Thursday, May 03, 2012

Wizzing Off to Milan

The last time we were in Milan was 2004, so we were overdue to return. Having booked the shuttle online yesterday, all we needed to do was pack. There is little of that too these days, with carry-on limited to 10 kg (22 lbs) and dimensions that would keep a small dog carrier off of the flight. The alternative being paying a hearty sum for checking a suitcase, not to mention the humiliation of being the only one who is standing at the destination watching the conveyor belt go-around and around.

Once in Milan, we had previously booked the Wizzair shuttle to take us to the central station. There are a half a dozen options once you arrive, and they are all about the same price. Though it didn't save us anything financially, it did provide the convenience of having it paid for our airport round-trip. Our hotel was Hotel Stazione, almost directly across the street from the massive and exquisite main station.

This turned out to be an excellent choice. Not only was it convenient, but the staff members were exceptionally friendly. Each time we walked in, we felt like we were returning to old friends. The room was expansive with a double and single bed. The bathroom would have been more than adequate had there been three of us.

Bags dumped, we were ready to explore. The first place on the list was to revisit the Duomo, the largest Gothic cathedral and the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world. The first building were erected by St. Ambrose in the 5th century. We chose not to spend our time going in since we have been here before. We were in search of something new, but to find it you have to gasp at all that is old, but so fabulous you cannot resist gawking each time you see it.

We found this church that was supposed to have incredible art work. For someone who is a non-believer, I find myself in places of worship so often. It makes sense really, since the early church and those with wealth sponsored religious art. If you want to see outstanding craftsmanship, head to a old church. 

Ron had found a 'budget' restaurant that he wanted to test called Antica Hostaria della Lanterna. When we found it, they were closed. It seems to be the custom for restaurants to close around 2:30 pm and then reopen around 6:30 or later. This one was not going to reopen until 8:15 pm, a rather odd time. The hook in the review was that a little old lady ran the place doing the cooking. It was a fixed menu, so menus to choose items off. She presented her list of the day's specials. She did let us in long enough to reserve a table for 8:15. 

We had plenty of time to walk around, going to parks and spending time in other churches. Food was the number one thing on my mind. I wanted to chow down on good Italian treats. In the meantime, we found a friendly pub with outdoor seating. Along with our beer, we received a large platter of 'nibbles' consisting of what would be a cross between calzone and pizza. Delicious pieces of pizza dough had chunks of zucchini with tomato sauce, pepperoni and cheese, or prosciutto with cheese. As we filled our faces, we kept saying "We are not going to be hungry for dinner."

One church, Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (try saying that 3 times fast) had portraits comparable with some of the great masters, so we went there. The best art was tucked into a separate area behind the main area of worship. To see all of the photos from this day, go to my photo blog here and look for May 3rd.

After walking and standing for hours of viewing, we found a little park where one section was designated for dogs. They seemed to have taken over; there were dogs and their human pets roaming two-thirds of the entire area. Watching small and large breeds interacting, playing peacefully was entertaining.

We made it back to the restaurant at exactly 8:15 pm, the second couple to arrive. The grandma-like lady offered wine. We ordered a 1/2 liter. It was Chianti, nothing special, but a throwback to my childhood. Offerings for the first platter were different types of pasta. We both chose gnocchi. Choices then were for what sauce we wanted. We both jumped on the Gorgonzola option. The gnocchi was startlingly fresh. You could still hear the potatoes screaming for mercy, but they were strangely cubed. Neither the pasta nor the sauce was too flavorful regardless of our attempts to be people pleasing to this nice old lady.

Second dishes were meat courses. I had the beef 'stew' and Ron had veal. My beef was sliced beef roast, while Ron's were cutlets. Each was served with cubed potatoes. The entrees were flavorful, but the reappearance of a potato  in a different guise was disappointing. By passing the third course, which would have been the salad, we rolled out of there 55 Euros lighter. So much for budget restaurants. Surprisingly, the place was filled with large groups of Italians, which makes sense. There is no English spoken there. The couple who arrived minutes before we did were French; they asked us for assistance with menu items. How pathetic is that?

Tomorrow is Brescia.

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