Wednesday 6 May 2009

Milano - 3 days of relaxation

Hello to all my readers out there! Yeah, you, the 2 or 3 I know I have...

I know, I know, it's been like FOREVER since I last posted something but:
1. I've been busy;
2. I wasn't in the mood to write;
3. Preferred to go biking instead of sitting on my huge ass in front of the monitor;
4. I completely hate having to rearrange the text each and every time I insert a bloody photo! Because I have so many usually...

Yep, those are my main reasons for not telling you about the last two trips earlier. If you find it in your hearts to forgive and understand me, thank you. If not, so be it, you wouldn't be the last one(-s?) to hate my guts! But I tell you what: life goes on with or without you! *evil laugh*

OK, enough with the blah-blah, should get to writing about the last two cities I visited before my friend Dan arrives and we hurry to Rome, meaning I'll have another story to write! If you wonder who Dan is, your patience will be needed because I'm not disclosing anything at this time. We focus on the past now! Some might say the past is passed and I should focus on the present, but this is for blogging purposes only! :P

Haha, I'm SOOOO funny tonight! Not!

I shall start with Milano!!

It happened just like before. My new found friend and colleague - Natalia, and I were one day walking during our lunch break and talking about feeling like going somewhere else, for a short trip, just to get away from our boring, yet so complicated lives. It was just a thought... Since I'm crazy and all, the moment we got back to the office, I got on Wizzair's website and discovered that they had awesome priced tickets for trips in the following couple of weeks. I asked her if she wanted to go to Milano and she said yes! We then looked up a hotel and found a very cheap 4 star one, very close to a metro station. Everything cost around 90 EUR for each of us, quite a bargain for a 3 day trip, right? We didn't think too much and booked everything, being very excited about it all.

Next thing I did on the same day (if I remember correctly) was to convince my internet pal Joao to join us. We had never met before and talked about meeting in Rome for the 7-8 February trip, but he had other plans and gave up on Rome. Since he had a friend in Milano, it was easier to decide to come and he booked the tickets quite quickly (for him!). :P

We left on a Saturday afternoon, 14 March, and got to Milano around 5 pm, bus trip included from airport to Milano Centrale, the railway station. It took about a lifetime to get to the hotel by metro because we had many many stops in between the railway station and the one next to our hotel. But we had enough time on our hands. The plan for that evening was to meet Joao and his Italian friend, Roberto, for dinner. Believe it or not, we even had time for a bit of shopping before we met the guys. Yes, I know, shopping again! But we're girls, can you blame us? And we were in Milano! How can someone restrain themselves from shopping in Milano? Plus, there's this Italian shop I just cannot stay away from, it draws me in each time... The bad thing is that I go out with a thing or two every time too... Thank God they don't take a lot of place in my suitcase! *ahem*

As I said, we were supposed to meet Joao and Roberto for dinner and so we did. Judging by the conversations we had had and the exchanged text messages, I didn't expect Joao to be the kind of guy who'd stood me up. But then again, you never know. So until I saw him walking in our direction, followed by a guy who looked very much alike the guy Joao had sent me a photo of, I was a bit... anxious. But then I calmed down and everything went ok.

We went to the restaurant that was very very crowded. People were actually waiting outside for the others to finish and just GOOOOOOO! We were getting a bit hungry, but then the waiter invited us in. The food was good, I had a pizza I could hardly finish, different than the Roman pizza I had had back in December. Apart from the food, we had a good laugh. Both guys were very funny...

We next went to the club part of the town because Roberto knew a nice cafe called 10 Corso Como, with a nice covered terrace. It was a new part of the town or at least it looked new, with a lot of clubs and cafes, loads of people on the street, very lively. I really liked it there and I hope to have more time to properly see it next time I'm in Milano. I must admit I was also a bit stressed about getting back to our hotel when the metro didn't run anymore... But that's me, always stressing, thinking, considering... I need a life!

