Saturday, March 28, 2015

La Dolce Vita in Lombardy - My memorable travels to Milan, Lake Como and Bellagio

Milan - Vittorio Emmanuele mallIn Milan, Mijo and I saw Da Vinci's Last Supper and we were in awe. For me, it is one of the must-see masterpieces.

Milan also has more to offer like beautiful churches, grand shopping arcades and more masterpieces. I enjoyed our stay in Milan!

Urban and chic. Those were my first impressions of Milan.
The train ride from Venice to Milan was a little over two hours on a Frecciabianca train. The Frecce are  high speed trains of Trenitalia.

It was a little intimidating after getting off the train and to see Milano Centrale station for the first time. Lots of people walking. Everyone was wearing black outerwear and carrying something designer. I've never been to a busy train station this big with this many stylish people. I said to myself, this is Milan and I had a feeling that I was going to like this city.
Milan - Centrale 

 First things first. We got a Milan map and figured out how to get to the hotel. Like the other great cities of Europe, Milan has excellent public transportation. Apparently, the hotel was just a station away from Centrale on the Yellow line. In any case, we decided to walk it. We found the Crowne Plaza hotel right away.
Milan - Milan subway


After checking in, we took the Yellow line to Duomo station to get to the Piazza del Duomo.  If you look at the Milan map, the piazza is in the middle of the city. The area is also central to everything. The other attractions are close by like the La Scala theatre and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II mall.
Milan - Duomo

We probably went to this place many times. The Duomo is the Milan Cathedral. It is like a big party everytime we are here. This is probably every tourists' first stop in Milan. Lots of people taking picture of the Duomo and the pigeons. The Duomo I get, the pigeons I don't. In fact, I avoided the pigeons. There were vendors passing out seeds to feed the pigeons. I assumed it is for a small fee but I avoided them since I was avoiding the pigeons.

Here are the pictures from those several trips we made to this piazza.
Milan - Piazza del Duomo 
Milan - Piazza del Duomo night 

We didn't go inside the Duomo until our second day in Milan. The Duomo is as grand and massive in the inside as it is in the outside. I noticed the stained glass windows right away. There are so many of them and this is why the church is well lit. Rich hues of blue, red and green. They are so nice to look at.
Milan - Duomo center columns Milan - Duomo stained glass 

The church offers a guided tour but we were pressed for time. I would have loved to have gone to the tour and maybe attend a service.  Maybe, next time?
Milan - Duomo praying Milan - Duomo floor Milan - Duomo columns Milan - Duomo altar

 Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

For those of you who enjoy shopping or even window shopping, this mall is the mothership. It is probably the most beautiful shopping mall I've strolled through. Very chic. Even if you are not planning to shop, a walk through this galleria is worth it. I've learned that this is where the first Prada store opened.

I had to use my iPhone camera's pano option to capture the massive galleria and allow three sides of it to be seen. If you look up, there is a fresco on top of each of the four buildings making up the galleria. These paintings represent the four major continents of the world.
Milan - Vittorio Emmanuele mall

The galleria is home to a huge Prada store, a Gucci store and several other named brands plus caffes and restaurants.
Milan - Vittorio Emmanuele Fratelli Prada Milan - Vittorio Emmanuele Campari 

The marble floor is very stylish as well. On the center octagonal, there are four mosaic emblems one for each of Italy's four major cities - Milan, Rome, Florence and Turin. Milan's mosaic symbol contains a bull. I saw several people stump their heel on the bull's balls and turn around. I learned that it is a tradition that is believed to bring good luck. You cannot miss this part of the floor because there is a hole big enough to fit a tennis ball.
Milan - Vittorio Emmanuele bull 

Feeling stylish ourselves, Mijo and I took a break and had coffee at Gucci Caffe. The coffee was good and the service was friendly. For me, this was a uniquely Milanese experience. I even brought a box of Gucci chocolates. Next to our table, was a group of friends speaking in Tagalog. I was elated and turned around and smiled at them. They are Filipinos based in Milan and they are all very stylish and friendly. They tried to make short conversations in Tagalog and this was my cue to ask them my 'Milan site seeing questions'.
Milan - Gucci Caffe coffee Milan - Gucci Caffe coffee Milan - Gucci Caffe cafe

 Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

This is what we came to Milan for. I've heard so many names used to refer to this. Cenacolo Vinciano, Il Cenacolo, L'Ultima Cena, Last Supper, etc. This masterpiece is actually painted on a wall very much like a fresco but I learned it is not considered a fresco because of the technique Da Vinci used to paint it. 

