Train from Milan to Varenna & Lake Como
After an early start and a morning of travel from Edinburgh to Milan, punctuated with an obligatory 10am something-or-other (a bloody mary) and a g&t or two on the flight, we were settled, checked in, and bags dropped off ready to go exploring. The middle of Milan seems to be organised in a set of concentric ring roads; our hotel is a basic-but-pleasant little place on
one of them, so we found a spoke and strolled in, loosely in the direction of the duomo.
It’s a beautiful city in its own way – long boulevards with similar but never identical/matching buildings; all a few stories high with balconies haphazardly scattered about. Then half those balconies have some various greenery or other tumbling over them. There’s an oldish feel to everything – bnot especially run-down or dirty, but everything seems to have the collective grime of 130-odd year old buildings in a bustling city. It’s not got the ancient grandeur of Rome, but there is maybe something faintly Venetian about the buildings of Milan – if you can imagine Venice without the canals!
As we moved further into the centre Milan’s big industry became abundantly clear. Every single shop was [what I’m told is] high fashion. There were a decent number of brands with multiple shops, but there was also just the sheer variety that filled the square-mile or so around the cathedral and main square with a mind-boggling [numbing?] selection of ways to buy branded crap.
As we closed in on the Milan Duomo and the centre, we found a little street cafe in a small
piazza and decided it looked like a good spot for a beer. Now I’ve drunk a few beers in a couple of corners of the world in my time, but here we were served up what was basically a wine bottle, turned upside down and then filled with beer. I was impressed.
After we’d worked our way through these (and the complementary giant bowl of crisps) we headed further into Milan, through a gloriously huge and fancy shopping centre (the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel) and out into the larger piazza and the Duomo. It’s quite stunning from the front (it’s huge!) so we decided it was well worth a trip inside. You can just go in for a couple of euros, but for about 10 more, you can get a lift up on to the roof and have a bit of a wander through the buttresses – and get an amazing view across Milan. After a bit of confusion over where to get tickets, we headed for the queue at the front door.
Now, knowing that we were heading for the cathedral, Lotte had brought a scarf/shawl to wear to cover her shoulders. For some reason though, one (of the three) ticket inspectors decided that half of the back of her knee showing would be disrespectful. While she went through a palaver of re-arranging the shawl to cover almost shoulder to toe, all manner of
other women – equally dressed for the 37 degree day – were let through with just shoulders covered. Eventually one of the inspectors colleagues pointed out he was being ridiculous (I
assume, my Italian is as good as most of my other languages), and we were finally allowed in.
The inside of the Milan Duomo was grand, but I’m not sure if it was as spectacular as other cathedrals of that kind of size. Really though, it was the view from the top that made it so impressive. You climb out to a view through the arches of the flying buttresses, before going up to the very top of the main roof. From here you can across pretty much the whole of Milan. Across countless terraced and gardened rooftops, out to the skyscrapers in the distant financial district.
Eventually we clambered down the stairs, found a beer in the piazza and then headed for food at Liumi’s. Apparently it’s a local institution of Panzerotti – essentially unsweetened doughnut dough, filled with cheese, tomato and
ham (the one I got) or various other savoury or sweet fillings. They go for about two euros each and look like Cornish Pasties, but the pastry is so light and
fluffy that they’re just epically divine!
A couple of panzerotti did just the job (eaten, naturally, standing in the street) and then we headed back to the hotel. It was an early-ish night after a very early travel day start to get to Milan, and the next day we wanted to be fresh and ready to head up to Lake Como.