Today, my mouth had a religious experience.
I had the most chocolatey, melt-in-your-mouth, cone of amazingness, which is known to normal folk as dark chocolate gelato. Why the heck don’t they make this stuff back home? I wanted to order a whole carton of the stuff and bring it back with me, but as I imagined the mess that it would make in my backpack as it melted, I figured, hmm, better not.
If this is any indication of what the rest of Italy is like, I’m never leaving.
As amazing and life changing as the gelato was, the rest of the day was pretty cool, too. (Although nothing is really as amazing as chocolate. Or gelato.)
We started off at the Castello Sforzesco, home to one of the most powerful family dynasties in Italy during the Renaissance, the Sforzas. The castle and its museums were lovely, especially because they did a great job of making me feel of what living in this time period would have been like. The tour didn’t quite touch on all the scheming and blood and murder that must have come into building this fortress, but my wild imagination ran rampant. (Too much of “The Tudors” and “The Borgias” for me, I’m afraid.)
But, the best part was the feral cats that had run of the part of the castle that used to be the moat and is now just filled with wild grass. I desperately tried to figure out a way to
get down there and snatch one or two (or three or four or eight). Probably not the best idea… But that didn’t mean we couldn’t watch the kittens wrestle each other and run away. If I were a cat, I couldn’t imagine a more fun place to play than a castle. Talk about talking “The Aristocats” to a whole new level!
In the main courtyard, Clare and I got our first taste of the street peddlers who seem to refuse to take no for an answer. One guy walked up to Clare with this cheap-looking bracelet I swear I could make out of one of those arts-and-crafts kits and put it on her wrist, telling her “free gift.” (Yes, Dad, terrible grammar, I know. I cringed on your behalf.)
Next thing I knew, he had grabbed my wrist, too, and had used his nimble fingers to tie it on. He then told me I had
to pay him, but I countered telling him I hadn’t wanted the bracelet and had it forced upon me, so he could either untie the bracelet or he could walk away.
We later found out that the street peddlers do this hoping that tourists would rather pay up than cause a scene. Well, I’m not afraid to cause a scene!
All of Clare’s books had said that the only REAL absolute must-see, can’t-miss in Milan was the cathedral, so we made our way over there. Again, we got accosted by street peddlers who, on top of trying to force corn into our hands to feed the birds, were even craftier with the bracelets. When I walked past one guy, he put it on my shoulder without me realizing and then chased me down as if I had somehow walked away with his merchandise. Really? As if I would try and take a bracelet I could make myself even though you kept telling me it was “free.”
I feel like we had another close call with these street peddlers as I was taking a picture of Clare in front of the cathedral and one guy walked up to us and offered to take a picture. I’ve heard enough travel horror stories to know that probably wasn’t the smartest idea. (We’ve been getting other people who also look like tourists to take photos of us.) He seemed affronted by my refusal and asked me point-blank: “You don’t trust me?”
No, no I don’t.
Clare and I forgot to dress for the cathedral, so, at the entrance Clare was told that she couldn’t enter because her shoulders were uncovered. So, we went and got her a scarf so she could enter, only upon second entrance to be denied again because of my shorts, which fell about an inch above my knee. Because we’d already bought the only cute scarf for Clare, I was left to pick out this dark green tartan print. Let’s just say I wasn’t going to be on the cover of “Vogue” any time soon.
The ceilings and decorations of the church were magnificent, but the stained glass windows toward the apse of the church were astounding. They told different parts of the of the Bible, and it was just absolutely incredible craftsmanship.
We then made our way up to the top of the church, which I was a bit worried about doing just because I was loathe to re-injure my knee (which has finally seemed to have healed!).
I forgot all about my knee problems once we came to the top of the church and saw the magnificent Gothic architecture that awaited us. It’s not easy to render me
speechless, but it seems like it’s happening more and more frequently on this trip.
After just walking around marveling at everything, we made our way back down. My knee was fine!
The other thing we had heard about Milan was that we had to walk around some of the shopping areas. Of course, today was the day I’m pretty sure I’ve looked the worst I have on this trip, so I didn’t exactly want to be seen by these high-fashion, gorgeous people. Probably a good thing for my credit card. Still, we made our way up and down a number of the “main” fashion streets, and I couldn’t help but be in awe. The window displays were magnificent, and I wished (not for the first time) that I was a multi-billionaire.
The storm that had threatened threatened us all day finally hit us, and the large droplets splattering on the pavement meant it was time to find cover. Luckily, it was dinnertime, so we used Clare’s travel bible to find yet another place to eat. (It found lunch for us, as well.) We jumped into this cute little place that apparently had great pizza, and we were surprised by how cheap it was. Because we also ordered drinks and bread (for Clare!), we actually thought we hadn’t been charged for the pizza because the bill seemed so low. But, the pizza is paid for by the ounce, so we hadn’t inadvertently stolen any food. Of course, we made up for the cheap pizza by buying two delicious, rich deserts, a chocolate torte-like cake — that tasted like it had biscuits, toffee and coffee in it— and a slice of black forest cherry cake. So. Good.
Being the die-hard soccer fans that we are (at least when the World Cup comes around), we made it a point to make it back to the hostel to watch the Argentina-Netherlands semi-final. It was quite an intense game, and it seemed like everyone else crowded around the TV at the hostel was also pulling for Argentina.
It was a bit hard not screaming at the TV and yelling because the players can OBVIOUSLY hear me, so I think my body started twitching to prevent my mouth from moving. As if that wasn’t bad enough, as the game went to penalty kicks, the screen kept threatening to turn off and nobody knew how to fix it because everything was in Italian. As Messi was about to take his PK, the TV started counting down from 20 seconds. As soon as he made his kick, the screen turned off.
The guy at the front desk was absolutely no help and, in fact, made himself public enemy No. 1 in the area as he walked over to the TV and threatened to turn it off because we were apparently being too loud. Meh.
Eventually, it was time to return to the room, but when we got up there we found that one of the two new people in the room had taken Clare’s bed. We had a bit of trouble communicating, but we found out that the hostel had, for some reason, stripped Clare’s bed. They don’t have the best check-out system, so they thought Clare’s bed was done being used. (Luckily, I had stuff strewn all over my bed.)
The man from the front desk came up to try and figure things out, but he was absolutely no help whatsoever. It wasn’t that big of a deal as Clare just got new sheets for another bed, but it meant that the hostel ended up with the pillowcase she had brought from home.
In other words, don’t stay at Hostel Colours in Milan.
Tomorrow is our day trip to Lake Como, which I’m thinking will make everywhere else seem ugly in comparison. At least that’s what my dad keeps promising me.