Italy ~ Milan

Today marks exactly 1 month since I came back from my trip and yet I haven't finished telling you all the stories or sorted out all the pictures. I guess, bear with me with these outdated stories? This blog is to voice out what I think or want to say and since people are not asking me detailed stories of my trip, I'm just gonna put it here because I want to let it out.

In the last post, we ended with the overnight train from Barcelona to Milan. I thought the train was pretty nice. It's not luxurious or anything but it's adequate. I had dinner on the train. I still remember the waitress' name, Tamara Hier. I thought she's quite pretty and very nice and friendly. She speaks very little English and mostly Spanish but she's very nice, very helpful, and friendly. She offered to have Mau's left over paella to be microwaved so that she could have it hot. I thought that's very nice of her. So I booked the room with a bunk bed and a water sink, with that we got a free breakfast. I think if you book the one with the toilet and shower, you'll get free dinner as well as breakfast. Anyway, the water sink was adequate enough for us to wash our face and brush our teeth and there's a common toilet you can use. The dinner and breakfast I had was so so. There weren't many options in the dinner menu. Still, the whole experience was interesting for me :)

Met an Italian lady in the train and I started practising my Italian with her. I have to say that I'm very very bad. I addressed her informally instead of using the formal words and verbs conjugation. The Italian perhaps have a more relaxed rule in this than the French but since she's a much older lady, I think I am still considered as really rude. But she was nice enough to respond back to me and I guess after she got over the fact that this non-Italian girl was trying to speak in Italian to her, she just got used to me. She's from Firenze (Florence), which is a really really nice city, and apparently she goes to Barcelona quite often because her daughter is living there. The daughter has lived there for some time. I thought because the husband is Spanish but the husband is from Sicily :) They have a son, which I couldn't remember if she mentioned to me the age, but anyway the son is very cute with curly hair. I can sense that this grandma loves him so much :) She said the grandson is now speaking 3 languages, italian, spanish, and a bit of english :) Grandma is taking the train all the time because she's too scared of flying. Unfortunately this time around the trip is not so nice for her. I found out from her that there was a strike in France. It was rather weird that when we were having dinner the night before, the train wasn't moving. Tamara didn't know why when Mau asked her. It was still stationary when I went to sleep at around 11 pm something and perhaps it contributed to the fact that we could sleep really well. Either that, or we were just plain tired, or having a bed is really a major factor. Anyway so we're 3 hours later than expected and obviously that threw grandma's plan off the window. She still had to take a train to Firenze. Lucky for me and Mau, when we arrived, we still had time to check in to our hotel and then go for our half day tour of Milan. We supposed to get a 50% refund because of this lateness however I couldn't find out how. I tried my darnest to get the information in the station but there was nothing substantial. I got really really frustrated. Perhaps the nicest thing that happened was that a signore, a staff in the station, praised me for my Italian, which I thought was bad but I think he just appreciated it that I could speak it and in a manner which he could understand and I could understand him. Before I continue on, let me show you this picture.

I think we have crossed the French border and was in Italy at the time this picture was taken. Take a look at the mountains. My geography sucks but I think that the snow capped mountains might be the Alps. The lady was the one who pointed them to me. I forget to tell you that our rooms were side by side and she spent much time standing at the corridor and looking at the window, which I followed suit but it was me and my camera. I tried to ask the lady what's the name of the mountain but she didn't know what it was and I didn't really know how to say Alps in Italian, I did think it might be called Alpi but I just didn't try. I think it is though, well if anyone could confirm that to me, it would be great :)

So arrived in Milan. After some asking around, we found our hotel, Hotel Stazione, which I love dearly!!! The irony of it all, it was the cheapest hotel that I chose and I thought it's not gonna be so good but I was thinking we're just gonna spend 2 nights there so I could rough it up. It turned out to be the best of all!!! It was totally value for money. For a double room, it was less than 100 euro. I don't think it's easy to find good hotels in the big cities in Europe with that price, in a location near the train station. Trust me, I tried, I couldn't find any except for this one. Yeah it's not luxurious and all, but what I love was that it was really clean and surprisingly spacious! The room seemed to be new, all the furnitures seemed new. The wi-fi connection worked great. The place for breakfast was really really small but there weren't many people anyway because the hotel was really small (only 1 floor) so I didn't mind it. There's always space for me to have breakfast. Either way, you can take your breakfast to your room. The kind uncle even brought Mau's coffee to our room. I thought the breakfast was good, love the cornetto!!! The uncle was really really nice. I talked to him in Italian and he's just really nice and tried to make sure you have all that you need. For me, it was definitely the best hotel we stayed in and seriously I was thinking how ironic it was because I was preparing myself for it to be the worst; that honor actually went to the hotel in Rome - another story, another posting. So if you happen to be going to Milan and want a hotel which is not too expensive and near Milano Centrale train station, I'm totally recommending this hotel to you :)

Moving on, I actually book a half day tour of Milan. Why? Simply because I wanted to see Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper. To see The Last Supper, you have to book in advance and really that's the only way to see it. There's no queue at the place because everyone booked for it and everyone must come on their time slots or they just couldn't get in. I didn't want the trouble so I thought let's just book the half day tour, we got to see Milan with a guide and we got to see the Last Supper. You know what, I just checked how to book for the Last Supper and see how crazy it is, for July there's only 1 ticket left, on July 31st. In August, there's a total of 12 tickets left on 3 different dates. September still has some tickets in each of the day of the week. So point to note, book like 3-4 months before your actual visiting date! That is not very convenient, isn't it :P

