Saturday, June 13, 2015

Milan, Italy

Sun, 31/5/15

Today was an early start for us to catch the 8.30am KLM flight to Milan. We took the the free hotel shuttle to the airport scheduled at 5.58am (break of dawn is at 5.30am, so there was already daylight) and arrived Schipol within 15 minutes. We had done web check in prior to going to the airport and already had our boarding passes on our mobile phones. You could also print the boarding pass the airport using the self check in kiosk. The airport security scanned the barcode on our mobile phones (you need to have your own boarding pass on your own mobile phone, otherwise you can always re-print it) then went to drop our backpacks for check in, also doing this on our own. KLM have special machines for passengers to self deposit ther luggages for check in, but there also a few officers around to lend a helping hand. We put our backpacks in the machine, then scanned our boarding pass for the machine to print our luggage tag, which we then had to tag it ourselves on our backpacks.

After that is done, we proceeded to our departure gate, not before going through security check. There is no need for passport control as both Netherlands and Italy are under the Schengen agreement, so passing through the Schengen countries are akin to domestic travel. So less of queuing up, but the downside of this is there's no proof on our passports that we ever entered Italy!

The security check was really detailed though, our carry on bags were inspected physically by the authorities, even my Euro coins recieved comments - that's a lot of coins there (they were searching for metals actually). Lesson learnt from here is that, always take out the liquids, metals and gadgets to make it visible to the security people; you are less likely to be inspected. We did this later on flight back from Schipol to Kuala Lumpur and everything went smoothly.

Our 1 hour 40 min flight to Milan was on time and we arrived Milan as per schedule. On the way to Milan, the pilot announced that we were passing through the Alps mountain the right side of the plane. I managed to get a few snaps of that. We were served drinks and yummy egg sandwich (the bread is healthy and delicious) on the flight.

peak of the Alps mountain

There are 3 airports in Milan, and we arrived at Linate airport which is the nearest to the city centre and serves domestic flights. From Linate, we took the Bus no 73 to the San Babila Metro station. The bus ticket cost EUR 1.50 We could not find a machine / ticket counter to buy the bus ticket so we asked the info centre and was told to buy it at the newspaper store. And yes, they sell it there! And everywhere in Milan at the Metro station's newspaper kiosk.

Bus no 73 from Linate to San Babila

An Indonesian woman approached us upon looking at our confused expression and asked us where we were going? We asked us whether we were waiting at the right place for the Bus no 73, and she told us yes. The bus was a bit late probably due to road blocks for a marathon that was ongoing, she told us. Not long after, the bus arrived and we were soon on our way. At San Babila Metro (Line 1), we bought the 1 day Metro pass for EUR 4.50 from the newspaper vendor. You can also buy the pass from the machine, but we were out of small change. From San Babila we made our way to Cimiano station (Line 2), changing at Loreto.

24 hour Milano Metro ticket

Milan metro

inside Milan metro
Cimiano metro station

For accommodation in Milan, we couldn't find a good deal as well (probably it was peak season at beginning of summer) so we opted for airbnb. I picked a one bedroom apartment near the Cimiano Metro with wifi, satellite TV, air cond and kitchen which cost EUR 110 + EUR 12 Airbnb service fee or RM 445 for 2 nights. This was my first time using Airbnb, and I admit, it was a hassle to get registered - you either have to have a facebook, linkedin or instagram account and you have to submit a picture of your ID (passport or IC) for verification that you are a real person. Airbnb would also charge your card once your host has accepted your request, but you can always cancel your booking, depending on the host's cancellation policy- although the Airbnb service fee will not be returned back. Another downside is, your chosen host could also reject you, or the request might lapse after 24 hours. You do net get instant confirmation as you have to wait for your host' response within 24 hours. Personally, I would avoid using Airbnb unless I couldn't get a good deal on or if I wanted to cook on my travels (kitchen or apartment required). It could be a good deal if you are travelling in a big party.

