Yesterday we took the train from Basel to Milan. It was about 4 hours by rail, mostly a beautiful ride through the alps.
The crossing from Switzerland to Italy happened in a tunnel under a mountain and the transition was quite dramatic. We emerged from the tunnel into a completely different landscape, different architecture, climate, vegetation. The alps are an impressive and significant divide separating the romance languages and the germanic ones, the cold and green north and the dry and temperate south, the diminuitive and relatively new towns of Switzerland built in large part out of wood and the old, stone construction of Northern Italy.
The towns weren’t any larger at first, but they looked decided differently. There were many more old abandoned stone structures around and the tracks began passing through much more industrial development. As we approached Milan, I was surprised by all the industry and by the scope of things – loads of tracks and the city stretched for ages. It all reminded me more of the train-ride into Chicago than anything else we have seen in Europe up to this point.
The larger scale of things continued. The train station was grand and huge, brick, marble granite with high ceilings and large halls. For the first time since Asia, we found ourselves in dense crowds – pushing our way in to Metro cars that were filled to capacity.
Here in Milano we are staying with our friends. They have really nice, grand, old apartment in a nice city neighborhood outside of the first ring of the city. I really like their apartment with its aged grandeur – high ceilings, parquet floors, loads of space, great views, and quirky built-ins. Its the kind of place that was once really fancy but, since it isn’t new anymore, it feels lived-in and homey.
We went to a pizza place for dinner. Yum.
This morning I awoke to the cooing of the pigeons hanging out on the ledge outside the window. We hung around for a bit and then went in to town. First we saw the Sforza Castle (photo 1) and walked down Via Mercanti (photo 2) to the Piazza Duomo and the Duomo Cathedral (photo 3). We walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emmauele (photo 4) to see The Scala:
I really like Milano. It really does have a completely different feel. It’s an old, shabby, repurposed feel. I think this photo sums it up (make sure to look at the big white tile).