Day 1: And off we go to the “Fashion Capital”, of the World. We woke up really early to fly into Malpensa Aeroporto to then take the train into city central and then taxi to Hotel Mozart. Travel tip: take a taxi verses uber, it’s cheaper.
First stop was Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan to see The Last Supper mural painted by Leonardo da Vinci from 1495 to 1498. It took Leonardo 4 years to complete the painting because he dappled in many different aspects of life including; inventing, painting, architecture, science, math, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, botany, history and more. He is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time.
In WWII 50% of the city was destroyed by bombs from the Nazi’s. The refactory that houses the murals, The Last supper painted by Leonardo di Vinci and The fresco Crucifixion, painted by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano, were the only two remaining PARALLEL walls. They weren’t even adjoining walls. The city called it a miracle. These two wall paintings are so valuable that you can only enter the refectory with a very expensive ticket with a tour guide for a total of 15 minutes in the actually presences of the paintings. They have a buzzer that goes off right at that 15 min mark.
I learned that in the Last Supper painting, the figure to the left of Jesus is the apostle John depicted like a woman in the painting because he is only 13 years of age. Peter is reaching over to John asking if he is the one who will betray Jesus while holding a knife in the right hand. Very interesting.
Culturally, the Italians don’t eat dinner what our family considers very late at night. The restaurants do not open until 18:30 -19:00ish. We typically, eat at 17:30 so that was an adjustment for us. I would highly recommend staying at Hotel Mozart with small children. There was a play structure across the street that made it easy to distract the girls from being hungry until restaurants started opening up.
Day 2: The girls let us sleep in until 8:00. That was a small miracle in itself. During breakfast we made one observation, while watching the Italians, they eat everything with utensils, even their pastries and uncut fruit. We quickly adjusted and followed suit. We were definitely the odd ducks that stood out.
The weather was very warm. We were sweating while walking through the streets of Milan. We stopped at Parco Sempione an open space for the girls to run around and enjoy the scenery.
Porta Sempione is a city gate of Milan, Italy. The name “Porta Sempione” is used both to refer to the gate proper and to the surrounding district, a part of the Zone 1 division. We were surprised to see how much of the city was “tagged” with graffiti.
Once you make your way through the park, you arrive at the city centre where you will run into the Sforza Castle. It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza under the Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification where the famous Michelangelo’s last sculpture is now on display. We happen to be walking through the castle during the premier of Game of Throwns. They had a stage set up with people dressed up to do reenactments and giant dragon sculpture that you could take pictures in front of.
Milan Cathedral Duomo di Milano – It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world. The first marble stone was laid in 1386, marble weathers the heat very well but being porous it holds dirt very easily. The maintenance on the cathedral is 16,000,000 Euro a year. It largely depends on donors to keep the lights on. You can purchase a spire in your name for 1,000 Euro to help keep up with the running costs. There are 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures that decorate this Cathedral and it is very traditional in regards to requiring all women to be covered upon entrance. See the below pictures.
The famous Madonnina, the gold-colored statue of Mary that stands on the cathedral’s highest spire. No other building can be higher than the Madonnia that stands on top of the gothic cathedral. The picture above is a replica that is inside the cathedral for a close up view.
In the main entrance there is a precise sundial on the floor. A ray of sunlight from a hole on the opposite wall strikes the clock, shining the bronze tongue on June 21, the summer solstice, and the meridian on the winter solstice, December 21. Though ancient, it was placed in Milan Duomo in 1768 by astronomers from the Accademia di Brera.
The red lightbulb, marking the center of the Cathedral and allegedly the place of one of nails during Jesus’ crucifixion . On September 14 the archbishop of Milan ascends to the apex in a wooden basket decorated with angels to retrieve the nail. The basket itself was constructed in 1577, though it was significantly reconstructed in 1701 when the angels were added.
Last but not least, we had to check out the high end shops in the city centre. This is where you can find men trying to put bracelets on your wrists telling you it’s free and then demanding money. If you are traveling with kids, I would highly recommend having a few euro handy for when they catch you. They tried to negotiate 20 Euro for 3 bracelets. The police walk around with 9mm and Automatic weapons.
Day 3: Take the Trentilaia train into Monterosso, Cinque Terre.