The next day was for sightseeing. Not that you need a lot of time to see what's really interesting in Milano, but still there are a few things not to miss. You can imagine that I DID miss a few, starting with The Last Supper because the moment we called to book places they were full. Mental note to self: next time, decide to visit Milano at least two months in advance and call for bookings! But instead of telling you about the places I haven't seen, I guess it would be better to tell you about those that I managed to see... Moving on?

Joao was supposed to join us, but since he wasn't up at the moment I texted him, we went to have breakfast and then to visit Castello Sforzesco. The castle hosts an art collection, but the most famous has to be Michelangelo's Pieta Rondanini. The marble statue is unfinished because Michelangelo died and never got the chance to take his work to the end. We couldn't see everything because the first and second floors were closed, only the ground floor was open. This means I couldn't see Tintoretto and Titian... It was unfortunate, but I always see these happenings as reasons to return to that place! ;) But the courtyard was very nice and there was a wedding of little Asian people. They might've been Japanese, but I can never say the difference... Oops! There was also a cat that I found adorable!

It was a beautiful day outside, so sunny and warm! We eventually met Joao in front of Il Duomo and we decided to go on its roof. Of course, my stupid claustrophobia was waiting just around the corner in case I wanted to take the stairs, but I didn't give it the opportunity to show its ugly face, I just took the elevator. The roof of the huge cathedral is interesting because of all the sculptures and because you can actually spend your entire day there, sun-tanning and reading a good book. It's also great for photo sessions, as you will see below... And I love the photo I took of Natalia!

From the Dome, we went through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II that connects Duomo's Piazza with the Scala Theater. The Gallery is full of shops, especially designer shops like Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, but there is also a Feltrinelli bookshop, so I stopped there to buy a book in Italian.

I was very keen on seeing Pinacoteca Brera because I had read that it contained many beautiful paintings, including Caravaggio and some paintings I knew from childhood because my parents had brought some pictures of them from Italy (by Canaletto). I have a thing for Caravaggio's paintings, I totally adore them! So you can imagine how happy I was when I saw that they had brought three more paintings from the Metropolitan in New York, the National Museum in London and one from the other Pinacoteca - Ambrosiana - in Milano. So instead of seeing only one Caravaggio - Cena in Emaus, I got to see four! Yoopee! Loads and loads of icons. Beautiful paintings by Mantegna, Tintoretto, Bramante, Raphael, Flemish painters (I also adore them!) like Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, then El Greco... Beautiful! It was really worth it!

From Pinacoteca Brera we walked back towards Scala and we managed to see the opera hall from one of the balconies. I don't even want to think what great names got up on that stage and how many of them were boo'ed by the spectators who had the music sheets and could hear any off-key note... It was interesting, indeed... In addition, we saw a display of many very old musical instruments and there was an exhibition dedicated to Herbert von Karajan.

After Scala, we parted our ways with Joao who was asked by Roberto to step in a football game because they were missing a man. We decided to meet again the following morning and spend the time we had left in Milano together. Which we did... The morning passed quickly enough, after a dress searching by Natalia. In the meantime, Joao, who was flying out from the same airport as us, decided to join us to the airport even though he would've had to wait like two hours more. We spent the last time in Milano in front of Milano Centrale, some of us dozing off in the sun... some of us getting annoyed at the timer showing how many days, hours, minutes and seconds there were still to pass until yet another Alta Velocità line, this time from Milano to Torino, would be put into operation... Yet again I remembered the "tragic" project my Italian buddies and us are stuck into... No, we will never have such things... It's like against our religion to take action... We are dreamers and get stuck into our own inability to take a f&%king decision!!!! Grrrr!

I can't say that I loved Milano, but I certainly liked it and I felt good there. I know I have to return for The Last Supper and Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, at least! I don't know when that will happen, but I have a feeling it will not take too long until I'll just decide to book the tickets and just go! It was nice meeting Joao after about a year and a half of talking over the internet about all the things in the world!

