If you're going to get up at 4 a.m., do it to fly over the Alps. That's the main lesson of our first day in Italy.
Upon arrival we made our way to and checked in at our nH hotel—don't you love it when your room is ready even though it's still morning? We then headed out to Milan's main point of interest: the Duomo. We did a lap of the piazza and found a place to have some panini and cappuccini. Yes, everything sounds adorable in Italian, especially in plural.
After breakfast we took a look at the Duomo's interior (free) and then lined up to climb the stairs to the roof (€6). It's quite lucky that we did it then, because it wasn't long before the weather would turn on us and Milan for most of the rest of our stay.
I don't know that I have specific comments about the cathedral. I think you'll see in the pictures that it's quite magical. Also, as I anticipated, the front is best photographed in afternoon light. Look out for that in the next post. As an interesting thing in this set of pictures, check out the boxer embellishments we spotted on the roof. Odd.
We got our gelato on early and often, as one should. I kicked off with lemon and coconut and Evan had coffee and chocolate. All excellent!
We made our way to the Castello Sforzesco, where Evan took a picture for an Iraqi guy. He's studying in Turin, and came to check out Milan for the day and organise a visa for a conference or something in the U.S. He had already been scammed by our brothers from Africa who try to strike up conversation and/or just cram a colourful thread bracelet into your hands, which is ostensibly free; except it isn't. And at one point one of these guys kept saying "Angelina Jolie"... was this because we said we're from South Africa? I forget. I hope it was his mistaken geography talking and not flattery, because I don't really want to be compared, thanks. Anyway, so these guys are basically a pain and to be avoided at all cost. We were successful since Evan got sucked into purchasing a bracelet way back when in Paris.
After the Castello we wandered through a garden and saw the Arco della Pace, or Arch of Peace.
Towards the end of lunch the rain that had been threatening got going, so we opted to try the CitySightseeing bus tour. As in Cape Town, this proved to be a relaxing way to be informed. I generally want to fall asleep halfway through reading the average tourist guide, but sitting on a bus and hearing about the city while you're also seeing it is very effortless. Since it wasn't raining too hard we endured the cold on the upper deck and I could get a few pictures. I loved the plants on the Milanese balconies and rooftops. I also started to notice that hanging the flag from your balcony is quite popular.
After the tour we went to check out the interior of Milano Centrale, the central railway station, before hunting down supper and then retreating to our cozy hotel room.