and snacks.  Then the boys went back to the apartment and out for some Eataly pizza while Matt and I took Yamini shopping (H&M) and out for some Ramen for dinner.  It was soothing to have a nice soup after days of pizza and pasta, and the ramen noodles were on par with some of the best pasta we had been eating anyway.
On our last full day, we did all the activities Matt wanted to do.  We started with a visit to the aquarium in the nearby Parco Sempione, where the highlights were the flounder that blended in with the gravel in its tank and the turtles in the outside garden that were all trying to climb on the same slippery log to dry out in the sun.  We seriously spent a LOT of time watching these funny creatures.   Next stop was back to the Castello Sforzesco (third time) to see the very LAST work of art sculpted by Michelangelo, which was supposed to be a piĆ©ta-like sculpture for his own tomb of Jesus carrying Mary on his back, but which he did not finish before he died.  Pretty cool.   We managed to snag some amazing sandwiches at this small but VERY popular panini place called De Santis (I had salami and brie with truffle oil).  We did one detour for me, because on the first day Yamini and I took a walk I saw this giant supermarket that I wanted to visit.  I just love supermarkets in other countries.  (Got some good soap and lip balm to bring home.)  Finally, our last stop was the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, which is noted for its “artistic tombs and monuments” in Wikipedia!   It was a cool, sunny afternoon, and the cemetery was peaceful, lovely, and just the right amount of creepy all at once.

We went back to the apartment to watch the last Netflix episode of “Shadowhunters” that Yamini got us all into during the week, and then the kids stayed in for dinner and Matt and I went to a lovely place with an emphasis on Italian preparations of fish and seafood called Da Giacomo.  We had an 8:30 reservation, which was a bit late for us, but it was fun because the place was packed and the food was delish.  We shared a tartare appetizer and then had our own seafood pastas, mine with shrimp and Matt’s with lobster (though he tried to eat our neighbor’s spaghetti with lobster and mussels instead).   I had a yummy strawberry tart for dessert and we got a slice of chocolate cake from a nearby British family celebrating a birthday.  It was a nice date to end a lovely week.   We would certainly want to return to such a friendly, easy to navigate and lovely city.

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