I often joke that Cheryl hired me as her assistant and then immediately quit her job. It’s only kind of true, but the cool part is that we became good friends rather than just having an employee/boss relationship. Our place at the beach is just a few miles from hers. Together, we’ve ridden bikes all over the place, enjoyed lots of live music, welcomed full moons with beach picnics, and so much more. Big D and I were regular Jacksonville Jaguars tailgaters with her husband Dave and his fun gang for a couple of seasons.
I was thrilled when Cheryl e-malied to say she’d be in Europe for a conference and Dave would join her for a vacation at its conclusion. We met in Milan last weekend and had a great time.
It’s sad that I am occasionally unimpressed by churches and cathedrals since we’ve been here two years and have visited so many. But the Duomo was unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s 525 x 300 feet, has more than 2,000 statues inside and was built to hold 40,000 people. It’s understandable that it took more almost 500 years to construct!
After lunch and touring the interior (there’s a red light up high that indicates a spot where a nail from the cross of Jesus is kept), we paid to ride the tiny elevator to the roof, where I expected to walk around the perimeter. Curiously, tourists can explore almost the entire roof, not just the edges. We joked about being “above the church.”
The detail on every square inch of the building is amazing. And for scale, note the crowd of people on the lower left of this photo:
All of that touring was exhausting. We stopped for refreshments. Often.
The Piazza is Milan’s main square and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is a four story glass arcade at one of its sides. We visited a Bar Zucca, which was a hangout for opera composer Giuseppe Verdi and conductor Arturo Toscanini. My dad would have loved that I had a drink there.
Bar Zucca is the birthplace of Campari, and Zucca is their signature drink. Who would ever imagine that I finally found a drink that I do. not. like. Not one single bit. They were pretty, but awful. Neither Dave nor I could finish and we moved to wine pretty quickly.
After all of those drinks, we found the mosaic on the floor featuring Milan’s city symbol: the bull. For good luck, we followed local tradition and spun around on his testicles. Yep, you read that right. Sadly, my videos of our spins were taken sideways and I can’t figure out how to rotate them. But it was funny, you’ll just have to trust me.
Saturday morning we explored the Fiera de Sinigallia flea market in the rain. I wish I’d snapped some photos, but with my umbrella in one hand and purchases in the other… Cheryl bought fun gifts for folks back home and I bought some sweaters. Dave got a much needed, fancy umbrella.
Our hotel was near the Centrale Train Station and we became expert metro riders. The station was beautiful, and like tons of things in Europe, it’s covered with scaffolding which really screwed up photo opportunities.
We were heading to the city center for a bus tour and to hit a museum but were distracted by a delicious caprese salad, more wine and a trip to Peck Gourmet Deli.
Peck has a lunchroom, pastry and gelato shops upstairs, a gourmet grocery on the main level, and an enoteca wine cellar in the basement. We had some wine (of course) and did a lot of shopping. We may or may not have been (okay, we were) there four hours! There was so much to see, taste, and buy! I’m not sure we ever figured out their confusing system of selecting items at each counter and leaving them there, paying for them separately, and then going around to retrieve them, but I am pretty sure I couldn’t have carried one more thing in my luggage. So if I left something behind, it’s all good. Someday when we open those bottles of wine wine, fancy capers, or pasta sauce (and lots of other stuff I brought home) I’ll smile and think about our fun-filled day.
We rounded out our adventures together with dinner at a restaurant walking distance from our hotel where we had excellent pizza. And perhaps my favorite part of the trip was chatting in Dave & Cheryl’s room late at night.
They headed to the airport early Sunday morning and I found my way to Santa Maria delle Grazie – the Holy Mother of Grace church, where I waited for my 9:45 appointment with Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. (Photography is not permitted inside.)
After passing through a series of air locks, we arrived in a big, vacant (except for about 10 benches) whitewashed room. I’m glad I did a little art history homework before the trip, and I paid €3 for an audio guide which explained a lot. I expected the experience to be similar to touring the Sistine Chapel, but thankfully, it was quite different. To minimize the humidity problem, only 25 tourists enter at a time, for exactly 15 minutes. So, it was far from crowded. Everyone was respectful – I don’t think I even heard anybody whisper. People took seats on the benches and without speaking, somehow everyone filtered from their seat to the front a few at a time, so we each had a chance to ponder its magnificence with nothing else in our view but the fresco itself.
I was overwhelmed to be in the presence of something so… historical? important? beautiful? I don’t know how to describe it. But, yes, similar a lot of expereinces (the aforementioned chapel, the coliseum, my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, etc.) you guessed it: I cried. Things like this seem so big to me and make me feel so small. Which seems somehow right.
Okay! Enough pondering!
I spent the rest of the day wandering around the Piazza. I had lunch atop the seven story La Rinascente department store, on Ristorante Maio’s terrace, which had fantastic views of the Duomo. On my way out, I spotted a swanky mozzarella bar and wished I’d eaten there, but my lunch was great despite the fact I don’t like dining alone.
I wandered through the stores, including the Gap (because, hello! a bit of ‘home’!) and Louis Vuitton. And I intended to visit the oldest museum in Milan which has a very impressive collection, but it was sunny and in the 70°s and I didn’t want to be inside. Instead I walked to the Sforza Castle, which looked great, but I ran out of energy before I toured it. Maybe I’ll go back?
I still can’t believe I get to have adventures like this. And I would have never guessed that I’d be lucky enough to have them with good friends like Cheryl & Dave. More pictures from Milan are on my Flickr page.
Grazie per un grande momento, a Milano!