Friday, October 26, 2012

Milano and Lake Como

Day 13: Milan and Retiring with George Clooney

We arrived in Milan around 10 p.m. and scrambled to find a bus. Central Milan is an interesting place at night, but a kind bus driver helped us find our correct bus line to our apartment. The street to our apartment was dark and scary at night, but the modern apartment was very inviting.

Our host was Serena, who gave us a huge bed, warm shower and a set of keys before wishing us luck on our adventures in Milan. (I loved staying with people. Is that strange?)

Our first stop the next morning was Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. The is a rare sight as reservations are required. Robert Langdon wannabes have swarmed the church so bookings often must be made several months in advance.

My whole life I thought that The Last Supper was a painting (I must have been absent on that day in Art History), but it is actually a fresco painted on a wall inside of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The fresco has been deteriorating for the past 600 years so all visitors must visit a dehumidifying chamber before entering and only 25 people are allowed in at one time for a max of 15 minutes.

The incredible fresco has a storied history. The most shocking is that some wiseguy decided to cut a door in the middle of the painting cutting out Jesus' feet, obviously not knowing how historically important this fresco would become.

It was a surprisingly spiritual experience. Our tour guide gave insight about the history and significance. 
Seeing such an iconic work of art is an awe-inspiring experience. 
I often felt close to tears I was finally seeing it in all its glory.
Milan's other big sight is its Duomo, the fourth-largest in Europe.

The interior is mind-boggling in size. Along with bodies of dead Popes and vibrant stained-glass windows, was the sculpture above. The detail of his muscles blows my un-artistic mind.

When there is an option for stairs, the Bensons seem to take it. We hiked to the Duomo roof for a beautiful view. The Gothic architecture is a stark contrast against the modern city.

Milan is very "city." It didn't feel very Italian. After a minor incident with a grabby street-salesman in front of the cathedral, we needed a change of pace.

The trouble is we had 10 hours until our train to Paris. I had read about a small town in the Lake District that I wanted to visit, but I didn't bring any of the travel info. With only the name of a town we took a chance, hopped on a train and headed out for an adventure.

An hour later we arrived here:

Lake Como: the place of my dreams. (Wow, I am really dramatic. But every moment we spent here was bliss.)
We arrived in Varenna without a clue where to go or what to do.
We became true wanderers.
It was wonderful.

With no agenda (or idea what to do) we strolled through the small streets, peeking into alleyways and stumbling upon incredible views.

Varenna (and all of Lake Como) has deep blue waters, bright green hills and vibrant buildings.
The best part? We rarely saw another person.

We booked a round-trip ticket on a boat to get a view of the little towns.
FYI: The original Bellagio is on Lake Como.
The lake-front homes kissed the water as the shadowy Italian Alps pierced the sky in the backdrop.

We quickly realized that Lake Como is filled with retirees.
There wasn't anyone on our boat younger than 50.

Which is fine by me. I plan on retiring here.

Not convinced that Lake Como is awesome?
George Clooney has a place there.
Lake Como is quite proud of him. This map is posted in town.

After an incredible lake-side dinner, we bid farewell to Como.
I'll see you in about 50 years. Save me a place?

With this, we ended our tour in Italy. Next up: France.

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