I was in awe the entire fifteen minutes of staring at it. I was telling myself, "Imagine, this guy from a small town outside Manila is in Milan and face to face with another masterpiece?"
Milan - Santa Maria delle Grazie Last Supper

It is housed in a chuch called Santa Maria delle Grazie. The painting is huge and it covers an entire wall of the dining hall in the church. The painting looks very grainy. We were told that this is so because of the methods used to paint the masterpiece plus environmental factors. In fact, the church makes sure that a small batch of people every 15 minutes go inside to see the masterpiece. We were even made to wait in a room that takes humidity and normalizes our temperatures before we go inside. However, I don't know how much of this is true.
Milan - Santa Maria delle Grazie 

Taking pictures is not allowed. They are very strict about it. Since we went inside in small batches, it very difficult to steal a shot. I bought a fridge magnet so that I have something to take away from this experience.
Milan - Last Supper merchandise Milan - Last Supper info

 La Scala

Here are pictures of La Scala theater and museum. Unfortunately, we didn't go see a performance since we didn't bring nice clothes with us.
Milan - La Scala theatre
Milan - La Scala museo Milan - La Scala sign Milan - La Scala tenor Milan - La Scala soprano

Pinacoteca Di Brera

We were able to see lots of great masterpieces at the Brera. We took the subway and got off at Montenapoleone station. The museum is about 5 minute walk from the station.
 Milan - Pinacoteca di Brera

Our favorites are the following:

This huge painting called St. Mark Preaching by Gentile Bellini.
Milan - Pinacoteca di Brera Preach Gentile Bellini 

Madonna con Il Bambino by Niccolo Pissano.
Milan - Pinacoteca di Brera Madonna Niccolo Pisano 

Fiumanna by Giuseppe Pellizza.
Milan - Pinacoteca di Brera Human Flood Pelliza 

Il Bacio by Francesco Hayez.
Milan - Pinacoteca Brera Kiss Hayez


Montenapoleone is like Milan's Rodeo Drive.
Here are some of my favorite Montenapoleone views.

We had not originally planned to have lunch at the Emporio Armani Caffe. We heard about it but we were not looking for it. Mijo and I got off the train at Montenapoleone to go to the Acqua di Parma store to check out some fragrances. We chanced upon the Caffe when we got out of the subway station.
Milan - Armani Caffe sign

Since we were there already, we checked out the menu and decided we can break for lunch. The Caffe is located inside the Armani Megastore. The caffe looked crowded from the outside but we got seated right away when we asked for a table for two. The food was good and the service excellent. 
Milan - Armani Caffe symbol Milan - Armani Caffe entrance Milan - Armani Caffe dining Milan - Armani Caffe bar

We walked around the neighborhood and saw lots of stores including the Versace store. I read about this location in the biographical book about Gianni Versace. I also noticed there are artsy plaques on the pavement of the sidewalk.
Milan - Via Montenapoleone art Valentino Milan - Via Montenapoleone Versace 

Finally, we found the Acqua di Parma store and we were helped by the most professional and friendly staff.
Milan - Via Montenapoleone Acqua di Parma

Corso Como

On our second day in Milan, our self-walking tours led us to a place where it seems like Milan's financial district. There were several skyscrapers nearby and lots of people coming out of the building for a noon time break. 
Milan - Piazza Gae Aulenti

We found this store called 10 Corso Como. The place is a designers' haven. 
Milan - 10 Corso Como

My background is in Information Technology and I design systems so I absolutely appreciate a good design whether it is graphic, interior, clothing, accessory, or structural.
Milan - 10 Corso Como store Milan - 10 Corso Como interior Milan - 10 Corso Como bag  

We grabbed a quick lunch and then walked around some more and there was just so many good things about this place. I wish we could have lingered and checked out some more stores but time is of the essence.
Milan - Corso Como Milan - Corso Como Porta Garibaldi Milan - Corso Como Camicissima

