I have to apologize to everyone who has been asking about this blog. Sorry for the delay. At long last, here it is, the end of the trip...
After Barcelona, with a 3 day stop in Montserrat - gorgeous, I hightailed it over to Milan
in order to then catch a flight the next day back to Vienna which, in turn, brought me to my flight back to the states. My time in Milano
was brief, less than 24 hours, but I tried to cram as much into it as possible. Let's review...
So I get to Milan via Easyjet (great cheapo Euro-airline by the way, I recommend it to anyone traveling light in Euroland) and, after a 1 hour bus ride, end up in the city at about 1 am.
The flight was comfortable and I sat next to a young American couple who were backpacking all over the place. Can't compete with them, they were hardcore with a tent, sleeping bags, all the fixin's. Then, on the 1 hour bus ride from the airport to Milan, I met a bunch of Brits just getting in from Cairo. Cool guys, one studied for a year at Albany. Oddest thing was that we talked the whole ride and then said our farewells only to discover that we were booked at the same hotel for the night. That worked out great bc none of us had a map and it was raining pretty steady at the time. In the end we journeyed around to find the place and I made some pretty decent friends along the way.
Next day in Milan... I attempted to see as much as humanly possible in 6 hours in Milan.
First stop, of course, is the duomo. It is basically the center of all things Milan. Religious center, metro center, plus a whole bunch of shopping around there if that's your thing. My goal(s) today: pizza. I can't, as a New Haven, CT country native of Italian blood, in good faith go to Italy, even for a short amount of time, without getting a good apizz. Before getting the pie I checked out the duomo, which was gorgeous, and then made my way over to the church housing the picture of Da Vinci's "Last Supper". Little known fact, there is a two week waiting list to see the painting. I, of course, had no such reservation. I did, however, end up checking out a really cool stationary store. Sounds corny but the guy that owned the place still made all of his wares by hand.
Leather bound books mostly. The atmosphere and the smell of the paper was phenominal. Something that, on the surface, might seem corny but in actuality is almost mesmerizing. The owner was very proud of all his work, as he should be (plus he's an Italian male, they are proud of everything they do even if it's just tying their shoe in the morning), and gave me a suggestion for a great little pizza place down the street.
So off I go to get pizza. I find this little place, Petrarca Ristaurante, which I expect to be a quick little pizzaria and no, it's a full fledged restaurant. At first glance it is out of my price range (considering my price range is from 4 euro to 4.50 euro) but I figure what the hell, you only live once, right? 40 lbs backpack and all, I go into the restaurant and enjoy a nice meal.
Excellent pizza. Gotta say though, I think that I have enjoyed pizza just as good at Lombardi's on Spring Street (www.firstpizza.com). Either way, a great meal for 10 euro.
Everything today was working out great. Timing was perfect. All I needed was to catch my 3 pm bus to the airport (1 hour ride) in order to get on my 5 pm flight back to Vienna. Well, this is where the wheels came off. Like many things in Italy, the credit card machine wasn't working at the restaurant. I had to run my tail off up to an ATM 5 blocks away in order to pull out enough cash to pay for the meal and pay any other hazards I might run into. This was something that was not planned for. I ran back to the restaurant, paid for my meal, and ran as fast as possible to the metro 8 blocks away.
.. yes, all with a hefty bag on my back, good times. I am on the metro and I realize that I cannot leave Italy without getting Concetta's nephew Antonio a t-shirt from the Italian soccer team. It would have eaten me alive if I skipped out on getting the shirt despite the time crunch I was under. So I hop off the metro back at the stop for the duomo and run to buy a kiddie sized shirt from a vendor. I pay the man his blood money and hustle back to the metro. I should make sure you all know, I don't speak or read a lick of Italian so reading signs is pretty much a crapshoot for me. I can't find the train that goes to where I need to get (Central Station - the largest train station in all of Europe, apparently) and a very kind Italian woman shows me just what I need to do.
We end up on the same metro and get to talking. She is an attorney in Italy and was very interested in the educational system for law in the U.S. Very cool acquaintance. We get to Central Station, I run as fast as possible to get to my bus... long story short, I miss the bus by seconds. Next one leaves too late to catch my flight. I gotta tell you, I was not sure what to do at this point. Logic says that, since I was already at a train station, I should go and find out when the next train to Vienna was leaving. Yeah... about that... the line was about 1.5 hours long and there was no guarantee that staying in line would get me on that train or any other train for that matter.
I get a cab. I tell the guy, "I have 70 euro.
I need to get to the airport." He says get in but the price will be higher. Well, the cabbie, yeah he is by far the slowest cabbie I have ever been involved with. It is now 4:15 and my flight leaves at 5:07. We putz around town to the point that I have to remind him that my flight leaves very soon. Long story short, we get there with 15 minutes to spare. and I am 15 euro short on the tab. He let's it slide, good man. At checkin, the lady first says no and that i missed the flight. I literally got on my hands and knees in the airport to show her how important this flight was to me. She let's me on with minutes to spare and, by the grace of God, I make my flight.
I hope that this blog post will do my story justice. Next time you see me in person, ask me to recant the tail. It is probably a better story when told live.