September 17th, 2008 – by: Stevie_Wes
A final farewell glance and another perfect morning view of the Matterhorn for The Sunshine Kid ;D
I head from Zermatt to Milan by train and am booked into another Hostel International (HI) here owing to a lack of will to bother finding anything else. I gather affordable hostels in Milan are not so easy to come by anyway. A tube ride out of the centre gets me there and I have to say this place is a reeeeeal step down in the quality of Hostel Internationals that I have been used to in Switzerland where for 20 Euros you get a good building, great spacious(ish) clean facilities, a GOOD breakfast and even a cracking 4 course dinner included! I won’t bother with a review for ya (and I forgot to take any snaps anyway) but trust me this place is busy and loud and has really poor toilets’n’ showers and other facilities. Surprisingly it’s extremely popular as well (owing to the city I guess) so advance bookings are almost always required.
A pleasant girl called Edwina from Melbourne, Australia books in at the same time as me. I dump my stuff in the very vulnerable lockers they provide and head into town for it is afternoon already.
The spectacular Duomo cathedral, Milan.
Straight to the heart of the city and the Piazza Duomo (Cathedral) where the stunning infinitely-spired Milan Duomo sits in all its grandeur. Truly one of the most fascinating works of architecture that I have seen on my journey so far! One slight spoiler is that consequent to ongoing restoration works the authorities bizarrely have allowed some corporate firm to plaster huuuuuge adverts on each side of the main entrance for the time being?! Inside the cathedral is a vast, many-columned space and despite the size and amount of windows, extremely dark and moody indeed.
Some fabulous statuary reside within is chapels and naves but the dimness of natural and artificial light actually render a lot of them quite indestinguishable to the eyes.
Duomo Statuary (there are over 3,000 on its exterior alone!)
Outside in the square be warned that if you are not a fan of pigeons you will not fare well here! There are more pigeons per square inch of atmosphere in this square than there are air molecules. There are pigeons upon pigeons upon pigeons. This place makes Trafalgar Square back home in London look like a pigeon-free zone I tell ya! They swarm everywhere! And be warned (and I was lucky having ever so briefly skimmed this bit of info in my Guide) you will be approached many times by scammers holding out their hands and offering you palms full of birdseed or corn.
This is to attract the plague of pigeons to you for which rather rank privilege you are expected to be happy at such a photo opportunity and pay up on the spot. I’m told they will even drop the seed, unbeknownst to you into your open pockets whilst you take photos etc to start things off! Cotton-thread weavers abound also (akin to my friend Caramac from Paris) and “sorry, no” is not always lightly taken for an answer. One man even throws a set of threads on to my shoulder, the implication clear that ‘to touch is to buy’ and it takes me sometime to politely but firmly encourage him to take them back off my shoulder.
In the Duomo, Milan.
Off Duomo Plaza is the famous high-society retail walkway Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle, one of the famous café and high couture shopping strips in Milan filled with happy, wealthy people, tourists and wallet-traumatisingly immaculate and enticing window displays.
At the far end of this retail promenade can be found La Scala opera house. Here I am happy to bump into Edwina again (or rather she bumps into me... remember? the gal from the HI) and we spend the rest of the evening mooching around town together. A real pleasant easy-to-get-along-with gal who’s been travelling back and forth around Europe for some months. We go into an über-plush Milanese chocolate boutique and nervously choose one, JUST one chocolate truffle each, “1 euro, 1 chocolate madam”…phew! Not too bank-busting. I joke that these chocs offer the largest carbon-footprint for the smallest amount of pleasure I’ve ever come across as each measly little choc is individually and meticulously wrapped first in pattern-printed cellophane with closing tape, then decorative branded tissue paper and then placed lovingly within little stylish black paper carry bags with handles. I mean c’mon guys! Really.
Entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II
We wander around town not really knowing (or caring) what we’re looking at. Edwina is a self-confessed shop-a-holic so we also get sucked into H&M for a distracting amount of time before heading on. Yeah, I know. You're in Milan, the mecca for all things fashionable and high-couture and you still end up in HM Samuels :) I recall she was labouring under a rather large travel-case on wheels when we both trundled into the HI earlier and she confesses to travelling with 7 pairs of shoes (!!!) amongst other items I just couldn’t even contemplate adding to my backpack. She apparently buys clothes nearly wherever she goes and has even had to ship bulk back to Oz already! We find a pleasant place to sit by a large canal and have drinks and a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet tapas dinner for 8 Euros. Not bad.
After this we stroll around the canal area and I have the first of what will become a dangerously addictive quantity of Italian gelati (singular : gelato - ice cream) during my time in Italy. The rumours are ALL true. Nobody (in my experience) makes ice cream this good aaaanywhere else! I manage to drip fat droplets of dark, thick fudge-chocolate flavour gelato on my nice, still relatively new Gore-tex trek trainers. “Oh well!”
Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II.
We head back to the HI, Edwina starts to tear her hair out at the astonishingly poor internet access they have at the Milan HI (true) and reiterates that there is NO way on earth she’s going anywhere near the frankly icky shower cubicles that are on offer in this rather gross venue.
Sensible lady, for I have already braved them…but thankfully lived to tell the tale. It just means she has to endure endless predictable taunts of “smelly girl” from me for the time we are in each others company.
I’m on a top bunk tonight and this thing feels dangerously fragile! It rocks violently from side-to-side when you climb into it or roll over. Heaving away from the wall but collapsing back towards it precariously. It’s going to be an interesting night’s sleep. I can tell.