 Streets of Milan

From Corso Como, we reached a fortress looking structure called Castello Sforzesco. The place is huge. I learned that the place was constructed by one of the richest families in Milan, the Visconti,  during the 15th century. I was told they were kind of like the Medicis of Florence.
Milan - Castello Sforzesco frame Milan - Castello Sforzesco inside 

Walking further along Via Dante, we reached the center of the city and saw more Milan city scenes.
Milan - Via Vittorio Emmanuele Milan - Via Dante Milan - Expo

Lake Como, Bellagio and Varenna

We learned that Lake Como is only an hour away from Milan by train. The forecast that day was rain all day but Mijo and I decided to take our chances since we only had one more day in Italy. We hopped on the train from Milano Centrale and bought ticket to go to a town called Varenna.

We got to Varenna before 10am. 
Lake Como - Varenna station

From Varenna, we took a ferry going to Bellagio. The ferry ride took 15 minutes from Varenna to Bellagio. The town looked so picturesque from afar. I can just imagine the scenery during summer months.
Lake Como - Bellagio by the lake

Aside from the 10 or so tourists walking around town, Bellagio looked empty. There were four things going against us. It was on a Sunday, it was really early, it was raining and it was still winter. Nevertheless, Mijo and I still enjoyed our serene time walking around Bellagio and enjoying the beauty of the Lake during winter time.
Lake Como - Bellagio lakesideLake Como - Bellagio underpass Lake Como - Bellagio stairs Lake Como - Bellagio lakeside town Lake Como - Bellagio Hotel sign Lake Como - Bellagio Giovanni Mason sculpture Lake Como - Bellagio church

We took the ferry back from Bellagio to Varenna. Our train back to Milan is scheduled to arrive in an hour so we decided to check out the town of Varenna. It is as pretty as Bellagio with picturesque views of the lake side and the towns across the Lake.  
Lake Como - Varenna tunnel Lake Como - Varenna lakeside Lake Como - Varenna house cliff Lake Como - Varenna balcony Lake Como - Bellagio Limonera

 Food and Wine

Here are pictures of the food that we enjoyed eating in Milan.

My favorite chocolate souvenirs from Milan. The Gucci chocolates. Aren't they pretty? I bought this for Mijo.

Milan - Gucci Caffe chocolates
We found a Pernigotti store at the Milano Centrale. I only brought a small pack for us and another one for my officemates. The chocolates have hints of hazelnut. I should have bought more.
Milan - Pernigotti nocciolato nero  

These are called Panzerotti from Luini. The place is near the Duomo.
It is savory and the dough tastes like a salty donut dough and filled with delicious Italian style fillings.
Milan - Luini Pazerotti fritti tomato cheese Milan - Luini Panzerotti 

This grilled panini has simple filling yet very tasty.
Milan - Corso Como Focaccia 

Here is what we ordered at the Emporio Armani Caffe. 
Good food, great service and good ambiance! Of course, the pasta is perfection. Mijo ordered Ceazar Salad. The salad dressing is equally
Milan - Armani Caffe salad Milan - Armani Caffe prosecco Milan - Armani Caffe pasta 

We were walking around near the Castello Sforsezco and we found this bakery packed with people. It is called Van Bol and Feste. We ordered this Zepolle with Americano.
Milan - Van Bol Feste Zeppole 

We had happy hour at a place on Via Dante called Caffe Dante. The deal is you only pay for the drinks and it includes a buffet of finger foods. Caffe Dante also serves tasty gelatos and sorbets.
Milan - Cafe Dante happy hour Milan - Cafe Dante gelato 

While waiting for our train in Varenna to go back to Milan, Mijo and I had a quick snack of small pastries and espresso.
Lake Como - Coffee

I liked Milan. Coming from a small town in the Philippines, I tend to like and enjoy big cities. Milan is not only a big city but it has a lot more to offer.

Grazie e ci vediamo, Milan!



Timeless Confection said...

Grabeh! Feeling namin tuloy parang nakapunta na kami dyan. Such great photos and write-up! Galing! :)

Roland L. said...

Thanks, Kaye! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure, you will see it in person as well and will surely write about it. :)