Keep close, Florence is next!

Saturday 28 February 2009

Rome - second edition

Since a few weeks have passed since my last trip to Rome, thought it'd be a good idea to write the things I can still remember before my brain decides that it's time for a quick formatting.

This time, I will not write a very long story, because most of the places I managed to see were the same as the first time I went to Rome, in December. The characters of the story are different this time, though...

So... lately I seem to take important decisions quite quickly. I don't have to think too much, I just act. And you know what? It's not bad, not bad at all. It was the same with visiting Rome the second time in such a short period. As my dear friend, Emanuela, says, CHANGE YOUR LIFE (just like that, in a second)!

The initial idea was to go to Rome for shopping. Yeah, yeah, yeah... that sounds so Mitzi-like, as some of my buddies would like to call it. Actually, it's not! Sales start in January and finish at the end of February. The things you find are of a better quality than the ones down here and the discounts are REAL! Add that to a very cheap Wizzair flight and an incredibly much discounted 4 star hotel room, it's quite a deal, I tell ya! Flight to Rome and one night in a 4 star hotel for only 90 EUR, doesn't sound too bad does it?

There were three of us in the beginning: Natalia, Leila and yours truly. But the group got to have 8 members quite quickly when Güven, Bobo, Cristina, Shtena and Denisa decided to come as well.

The weather was incredible on the first day. It kept raining in a very strange manner - 5 minutes of showers, 10-20 minutes of clear sky. It was very annoying and I wasn't feeling too good either. I tried to get over that and see as much as possible.

We started at San Paolo fuori le Mura, a church that is very famous, but couldn't see the last time. The church was built on the grave of St. Paul and inside the giant cathedral there's an altar in which you can see the chains that imprisoned him in the Mamertime Prison together with St. Peter. The chains of St. Peter's are in San Pietro in Vincoli. Very beautiful church, but not as impressive as San Giovanni in Laterano in my opinion. The only thing I liked better here was the cloister. I found it more beautiful that the one of San Giovanni.

From here we went to Piazza di Spagna and went up at Trinita dei Monti. The church is not too impressive, but the view outside it is great! We came down the Spanish Steps and continued towards Fontana di Trevi. This time I knew the good procedure for throwing coins, so I hope it still works to bring me there. :)

We hurried towards Piazza Barberini and from there we passed Palazzo Barberini on our way to Santa Maria Maggiore. We approached it from the back and this was the part I didn't get to see the last time. It's beautiful indeed, only then I realised how big the church was. I chose not to enter it this time, instead I caught my breath over a sandwich and a capuccino in the caffe across the street.

When the group was back in its original formation, we took the metro and went to San Giovanni in Laterano. I wanted to go to Scala Santa while the rest were seeing the cathedral, but to my luck it was closed for another 15 minutes. It was worth the waiting, I thought. As I was mentioning last time, you cannot go on the Holy Stairs other than on your knees. This time I felt like I needed to do it, especially because I was going through quite a stressing period. I hoped if not for something else, at least for my peace of mind. And God, I really obtained that! It's very hard to put into words what climbing Scala Santa can make you feel... I felt eliberated and revived and I was having hope again. It did me good! And I did good to take the time for it...

We continued from there towards the Colosseum, but on the way we stopped to visit San Clemente. Afterwards, the Colosseum was a must see on my list. Yes, I've seen it last time, but I didn't get too close to it. I managed to see Arco di Constantino this time which I completely ignored in December. Plus, I got to take some pretty lovely photos because the sun had made it through the dark clouds and it was setting.

We followed Via dei Fori Imperiali where Natalia used my camera to take the greatest sunset pic! We saw Il Foro Romano from outside and then went up on Campidoglio just to go to Piazza Venezia, in a park, where we froze while waiting for a friend of Cristina and Bobo's. Man, we were so tired! My feet were killing me and all I wanted to do was get into a warm comfortable bed! But the day was far from ending...

