Milan

Friday 8 September 2017

Back off to Italy. We seem to go to Italy quite a lot. There are lots of places to go there!

This time somewhere different – Milan. The second largest city in Italy.

We arrived into Malpensa airport and caught a bus into the city (EUR8), we were lucky that we barely had to wait 2 minutes for the next bus. There are various different busses leaving in intervals of 10 minutes, we hadn’t bought tickets in advance – so could choose the next one leaving.

It was almost an hour to drive into the city. Firstly along the motorway, nothing to see. Then into the city. Stone buildings, all similar heights, about 5 stories. Standard Italy it seems!

We are staying in an apartment and had to go and pick up keys from an office by the station. Then walk to find it!

It was a 15 minute walk, which we turned into half an hour. Stopping to look at churches. Buildings. And get gelato. Of course. Banana with chocolate chips, and chocolate. Amazing vegan flavours here!

By the time we reached our apartment, in the area near to Porta Venezia, in a traditional apartment block set around a courtyard, it was 7pm.

And dinner time!

Surprisingly lots of vegan restaurants in Milan. And several of them less than 1 block walk from us. We decided on something a bit different – raw vegan. And it was so delicious. We had ravioli made from coconut and mango, filled with a cheezy walnut filling, in a butternut squash soup. And nachos, with a chunky tomato salsa and cashew cream. And of course tiramisu for dessert. Woah. It was all so delicious. But rather expensive.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Up early. Back to the train station.

Surprisingly in the train station we found vegan croissants! A massive surprise. I’ve never had a vegan croissant. And it was surprisingly good. Exactly like a normal one!

And then on a train to Verona.

[see Verona here – https://glitteringocean.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/verona/%5D

It wasn’t such a fun journey. Again we had nice views across Lake Garda. But I was pleased when we arrived back into Milan.

We got back into Milan around 2.20pm. And time for lunch. I had already decided where we were going for lunch – and it was a short tram ride away.

I had downloaded the Milan city transport app. This lets you buy tickets for the tram/metro/bus and then all you need to do is validate them when you are making a journey. Easy! At least easy for the tram…!

Lunch was ordered on a tablet. More a novelty than actual functionality.

We got a bowl of Thai salads (a green curry, red rice, coleslaw and a vegetable stir fry). And a big falafel with salad and potato wedges. Again was nice, but very expensive. Seems to be a common theme with food in Milan – all much more expensive than in London.

We popped into a supermarket. I love foreign supermarkets. Found some different fruits – cactus fruit and some weird spiky things that looked like huge chestnuts. Lots of soy yoghurts, vegan icecreams, plant milks. So many things i could have eaten. But we didn’t buy anything.

Then onto the metro to head down a couple of stops. Again, I validated tickets on the app. But getting the QR code to scan at the gate, nightmare. It just wouldn’t work. We stood there for ages trying to get it to work. Eventually it did – you had to have your phone the correct distance away, at the right angle. Ridiculous.

A few stops later, we arrived at the Duomo.

This gothic cathedral is made from marble, covered in 135 spires and 3400 statues, and took over 600 years to build. Construction began in 1386 and it was originally considered impossible to build. Finishing touches were applied in the 1960s.

Being September, I naively wasn’t expecting that many people. How wrong I was. The square in front of the Duomo was so busy you could barely move for people. The queues were endless. Long queues to buy tickets to go in (we bought Duomo passes, which gave access to the roof and to the inside). Then long queues to go up onto the roof. It took well over an hour by the time we were finally up.

The roof was cool. Much like the roof of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. You walk between the different areas, all separated out by the ornate pillars. We must have gone wrong somewhere and missed an alleyway, or a stairway. As we completely missed the large flat open area. We just followed the route around and were surprised when we came to the exit so quickly. I don’t know what we did wrong. So that was super disappointing.

Once we were back down again, long queues to go inside the church. There was security everywhere – scanning people and checking bags. Plus lots of police milling about on the square.

The cathedral was huge inside. Large columns lining the aisle. Long, narrow stained glass windows running along the walls. And a service was going on. But there wasn’t many attendees. We spent longer queuing than actually being inside!

Back out into the square, we tried to go into the Galleria shopping area, but it was heaving and you couldn’t move. So we gave up with that and went to find gelato, as we were pretty exhausted. I had found this shop online, they had a lot of vegan options – although disappointingly not the liquorice they had on the website.

We got hibiscus (with mint and pineapple) and pistachio. Both really good.

Then headed back to our apartment. It was just 3 metro stops (again, palavaing about with the app scanning at the gates, which is hard and takes too long). Our apartment was only one block from the Porta Venezia metro, so that was easy. It was about 6.30pm when we got back. Long tiring day!

We didn’t fancy dinner. Just popped out to get some food for breakfast (apricot soy yoghurt!) and some food for the plane (vegan burger – woah!) for tomorrow.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Today I had wanted to go to see the Last Supper painting. However, after trying for months to get tickets, we failed. And I didn’t want to spend £50-60 each on a tour to go there. So we didn’t have much of a plan.

We caught a metro along for a few stops and wandered around. Churches. Old buildings. Shops. And ended up back at the Duomo.

This time we headed inside the old galleria shopping centre.

It had been dull all morning. But now the rain had started. We sheltered in a gelato shop (very disappointing raspberry and fig gelato). And then a cafe. I wanted to try orzo (an Italian malt drink), but I was given orzo in coffee – yuck! I could barely manage a sip. I really don’t like coffee! But it gave us somewhere to sit for a while.

One thing that is immediately noticeable about Milan is the number of immigrants. They are everywhere. Particularly around the central train station – where they are gathered in groups, just sitting around and standing around. And around the Duomo where alongside just milling about they appear to be trying to scam tourists into paying for bird seed to feed the hundreds of pigeons.

I had worked out which time bus we planned to get to the airport from the Central train station – they only run every half hour to Linate airport (a different airport than what we landed at on Friday). I just checked google maps to look at how long it was likely to take, and surprised to find a quicker, cheaper local bus (EUR1.50 per journey) which left paces from where we were sat! So we decided on that instead!

We had ran out of wet weather activities, to just decided to head to the airport earlier than we needed to.

So back out into the rain, we headed to the bus stop. Which was next to an old book market.

The bus arrived within minutes. And took half an hour, out of the city, to the airport.

We were, of course, about 3 hours early for our plane. I always do this. But we had ran out of wet weather activities. And we had received warnings to arrive particularly early due to expected passport queues (which didn’t materialise!).

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