Anyway, our day tour started with visiting Teatro alla Scala. It's actually pretty small. Well it has been around for more than 300 years so the fact that it's still a functioning theatre and still matters a lot, well ... shows how awesome it is :P When we were there, there's a ballet company practising at the stage. We got to see a bit of their practice. I can imagine that it must be an honor to be performing at La Scala. Next was Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Saw the luxury goods shops and the first Prada shop as well. An interesting thing to mention, when most of the McDonalds in Europe mostly have their golden arch behind a green background, the one in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has it behind a black background. That is so that it blends in with the rest of the fancy shops but I think its presence still makes the rest of the high class shops look at it in disdain :P Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is pretty impressive. We did the turn with our heels at the bull on the floor so that our wish could come true :P I couldn't remember what I wished for :( Exiting the galleria, we reached Piazza del Duomo which brought us to Duomo di Milano. I didn't know that this Cathedral was one the biggest church in the world. I think the thing that I would remember the most about this church was Saint Bartholomew's statue. You can see the picture and the rest of the pictures of Milan here. I didn't have many pictures of Milan actually. I only saw Milan from this day tour and didn't explore it more in depth on my own. After the Duomo, we went to see Castello Sforzesco. We didn't go inside though. Before I continue, this is the picture of the Duomo taken from the bus, so the colour is a bit weird.

The last stop was to see The Last Supper. I know that this was a mural on a wall in a church, Santa Maria delle Grazie. However I didn't expect that it was housed in a separate building of its own. I thought it still inside the church but it wasn't. It was a very very unique experience seeing the mural. They only let at most 25 people to see it at one time and for 15 minutes only. I remember we had to go through 2 separate waiting rooms. Supposedly we are being purified from the dust or whatever pollutants we had on us. I was expecting a strong wind would blow us or something like that but nothing of that sort. Nothing happened actually in the waiting room, we're just waiting for the next door to open. There's only 1 staff waiting in the hall of where the mural is. Do you think she's lucky to be able to see the famous painting for as long as she wants when people only get to see it for 15 minutes? Anyway the mural is on one side of the wall and on the other side of the wall, there's a fresco by another painter. The rest of the wall is just painted white. Don't ask me what's the different between a fresco and a mural. I just know that Leonardo's Last Supper is not a fresco, it's a painting on wall ... I hope I am correct by saying it that way. Anywho, our guide tried her best to explain as many things to us in the 15 minutes we had. I remember so few details about it, like a door was actually made on the wall hence the bottom part of the painting (where Jesus's feet should have been) is not there anymore. Over the course of the history, the hall had been used for many things, they all contributed to the damages of the painting. Some of the faces were actually not clear anymore. The guide said during restoration, the people didn't want to alter much of the painting so they left some of the smudges as is. Seeing the painting didn't actually bring much emotion in me. I guess I was thankful that I got to see that in person, something that I can boast about :P The whole experience in getting to the room was more memorable for me than my actual feeling of seeing it. I remembered taking one last look at the painting before I had to leave the room, simply because I know maybe I'll never get to see it again. It felt rather sad at that time. So that's the story of Milan. Why didn't I explore much of the city? Because the next day I decided to go to Verona. That's a story for the next posting.

So how's my life since I last wrote? Life is so so, surviving. Feeling abandoned by some people but not gonna go into it here. Watched a few movies. Last week, I watched 1860, which was an old black and white Italian movie about the war, at the free screening by the Italian Cultural Institute. YeeMaggio kindly accompanied me to it. It got me reading about Giuseppe Garibaldi in Wikipedia and learnt that Nice in France used to belong to Italy and it was actually called Nizza. Giuseppe Garibaldi is an Italian hero who was bornt in Nizza. He was really pissed that the city eventually went to France. Another Italian movie that I watched this week was Signore & Signori (The Birds, the Bees and the Italians) with Carl and the rest. By the way, the Italian season is happening right now until the 21st of June so there's a few Italian related events happening, like the screening of several Italian movies. I'm thinking of watching another one this coming week but I'm not sure if I will eventually do it. Anyway Signore & Signori was another old black and white Italian movie. It was funny. There are 3 different kinda overlapping stories about the Signore and Signori of a town in Italy. They're funny, they're so pretentious and hypocritical. If there's one common thing that threads the different stories, is how they tried to hide certain things that they did. My italian is not so amazing that I still needed the subtitles :(

A more mainstream movie this week was Super 8, which I watched with Oshie. He was having X-Men: First Class and Super 8 back to back. I kinda abstain myself from super heroes movies this time around, exception is only for Transformers. Oshie was saying why?!??! It's the summer. Yeah I know but they just don't excite me anymore. I also think there should be a law banning an actor from appearing in more than one super hero movie. I'm gonna let Chris Evans slide because Fantastic 4 movies weren't really that deep. Back to Super 8, I like it! I thought the kids were great and they are the gems in this movie. The way they spoke was really fast sometime but they were funny, they had the best lines, and they were cute and adorable! Funny lines were like when one of them said, production value!!! or drugs are so bad. They're hilarious. As for the suspense, well the Lost style which was implemented me kinda annoyed me at times. You know there's something bad and big but like in Lost, J.J Abrams decided not to show it to us, instead he teased us with sounds or the rustling of something, very very Lost style. I thought the ending scene was rather sad for me, maybe it didn't matter for other people. I was hoping the boy got to keep the necklace but he didn't so that is sad :( If you're watching it, stay tune for the movie that the kids made during the credit roll. Osh told me that the zombie movie was really made by the kids. It was really funny and cute. They are really talented kids and I'm sure they had lots of fun doing it. For actors like them, I reckon it's harder for them to be acting bad than good :P I hope these kids will be great in the future. Elle Fanning is definitely blooming and showing she's as good as her big sister. Do watch it peeps, it's really good and the kids were really entertaining :D Okay, gotta stop now. Buonanotte tutti!

:) eKa @ 9:58:00 PM •

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