Anyway, our host Tullio was already waiting for our arrival. He contacted us 1 week before check in on our time of arrival and gave the instruction how to access his apartment. He then explained to us how things worked at his place. We were free to use the utilies at his place - soaps, towels, plates, cooking utensils, microwave etc. He also offered us the food available in his kitchen- tea, eggs, bread, drinks. He gave us the keys to the apartment and we could contact him anytime if we need any help. So all was good :)

Tullio's apartment

After having our self made lunch and a bit of rest, we ventured out for Milan via the Metro - first to Piazza Duomo. The Milan Duomo is the Cathedral of Milan (or Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of St Mary of the Nativity), the largest in Italy with a capacity of 40,000 people. It was built in 1386 and only finally completed in 1965. It was built under numerous architect and engineers over 579  years. More info here.The Duomo ticket is EUR 2 which includes entrance to the San Carlo Scurolo and the Museo. Admission tickets are suspended on Saturdays/eves (from 17.00 to 18.30) and on Sundays/Celebrations (from 8.00 to 13.00 and from 17.00 to 18.00)

Duomo cathedral
Piazza Duomo

Next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world's oldest shopping malls, and still serves as a shopping mall today, with luxury brand stores such as Gucci, Prada, LV and the works. We didn't buy anything here, just admiring the architecture. The Galleria is named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Fact excerpted from here.

Vittorio Emanuele II galleria

From the Duomo, we then made our way to the Castello Sforzesco via the Cairoli station (Line 1). It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. Originally, it was the main residence in the city of its Visconti lords, and was destroyed by the Golden Ambrosian Republic. In 1450, Francesco Sforza, began reconstruction of the castle to turn it into his residence after defeating the Republic. Entrance to the castle is free. Fact excerpted from here

Castello Sforzesco

Next to Castello Sforzesco is the Parco Sempione where we chilled out a bit to rest our tired legs and for people watching.

Parco Sempione

Our next destination was Church di Santa Maria Della Grazie where The Last Supper (or Cenacolo Vinciano) painting is housed and it is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Duke of Milan Francesco I Sforza ordered the building of a Dominican convent and a church in the place where a small chapel dedicated to St. Mary of the Graces was. Fact from here. We took the Metro from Cairoli to Conciliazione, then walked a bit to the church. To view the painting, you have to buy the ticket in advance and can be bought here. Ticket is EUR 6.50 and advance booking fee is EUR 1.50. Entrance is free on first Sunday of the month but reservation is still compulsory.

Church di Santa Maria Della Grazie

The Last Supper painting taken from Wikipedia

We then went to Milan Centrale to buy our train ticket tomorrow to Varenna, a small town by the Como Lake. Our train is scheduled at 8.20am which cost EUR 6.70 using the Trenitalia ticket machine. Beware of pickpockets here acting like they want to help you at the machine to divert your attention and their sidekick will slip their hands into your bag or pocket without you knowing. Only ask for help from Trenitalia officers who wear uniforms. After buying the ticket, a man from Kuwait greeted us and asked us where we were from. He only wanted to chat while waiting for his train - he told us he had visited Malaysia a few times and really liked Fraser's Hill because of the greenery. Perhaps he should go to Taman Negara next!

Milan Central station

We returned to Duomo to catch the view at night. While waiting for dusk, we had dinner at one of the cafes near the Piazza. We ordered the neapolitana pizza (tomato, cheese, anchovies and olive), water and a cup of coffee which cost us EUR 25 (pizza was EUR 11) or about RM100.

waiting for pizza

pizza Neapolitana

After dinner, we walked to the piazza and hang around there chit chatting until night fell. There is a night show projecting the history of Milan onto the building next to the Duomo beginning at 9.30pm. After taking pictures of the night view at Piazza Duomo, we made our way back to our apartment by Metro and called it a day. Tomorrow we would be exploring Lake Como, about an hour away from Milan city.

Duomo at night

Galleria Emanuele Vittorio II at night



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