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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Milano

Italia! Che bella!

Aaron's turned 27 on October 8, which also happened to be Columbus Day weekend. I've never had Columbus Day off before - hooray for the federal government. Like we did for our trip to Munich, we took advantage of the three-day weekend and took off for Milan - and it was wonderful. The food was great, the gelato (yum) was amazing, and the immensity of the history was overwhelming.

Fact #1 you should know about me: I am very proud of my language abilities. I don't consider myself to be a person with a lot of confidence, but I know I'm good at languages. I was one of the best Italian students during my four years in college - I won every single scholarship offered by the department, I was a TA for one of the professors, and I tutored Italian, among other subjects, during my sophomore, junior, and senior years.

You'd never guess I took Italian for four years and got a minor in it from hearing me talk during that weekend. I was surprised at how much Italian I remembered and forgot. Asking for food in restaurants was more of a challenge in Milan than in Bern - never thought that would happen. (I found myself yearning for the singsongy sound of Swiss German toward the end of our weekend.) It got better, but I had the worst time with the three customs officers on the train.

Fact #2 you should know about me: I like handbags. Correction: I like luxury leather goods. During the trip, I acquired a new addition to my purse family: a black Prada handbag. Since I'm not an EU resident, I don't have to pay the VAT. Sweet, right? Well, try explaining this in very rusty Italian to three customs officers. I was quite surprised that they didn't speak English, but that's life, I suppose. He was hung up on the fact that my home address was listed in Switzerland - I think there may have been some import tax in order for me had I been a Swiss resident. All I could muster was "I'm an American diplomat" in Italian. He assured me (I hope - he spoke fast and it was hard to understand) that he would take care of the paperwork. We'll find out if he was good to his word or not if 70 euros suddenly show up as a charge on my credit card.

Anyway...

Saturday morning we arrived in Milan at 10:30 AM after a three-hour train ride from Bern. We dumped our suitcase at the luggage depository and went off to explore in the cold rain. Our first stop was the Duomo, which is conveniently located next to La Rinascente and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle. Despite the crappy weather, there were tons of people shopping and going about their business. I've never seen people dress so fashionably in my life! I was in heaven.

We decided that we weren't going to hit the sights too hard. When we went to London for our honeymoon, all we did was run around like crazy for 10 days. London was exhausting, but we wanted this trip to be low-key. We spent most of our time walking around the Duomo, Via Monte Napoleone, and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle (shopping districts), which was fine with me.

The Duomo was absolutely magnificent. Fact #3 about me: I like touching old, old monuments and artifacts. It's exciting to think of all the history that touched something that I touched. We paid the four euros each to climb the stairs up to the roof of the Duomo. (If you wanted to use the lift, it cost six euros.) My hands were probably filthy by the end of it - all I did was rub the old rocks and bricks. The trek up the stairs was worth it. The view was unbelievable.

View from the Edge of the Duomo
Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle from the Duomo
Intricate Details of the Duomo
Reaching toward Heaven
More DetailsTiny People Below
I'm on top of the Duomo!
Three Pillars
The Duomo at Night

When we managed to pull ourselves away from the Duomo and the shopping areas, we found some other interesting things.

At the Castello Sforzesco
Teatro alla Scala
Alessandro Manzoni
Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle

Okay, I cheated on that last one. That's still by the Piazza del Duomo AND it's a shopping epicenter. The shopping in Milan rocks. Two Louis Vuitton stores in one city! That's my idea of a good time. I spent quite a bit of time in there, Chanel, Burberry, Prada, and Gucci. I even had COFFEE at the Gucci store - the front of the boutique converted into a coffee shop patio! Swank.

Luxury Cappuccino

Fact #4: I always - always - take pictures of my food if I find it especially tasty-looking or impressive. I didn't take any pictures of the ridiculously delicious dinner we had on the evening of Aaron's birthday, but here's the front of the restaurant. I had the best lamb I've ever had in my life at this place. It's right nest to the British Consulate General and the Ferrari Store (which doesn't sell Ferraris, interestingly enough - just fan stuff).

Dinner at Charleston

We had a great time. One more fact - a new one, one that I didn't know about myself until this trip: I found myself being uncomfortable with the size of Milan. I've lived in big American cities my whole life (Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, D.C.). I am totally a city girl, and I've been accused of being a city girl several times in my life. After almost six months in Bern, though, I caught myself being disgusted at raw amount of graffiti, trash, and other forms of vulgarity everywhere. I was relieved to be home where things were familiar (such as it is - I still can't understand Swiss German). I loved Milan, don't get me wrong - it's just interesting how it's changed me. Who knows? Maybe I'll find myself in some giant city again and wonder how I ever got along without a car or a Louis Vuitton store. For the moment, though, Bern has definitely spoiled me. No other place will be as good.

Don't worry, I know I'll get over it fast. The next tour will definitely not be this nice.