Monday, June 2, 2014

The Last Supper, the Duomo, Teatro alla Scala ... and Klimt?

I arrived in Milan from Verona just as the sun was setting on Saturday, March 29th. My goal when I disembarked the train was to get to  my hostel, check in, do research so that I could get the most out of the next 24 hours, and get a good night's sleep. After getting WiFi in the train station to find the directions to the hostel, I went to purchase the appropriate metro ticket. I located the machine and perfectly understood how to retrieve my ticket; although, a man who lived across the kiosk insisted on helping me to my annoyance. He was trying to instruct me in Italian what buttons to push on the screen even though I told him that I didn't need help. The ticket cost one euro and fifty cents, and the only coin I had was a two euro coin. I put in the two euro coin, and as soon as the fifty cents in change came down, he snatched it. He begged me to give it to him for his "help". I gave a quick nod and smile and went on my way. Arguing with a smelly, pushy, homeless man was the last thing I needed to do.

My hostel, The Monastery Hostel, was a block from the Turati metro stop, which was a wonderful location. The man at the desk when I walked in mistook me for Italian (I loved when that happened). We had a lovely conversation about what to do in Milan, I checked in, and went up to my room. A girl was having a phone conversation in French when I unlocked the door. It turned out that she grew up in Paris and was studying photography at a university. We bonded over some talk about digital cameras and my admiration for a pair of red t-strap heels she had just purchased that day. The French girl was leaving the next morning, so she gave me her two maps and advice on where to go eat and shop. I spent the night making use of the good WiFi and made a list of sights to visit. When I researched visiting The Last Supper, all signs pointed to no because I did not make a reservation the week prior. I decided to take my chances and made it the first place to go. Getting a single ticket could not be that difficult.

I was awoken around 7am as the French girl was leaving for the train. We said our goodbyes, wished each other the best of luck, and with that I was up and out. I took the metro to the location of The Last Supper. The one thing I loved about the Milan metro was that the electronic countdowns counted down by the half minute. I was so entertained!

The Turati metro stop near my hostel
Look at the half minute!
When I made it to the street level outside of the metro station, I encountered this statue and snapped a few pictures of it.

There was lots of street art in Milan
Immediately following, a woman approached me and asked me in English if I knew where The Last Supper was located. Taking a picture of the statue must have been a tourist giveaway. She and her family had a reservation in 20 minutes to see the painting. We examined my map and started to walk in the right direction. The woman was actually from Chicago and was living in Munich. She grew up in Elgin and moved to the city after college. She was living in Germany for work now. She had an adorable son, and I met her mother, father and brother. They were visiting the brother who lived in Italy. We found The Last Supper and the family made it in time to see the painting. A sold out sign hung on the ticket desk, but I decided to ask if tickets were available anyways. I was able to purchase a ticket for 12pm! Ha! I fooled the system! I was so excited. I walked around for the next hour, had a cappuccino and a croissant, and explored the neighbourhood.

Building detail
The tree lined streets reminded me of New York
This adorable pink car pulled up when I was having my cappuccino
A vespa
Seeing The Last Supper was pretty spectacular. They take a small group of people every 15 minutes to view the painting. I was corralled into a small room, and we had to wait for the previous group to exit the room. When the room was clear, we all shuffled into another holding room. The room with the painting has precise temperature control in order to preserve it. There are two automatic doors between the first entry and the room. When we were cleared to enter, we all kind of fell and dispersed to view the painting. You enter the large room, look to your left, and there it is. It was beautiful. Ironically, I had a similar reaction as to when I entered the Sistine Chapel. Da Vinci's work had been well maintained and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience to view this. Seeing The Last Supper was the first thing that totally made Milan worthwhile. 

The next sight on my list was the Duomo di Milano. It is a beautiful cathedral, and you can pay a small fee to climb the 250 steps to the top and enjoy the architecture, the detail, and the view.  

Il Duomo di Milano
I purchased an inexpensive pass to take photos inside the cathedral
The climb was easy, and exploring the roof was a great time. You can walk around and admire the many spires and terraces. The view of Piazza del Duomo is wonderful. Although, the most interesting thing to do at the top of the Duomo is people watch the other rooftop visitors. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day in Milan, so a handful of people were relaxing and sunbathing on top of the cathedral.

The many spires on top of the Duomo
Layers upon layers - many terraces
The mixtures of old and new
People sunbathing on top of the Duomo 
The view of Piazza del Duomo
The people in the square were also interesting subjects. I snapped many pictures of children feeding the pigeons and captured the happenings in the square.

"Here. Feed the pigeons."
"Here you go!"
"Wait! Give me more!"
Looking at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazz del Duomo
Following the Duomo, I had a standing lunch consisting of a caprese sandwich, water, and a small serving of gelato. Then, I walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to the monument of Leonardo da Vinci and the Teatro alla Scala. I walked through the lobby of the theatre and I watched about 25 minutes of a stage rehearsal through a plastic screen in one of the boxes. The theatre is gorgeous, full of red velvet and gold leaf, and has been home to some of the most phenomenal performances. I also visited the museum full of props, costumes, and busts of old men.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Leonardo da Vinci Monument
I visited the Teatro alla Scala. It made me miss the stage and the theatre so much!
To top off my day, I went to the Palazzo Reale to visit the Klimt exhibit. I can never resist Gustav Klimt!

The Klimt exhibit at Palazzo Reale 
Piazza del Duomo at dusk
I had lovely encounters on my train ride back to Vienna with a Chinese businessman, an Italian-Austrian Greenpeace worker, and a young German girl. I enjoyed talking to the German girl the most. I took a couchette car, and the girl boarded the train around 11:30pm. We stayed up in our bunks talking late into the night. We talked about everything from schooling, to travel, to languages, to religion. When I told her I was Jewish, she told me that she had never met a Jew. She asked me what I thought of Germans and Austrians and if I associated all of them with the Nazi party. I was surprised by her blunt question, and I offered my personal opinion that the current generation of Germans and Austrians are not hesitant to acknowledge the atrocities of their nations' past, openly discuss parents' and grandparents' roles and views, and are a different generation. It sparked wonderful conversation, and I am so glad I met her! I returned to Vienna safe and sound. Next stop: London!

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