We had to rush to our train departing Nice because our laundry had run late but so was our train so we made it for the 5 hour journey to Milano. Although I have been to Italy before, I hadn’t previously visited Milan and I was surprised by the beautiful train station we arrived at since the Florence and Rome train stations are nothing like that.
We got another beautiful surprise after taking the metro to our Airbnb stop. As soon as we walked out of the metro we were greeted with a fantastic view of the Duomo. Since we got in late our only goal was to get dinner and given that we were in Italy it was a 2 ½ hour affair with 4 courses, wine, and limoncello.
The next morning we got up early so that Drew could get to the airport. His mother, who we lovingly call Ace, arrived on time and there were no issues getting her back to the apartment and settled in. In the afternoon we went on a 3-hour tour. Our original plan was just to see the Last Supper but the local tour guides buy up all the tickets so you have to book tours through them. In the end I think we really enjoyed seeing a bit of Milan. The tour started at the Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie which is the plaza outside of the church of Santa Maria of the Graces. The church is connected to a convent where monks and nuns lived and where the Last Supper is painted in the dining hall. She started the tour by giving us some history about the church, which was built with the typical Milanese brick, triangle (or hat like) roof, and circular round tower in the back. The convent was bombed in World War II and so the Last Supper was damaged but luckily it was restored.
We also learned Leonardo di Vinci did not paint the Last Supper in the typical fresco style so it is deteriorating faster and requires climate control. Part of the climate control is going through little chambers where they won’t open the next door until the last door is closed. At one point the tour guide was yelling at a woman to hurry up because she was going to get locked in and unable to see the masterpiece. Drew turned to me and said ‘please tell me that isn’t my mom’. Unfortunately it was, so now she has a new nickname – ‘Quarantine Ace!’ Leonardo’s masterpiece was well worth the ordeal though and 15 minutes (which is the max you can view it for) definitely was not enough time.
The tour continued by tram to the Duomo, which took over 600 years to build! It also has all the saints decorating it and they add new ones when new saints are named so they say that the cathedral is never finished. Right next to the Duomo is the oldest mall in the world, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and it is quite stunning. It is home to the bar Campari (where the bitter, and in my opinion disgusting liquor was first invented) and Europe’s only 7 star hotel. It costs 15,000 Euro a night to stay at the hotel and somehow both Michelle and Barack Obama have stayed there on separate occasions (I wonder who footed the bill?).
On the other side of the mall from the Duomo is the famous Milano Opera house and a nice statue of Leonardo di Vinci. From there we hopped back on a tram and road it to the Milan Castle. Although the main tower was damaged, it has since been restored and the rest of the castle was spared. Unlike many of the other castles we’ve been to, this one was located on a plain instead of a hill, which made it much harder to defend. To mitigate this, they built several rows of think walls, a moat, and underground tunnels to move troops through so they could attack enemies from behind, as well as from, the castle. Now the castle is a museum housing works of art.
Our tour ended with a free appertivo, which we enjoyed before heading to an amazing dinner at a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb. Our dinner began with a welcome beverage of Prosecco and progressed in typical Italian fashion. Our starters were homemade burrata with prosciutto and spicy marinara mussels. Our pasta course options were fettuccine and shrimp in a white wine sauce and unique anise style pasta with beef. Our secondi course consisted of pork tenderloin with a berry sauce and prawns in rock salt all paired with delicious wine. For dessert we shared a trio of tiramisu – one traditional, one coconut, and berry. We each chose a different digestive to end the meal – Ace’s was the best – a green apple grappa.