Sunday, April 2, 2017

[MILAN] Italy the Modern

I was a zombie in Lombardy. A typical one-way flight from Rome to Milan will set you back EUR 50 (~PHP 2,750) if you fly with Al Italia. From the perspective of a Southeast Asian who has seen better days as far as cheapo airlines are concerned, this is already a good deal. But then I saw an overnight bus from Baltour/Eurolines that cost no more than EUR 17 (~PHP 935). You depart from Tiburtina at 11:35 PM and arrive at Rogoredo at 06:30 AM. Good deal? I don’t really recommend it.

The roads were well-paved and the bus seats were comfy. Did I mention that it was also half empty? I was assigned seat number 4 but the driver told me I could sit wherever I wanted, and that’s what I did. For some reason, though, the ride was really bumpy and I was only able to sleep for two or three hours out of almost seven that we spent on the road. In the end I saved up on flight and accommodation expenses but I was so sleepy AF when I arrived in Milan that I almost dozed off at McDonalds the entire morning.

Wikitravel made it a point to defend Milan from its naysayers. It appears that many people who have been here dismissed the city as not Italian enough because it feels so modern. Most tourists suggest that you simply skip it or just stay for a couple of hours because there is nothing else to see aside from the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which are right next to each other. As for me, I don’t really know. Milan is cool. I wouldn’t mind moving here, actually. And there are a lot of Filipinos too!

Well, we are not talking about a Pinoy invasion a la Hong Kong or Brunei. In Rome, you will easily spot a Filipino or two on a daily basis. In Milan, you see or hear one at every corner. The cashier at McDonalds in front of the Duomo was Filipina, and so was half of the staff. Around 1/4 of the people eating there were also speaking Tagalog. I guess that’s one reason why I easily felt at home here. But then again, my mistake is staying here for just half a day.

Arriving at Rogoredo at half past six, I took the metro to the Duomo which has its own station. I was at the piazza by 7 AM. It was cloudy and drizzling. And there was practically no tourist there aside from me. I guess 7 AM is too early for sightseeing here in Milan. The cathedral was slightly lit so I immediately snapped a photo and a selfie before I sought refuge at McDonalds because I was too zombified to function. Welcome to Milan, sleepyhead.

I think the cashier knew that we were both Pinoys but we communicated in Italian anyway. Hey, I don’t get to speak this language as much as I want to and it’s my last day here in Italia. Might as well take advantage of the situation, right? But enough of Filipinos and zombies. What did I end up seeing? Well, hate me for this but I didn’t see anything other than the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. When my Italian friends from Xiamen arrived, they toured me around a bit.

There is a Metro exit where you'll see the façade of the cathedral as you ascend. I think that was the image of Milan that got stuck in my head. As is common in Southern Europe and Latin America, the church has a huge square in front of it, usually with some random historically significant guy on a horse as its centerpiece. And then the square will be surrounded by old and elegant looking buildings on all sides across the street. Nowadays, they are usually shops, restaurants, and cafes.

I got out of McDonalds at around 10 AM and the square was already jampacked with tourists. There was a marathon event that morning so people were kind of distracted cheering the participants, although not distracted enough to ignore the cathedral. The lines were long and there’s a security inspection to boot. As is customary for a heretic sinner like me, I decided to no longer enter the church. It looks good from the outside anyway and hey, self-preservation. Why risk burning alive inside because I’m evil, right? Amen.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is smaller than it appears to be but not any less grandiose. One of its claim to fame is being one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. Nowadays, you will see many luxury brands with shops there. If you ain’t got no money, take your broke ass home. Or you can always window shop or just admire the architecture. The glass roof which comes in the form of a dome is a sight to behold, even more so when you consider the paintings and the wall designs underneath. Shopping in style, biatch.

As for me, I opted to buy mom’s souvenir plate at one of the shops at the back of the arcade facing yet another piazza. And then I just sat down on the Duomo’s steps and walked around a bit before my friends arrived. Lunch was served at a restaurant called Signorvino which boasts a good view of the cathedral by the window. You might want to reserve a table, even more so if you are coming on a weekend. After that, we headed to Garibaldi to what they refer to as Milan’s modern area, skyscrapers and all.

Okay, maybe not as many tall buildings as we expected. Piazza Gae Aulenti looks ultramodern alright. Once you reach the top of the steps, you will see a body of water not even knee-deep. We were lucky to witness a carefree kid on rollerblades wading on the water as if he was skating on a liquid ice rink. Innovative child! The UniCredit Tower dwarfs most of the surrounding buildings while the Pirelli Tower where the Consiglio Regione Lombardia is located offers free entry on Sundays for a panoramic view.

The lines were long so we decided that it wasn’t worth it. Besides, I had to be in Bergamo by 7 PM to catch my flight back to Berlin. Cheap tickets for direct buses from Milano Centrale can be had for a meager EUR 5 (~PHP 275) and the trip doesn’t go over an hour depending on the traffic situation. And so we indulged on my last gelato snack before my Italian excursion ended. Do not go to Italy if you are staying for less than a week. You will regret it. There’s just so much to see! I’ll stay longer next time, Lombardy!

[MILAN] Italy the Modern

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