For dinner we met Emanuela and Mr. L who were nice enough to join us and to take us to a Roman restaurant near San Pietro. We had suppli, which I was really craving for, and other typical food, plus a lot of Nastro Azzuro! Yummy! We could barely walk and breathe in the end when we had to part and head towards our hotel, through another round of heavy rain, this time with small pieces of ice.

The second day, the group divided, since four of us wanted to go to San Pietro, while the other four wanted to go shopping. Fair enough, as long as we got back to the airport in time to catch our flight back home.

Sunday was a much better day than Saturday because, even though it was raining while we had breakfast, the sun won over the clouds and when we were at the Vatican, the sky was blue-blue-blue, nel blu dipinto di blu! Volaaaaare! :) We reached San Pietro's square just in time to see the pope speaking and we received his blessing. I'm not a big fan of Benedict XVI, but the feeling was awesome! We hurried then into the cathedral and yet again I was impressed by La Pieta. It was like seeing an old friend, very strange feeling. I was so happy to be there again, in front of such a beautiful masterpiece. The visit to San Pietro had its up's and down's... The center of the church was closed because there was a mass, so we couldn't rub San Pietro's foot again, nor I could take the photo I really wanted to take with the borrowed Sigma 10-20 mm lens. Very disappointing! But there's always a next time! We got to visit the tombs of the popes and it was touching to see the one of pope John Paul II, with loads of flowers and notes thrown on it by the believers. Afterwards, we decided to go up in the cupola, to enjoy the view... All well, we took the elevator and got ready for the 320 steps to climb to the top. I mentioned earlier that I was going through a pretty stressing period, so my old friend called "panic attack" managed to show its ugly teeth while there were still 100 steps to climb. I got claustrophobic all of a sudden and I only wanted to get out of the narrow corridor as soon as possible. Luckily, there were bars at the windows, otherwise... you never know what way to get out of there I would've chosen. Maaaan, horrible feeling! I don't recommend it, really! Fortunately, Leila was there for me and I managed to get to the top. I really thank her for being there, REALLY REALLY! She was of huge help. The view was great, just amazing, but... we had to go back down... through similar corridors... and there were a lot of people in front of us, also trying to go back down... For the ones who don't know (and I hope you never do), when you're having a claustrophobic attack, you need to see that the way in front of you is clear. So a bunch of people, looking like they're stuck into the corridor, doesn't help!!! By the mercy of God and the speed of my feet, I managed to go downstairs and I was incredibly happy when this adventure ended.

We looked at our watches and realised there was still time to have something to eat and maybe see Castel Sant'Angelo from outside. Word of advice: even though the view of San Pietro is breath-taking, DO NOT STOP to eat on Via della Conciliazione! We nearly fainted when we saw the bill, but... oh well... that's life, we learn from our (big!) mistakes.

We did get to see the Castel and the bridge Sant'Angelo, took a few photos and ran to the metro station. We managed to miss two of the buses that were going to take us to the airport, but we got there eventually in due time.

All these being said... I CANNOT WAIT TO GET BACK TO ROME AGAIN! It's unfair how there are so many things to see. And I bought this book and nearly started to cry when I realised that there are tons of other places to see, more Cosmati floors for me to walk on and enjoy, gardens, palazzos, many, many things. Maybe I should just move to Rome... Hmm... Not a bad idea, it would just simplify everything. And I would actually respect the Italian people and what they would be offering me. I would respect their traditions and their privacy.

Don't know when I'll be back to Rome for visiting. I am flying to Rome though to go to Florence for Easter. That will be so nice! Especially because Mr. C will accompany me and we're going to see loads of mesmerising places! But Easter is still like 2 months ahead. Until then, Milano in 2 weeks! Another case of checking the Internet and booking a ticket without thinking too much. This time there will be only Natalia and myself, but we're going to meet a friend of mine there. I think it will be a lot of fun!