Sylvia and her dad Mario were waiting for us - as arranged, settling us into their beautiful studio apartment and providing lots of tips and background information about the neighbourhood and the city.
Although we felt sleep deprived and plane jaded we felt too excited to rest so spent the remainder of the late afternoon wandering around the nearby streets. The main Navigli canal is only a short stroll from our apartment so that was our first stop.
The area was very quiet at this time of the day - but full of restaurants, cafes, bars, vintage and arts and design shops. Happy hour starts around 6.00pm here when it is the custom for Milanese bars to offer antipasto with all cocktails and drinks. We found a lovely old bar fronting the canal and enjoyed a bottle (yes a bottle) of a lovely (young) local Sangiovese wine served with platters of proscuitto, salami, formaggio and flat bread. The all male wait staff were a joy to watch, so precise and correct in everything they did - very much a performance.... mixing cocktails and balancing glasses and platters.
We found a little pizza bar close by and made our dinner a shared slice of woodfired pizza which Rob enjoyed standing up, with a bottle of birra, at a little counter in the shop (alongside the other men - yes it was a manly sort of place).
The pizza was so wonderfully good he ordered another slice to take away - for dessert.
Our first morning in Milano today dawned cold and drizzly (10oC max predicted). This was the view from our apartment's front window - South.
and this is the view Northwards. We tried to imagine how it was 61 years ago when Mario was born here in his family's apartment..since converted into 2 apartments, one of which is ours for the next four days. It is very quiet here but once we're out of the courtyard Via Vigevano is buzzy and enticing.
We're having a leisurely day as tourists today and working with the jet lag and the less than ideal weather. We decide to take the option of walking up to the Duomo (it's only about 2 klms to the North) via Corso Colombo, Corso Genova, Coso Correnti and Via Torino (although it's all the one street really). It's an easy walk, great for window shopping although the shops are full of SUMMER clothes and shoes. People are dressed in every shade of black, grey and brown today - puffy coats and boots are everywhere (and duelling umbrellas). The buildings all have the patina of age and history and character but there is so much graffitti too!
Milan's Duomo in the Piazza del Duomo, is a breathtaking sight even on this grey and drizzly day. The Cathedral has a long history, taking nearly 6 centuries to complete, and showing styles and decoration from each of those centuries (an awful failure as a building as Oscar Wilde described it). Napoleon was crowned king of Italy at the Duomo in the early 1800s.
We'll try to do a tour of the Duomo while we're here (and climb up to the rooftop and enjoy the view like Alfred, Lord Tennyson did) but not today. It's too wet!
The Piazza del Duomo is lined by beautiful old arcaded gallerias to the South and to the North.
But the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle ii to the North is the one everyone is attracted to. It is the oldest shopping mall in Italy, built between 1865 and 1877. Today, the galleria is filled with tourists - which must be a bit annoying for the staff of Prada and the other luxury brands that fill the place. The mosaic tiled floor is quite beautiful. In the central mosaic there is a depiction of the bull from the Turin Coat of Arms. The tradition is that if a person puts its right heel on the bull's (well endowed) genitals and turns 3 times this will bring good luck. We watched all sorts of unlikely people trying to do this. Needless to say the mosaic floor is very worn down on this part of the bull's anatomy.
We walked further North, past the famous Teatro alla Scala and eventually on to Via Manzoni, Milan's main shopping street, and then on to Via Montenapoleone and the "Quadrangle of Fashion" - home of Italian haute couture: Armani, Dolce & Gabbano, Roberto Cavalli, Valentino, Versace, Zegna etc...yes streets and streets of them - great window shopping for me.
I know that Jimmy Choo is definitely not Italian - but I took this pic for Jody anyway.
We turned back Southwards to find a place for lunch, striking gold at this little crowded bistro on Via Torino. We were directed to the cellar by a rather terrifying Milanese madam and spent the next hour in this warm ancient place, crowded with well dressed and talkative Milanese corporate types eating the most sublime tasting panini and birra. Everything tastes so good here!