15th October 2018

We have a lovely 2-bedroom AirBNB conveniently-located apartment in Milan and our hostess Allessandra has been very generous. We spent a relaxed morning planning our next few days which will involve train travel requiring seat reservations.

In the afternoon we ventured out for a look at Milan's city centre. At Milan Centrale station we soon became aware of the all the "opportunists" who were boldly approaching tourists for money, either by selling them something or "helping" them. It soon became apparent that the lady standing at the ticket machine to provide assistance to anyone who needed it was, in fact, a self-appointed assistant who was expecting money for her "service" - two euros per person! - which she didn't get. Very sneaky and very pushy.


Il Duomo

We saw Il Duomo, a beautiful cathedral in La Piazza Del Duomo. It took nearly six centuries to complete (construction began in 1386), and is the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world. Milan's layout, with streets either radiating from the Duomo or circling it, seems to share, on a slightly smaller scale, the plan of the contemporaneous church recently rediscovered beneath Tower Hill in London.


Il Duomo

The pigeons that have taken over the piazza put on quite a show for us and gave Steve the opportunity to take one of "the" photos of the trip so far.


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

We visited the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy's oldest active shopping mall and a major landmark of Milan. The structure, with its marble floor, built between 1865 and 1867, consists of two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon.


Sforza Castle

Close by was Sforza Castle, built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. It now houses several of the city's museums and art collections.



Behind the Castle is a peaceful gardens which features Porta Sempione ("Sempione Gate") is a city gate of Milan. The gate is marked by a landmark triumphal arch called Arco della Pace ("Arch of Peace"), dating back to the 19th century, although its origins can be traced back to a gate of the Roman walls of Milan. A gate that roughly corresponds to modern Porta Sempione was already part of Roman walls of Milan. In 1807, under the Napoleonic rule, the Arch of Peace was built by architect Luigi Cagnola.


Arco della Pace

This new gate marked the place where the new Strada del Sempione entered Milan. This road, which is still in use today, connects Milan to Paris through the Simplon Pass crossing the Alps. In his novella A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway mentions the Arch of Peace, expressing the belief that its orientation be parallel to those of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile in Paris.

Eager to sample Italian cuisine in the manner Italians do, we had a nice al-fresco pizza lunch and a glass of Prosecco (Debbie did, anyway) at a street cafe, followed by a gelato ice cream. Aware of its possible effect on our waist lines, we did 16,300 steps to work it off.


Arrival Hall, Milan Centrale Station

Later we had to wait for 45 minutes at the ticket office of the magnificent Milan Centrale station, to reserve our seats for ten separate train journeys for four people at 8 euros per person per trip relating to our upcoming travel in Italy. Shocked at the number of reservations it was called on to process, the ticket machine jammed in protest. A nice chicken salad dinner compensated for the indulgence of the pizza and ice cream at lunchtime.

16th October 2018


Venice

Ho hum ... another day in Italy ... breakfast in Milan ... lunch in Venice ... dinner in Verona, then home to Milan ... someone's got to do it, I guess, and it might as well be us.

The 7.15am train from Milano Centrale was so comfortable and our 1st class reserved seats included a cup of coffee and an Apricot sweet pastry ... not a bad start. Our fast train zipped along at up to 292 km/hr and had us in Venice at 9.40am. Now what could one say about Venice that hasn't been said before? Nothing, so we'll let our pictures tell the story for us.




Steve and Debbie decided to take a photo of Stephen just as he was about to take a photograph of them.




We couldn't let the opportunity to dine as the Venetians do pass us by, so we had morning tea Venetian-style - coffee and cheesecake with forest berries (well, that's our story and we're sticking to it!).




If you are in the market for something unique and different, or just want to relieve yourself of some holiday spending money, then Venice is happy to oblige. Of the many interesting things displayed in the shop windows, this chess set caught our eye. Themed on Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, the set and board would set you back over Aus$1,800.00.


On our way back to the railway station, we stumbled upon the Music Museum of Venice and wished we had more time to browse its exhibits than our full schedule allowed. Venice has always been, since the Middle Ages, the ideal place for music. The Venetian musical craft was famous anywhere: the instruments built here were sought after by professionals, collectors, and now enrich the collections of museums around the world. Housed in the San Giacomo Di Rialto Church, the museum's Antonio Vivaldi Collection includes a Bartolomeo Obici violin (1611), a Carlo Antonio Testore viola (1749), a Lombardi School cello (1650), an Antonio Vinaccia mandolin (1784) and an 1850 Barrel Organ.


The Arena

Ahhhh ... Verona! Beautiful Verona! Our next fast train, to Verona, arrived at 3.30pm. Another "wow" moment for us all - first The Arena, a genuine Roman Ampitheatre over 2,000 years and the only one still in use in the world. Then there was the lovely old street, its roadway and buildings made almost entirely of marble. We visited stalls in the old market square - Piazza Della Erbe - which has been in use as a marketplace for the last 900 years. The walls of the surrounding buildings were decorated with several 500 year-old frescos, one of which was painted by an unknown-at-the-time artist nmed Donatello - (no he was not a Ninja Turtle!)


Piazza Della Erbe

After this we visited some lovely nearby courtyards and the Scaliger family cemetery, containing the sarcophagus and graves of 3 generations of family members. It was all a tad macabre. From the macabre to the romantic, we saw Juliette's balcony and house of Romeo and Juliet fame.



William Shakespeare wrote three plays based in Verona: The Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, and of course, Romeo and Juliet, with Juliet's balcony a popular destination lying in the heart of the city. As testified by the coat of arms on the internal archway of the courtyard, this house belonged to the 'Dal Cappello' or 'Cappelletti'. Juliet was the only daughter of Capulet, the patriarch of the Capulet family - her story has a long history that precedes Shakespeare himself. The interior of the house can be visited and you can stand on Juliet's balcony and re-live the 'highlight' of the earthly life, as well as admire the furniture and the beautiful velvet costumes worn by the actors in the Metro Goldwyn Meyer's 1936 movie, Romeo and Juliet.


Scaliger family cemetery

We passed the oldest wall in Italy, Arco Dei Garvi, an archway dated some 300 years BC, which was located near the excavation site of a villa from the Roman era. This was discovered during the reconstruction of a road and has been carefully preserved, and the road diverted around it. The villa was part of Porta Leoni, a fortified gateway to the ancient Roman city.


Porta Leoni

After a quick look at the river and the stone Bridge - Ponte Di Pietra - completed in 100BC, and some lovely churches (and some cars that Steve found), we went back to the Piazza outside The Arena where we found a nice elfresco restaurant to have dinner. We watched the sun go down and enjoyed a relaxed Italian meal as The Arena was beginning to light up.


We arrived home at 9.30pm, our 18.3 kms (25,600 steps) fully justified by a fabulous day.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

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