We woke up early in Genova to hop on a train to Milano. Early for us and most backpackers means 5 or 6 am. When you want to see the most you can in cities and/or hit many cities in one day, it is smart to wake up early and hit the trains so you can be in your next destination by 8 or 9. Have I mentioned how much I love the trains?! They are peaceful and relaxing, and you would be surprised how much you can actually sight see out of the window of a train. Our train ride up the western Italian coast was absolutely beautiful. La Spezia, Cinque Terre, and Genova were beautiful cities connected by stunning countryside and rocky coastlines. The reason we chose not to spend much time sight-seeing in Genova is because it is just like Cinque Terre, but larger and definitely not as beautiful. We stayed the night there, our first night in a hostel, so we were able to see a bit of the city in both the evening and the morning before taking of on the train. It was about a 2 hour train ride to Milano, and it was as absolutely beautiful the entire journey!
When we arrived in Milan the first thing we did, as always, is seek out a good bakery and eat some breakfast. I have eaten more gelato and pastries in my time in Italy than I have in my entire life! My healthy eating habits have kind of been thrown out the window since I have been in Europe…
For those of you who don’t know, Milan is one of the top fashion capitals of the world. Between here, New York, and Paris, the world derives its tasteful and sometimes not so tasteful fashion sense. The minute we got of the train and touched foot into the Milano Centrale station I knew I was stomping in expensive territory. The train station in Milan has got to be one of the grandest in the world, and once you step outside the station all you see is block after block of designer shopping stores. Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Guess, Gucci, etc… The amount of money put into the buildings and displays within the stores is absolutely ridiculous, and so is the price tags on everything in the stores. Prada had a small white suitcase in it’s front window that was 2200 Euros or about $3000. No thanks! I think I will spend my money actually traveling the world.
Although Milan is expensive, I am a woman and I love to shop…so I could not leave the fashion capital of the world without buying something! My favorite store in the states, H&M, is a store originating from the United Kingdom and located all throughout Europe. As we walked through the shopping district we asked two young Italian girls if there was one near our location, and BAM…!! as we turned the corner there were the giant letters H&M. I could spend hours in that store, and the fact that it was in Europe and in Milano made my shopping experience even more dreamy. I purchased two pairs of shoes, which actually I really needed after both my shoes giving out on me yesterday. Teal high tops and black flats…the basics in any wardrobe, right? It felt so good to walk the streets of Milan in new comfortable shoes. My Toms were done for, and sadly I threw them away with my gladiator shoes as well…both had reached the end of their days.
I did not fit in at all with the men in black suits and scarves and the women in tight pencil skirts and stilettos…as I my sweaters and giant black backpack around the city. Opps… sorry for the bad representation America, but a backpacker gotta do what a backpacker gotta do.
Besides all the beautiful shopping centers and stores, Milan is known for it’s beautiful Cathedral…the Duomo that sits in the center of town and is ALWAYS swarmed with pigeons and packed with people. It is a pretty neat sight to see such a giant and magnificent building tower over the surrounding squares and streets full of people. It really makes you feel small and vulnerable. I loved this cathedral, it has probably been my favorite cathedral when judged by it’s exterior design. Everything about it is so intricate and well done, it really is amazing. A unique characteristic about Duomo Piazza, the square on which the Duomo sits, is that the pigeons and the people play together. There are vendors everywhere walking around "giving" you seeds, in which they expect you to pay for once you take them… The moment you extend your hand, pigeons from all sides of you will come flying at you. They land on your head, arms, hands, and may even fly into your body before they find a place to perch. During the time I walked around the Duomo, I can count at least 7 instances when a bird almost flew into me… They are crazy, crazy birds.
“an intricate and exquisite cathedral that boasts utter creativity and brilliance in every aspect of design. It is located in Milan and is a must see on everyone’s Italian itinerary.”
A lot of people will tell you that it is not worth it to stop in Milan because it is just another big city. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Milan and found several reasons why it is a stop that you should put on your itinerary to Italy. The Duomo, for one, is absolutely stunning. I would go to Milan just to see this building alone, and that is saying a lot after having been to Rome, Florence, and many other great cities in Italy. The downtown shopping center is incredible, and although you may not be able to afford anything (as was my case), walking through the stores and window shopping is an experience all in itself. I guarantee you will be blown away by how many Lamborghini, Porches, Mercedes, etc… there are in clothing stores. Like I say…these people know how to catch people’s attention, not only with their clothing and brand. A fun game we played was guessing how many people we walked by were models. It is actually a lot easier than you think…just look for the tall, skinny, serious people walking in the most outrageous clothing you have ever seen. It is quite fun, and you see a lot more than you think you would in such a big city…
From milan we headed to Verona, where Shakespeare set the scene for Romeo and Juliet. By this time we were so tired and we had no idea where to even start from the train station so we took a quick peek outside the station and boarded once again for Padova, a quant little city right outside of Venice. Here we found our way to Jason Coles home, a YSA member in Padova who offered to let us stay with himself and his family. We were so tired that after spending adequate time on the Internet (which is hard to come by if you don’t have a phone, or an Italian electronic device) we retired early to bed to prepare for a full day in Venice the following day.
I am so excited to see Venice, it is one of my top destinations on this trip!