Day 2: Milano

Today, DH and the kids and I woke up at 6:45 and headed downstairs for breakfast. Our hotel offers a “bed and breakfast” option, which is a deal for the four of us: a yummy breakfast is only a few Euro per person, and we can go in our slippers.

I enjoyed a very Italian caffé – mild espresso in one pitcher, steamed milk in another – while DH and the girls tried some of the juices. They had our old favorite, blood orange, but also pineapple with lime and peach with lemon. Both were refreshing and not overly sweet like American juice drinks. The breakfast included a warming tray of croissants in three varieties: silky (plain), fragola (strawberry) and cioccolato (chocolate). There was also a tray of wrapped cheeses, another plate of packaged biscuits, a serving platter of thinly sliced prosciutto and salame, fresh fruit, cold cereals, yogurts and yogurt drinks, and breads for toast. It was similar to an American hotel’s breakfast offering, but much more delicately displayed and far less processed.

Each dining table had a plastic container – the only plastic in the entire meal, incidentally – on which was written in several languages, “For A Tidy Table.” How clever. I despise all the trash that accumulates when one is eating a hotel breakfast. All those wrappers and papers and creamer containers just clutter up the place. If I ever own a hotel (unlikely) or am ever involved with food service that serves pre-wrapped items, I will be certain to include a receptacle on each table so that it, too, may remain Tidy.

After breakfast, DH left us to go into the office. The girls and I came back to our room and got ready to brave the trains. We packed my backpack with camera, money, map, camera, phrasebook, and notebooks for the kids to jot down where we went. At the front desk on our way out I checked with the concierge about taking the train. She was very helpful and said it was easy… and she was right. In the Saronno station, just a short, five-minute walk from the Cyrano, we found the ticket booth and a clerk who spoke English. I asked about round trip and he helped me purchase the correct biglietti, and told us how to validate them just before going out to the platform. (There is a hefty 50€ fine, payable on the spot, for failing to validate one’s ticket!)

Shortly after hitting the platform and finding our track, a train came by. We asked a man waiting nearby if this train was “Milano Cadorna?” Si, it was- rapida! We jumped on and found seats on the first car. Another man moved his bag so I could sit with the girls, and we enjoyed a smooth and fast trip into the city.

Milano Cadorna is a big station, and very busy. It was a little intimidating to come out of the train and into all the bustle. We decided to use the restrooms first and had to pay 1.5€ for the privilege (fortunately he did not charge the girls.) It was a little strange having a male restroom attendant both outside (collecting fees) and inside, cleaning the room. The inside attendant helped the girls pull out towels to dry their hands. After that… we decided to join the throngs outside.

Just behind Cadorna station is Castello Sforzesco, which has been remodeled (“clumsily”, the guidebooks say) and is still undergoing some construction in certain areas. It is a beautiful location nonetheless. We went into the courtyard and enjoyed the expansive space, so unusual in our experience of Europe thus far.

Entrance to the Castle

The girls skipped on the cobbles and drank from a fountain, after watching another little boy do the same.

Outer Courtyard

Castle Fountain

Enjoying the fountain

Castello Sforzesco

We explored the center yard for a bit, then found a smaller garden inside the central building.

Enjoying the view

Inner courtyard

O6 spied a bookstore, so we popped in there and I let them each pick out a coloring book. We sat together and read a children’s version of Romeo and Juliet (not abridged in the least, but in a modern narrative style that was much easier to understand). S8 read a similarly-edited version of Dante’s Paradiso. Yeah, we’re highbrow like that. Then we went back out and viewed the opposite side of the castle, where the moat is located.

Castle Plaque

View of the Moat

Castello coat of arms

By this point the kids and I were getting pretty hungry, so we walked a ways up Fero Buonaparte. We spotted a little osteria called Caffe Teatro, decided to eat out on the sidewalk patio. The kids shared a sandwich with me and we also got some macedonia (fresh fruit salad) and Sprite. The soda was much less sweet than the high-fructose crap we get in the States. Served with a lemon, it was actually quite refreshing.

We wandered a ways up Fero Buonaparte until we spotted the castle again. There, on the corner, was a fresh looking gelateria with many beautiful pastries. The girls each chose gelati fragola, strawberry gelato. This was Van Bol e Feste and it appears to have opened up not that long ago in this particular location, though the business has apparently been around a while.

Fragola Gelato

Mmmm... fragola!

Good Gelato!

Gelato stop in Milano

It was a nice walk back to Milano Cadorna train station.

Milano Cadorna station

We hopped on a Como Lago train that was already waiting at the station and breezed back to Saronno. At the hotel, the girls colored and wrote in their journals, had baths, and O6 took a nap while we waited for DH to get home from work. He got in around 5:30, and by 6:30 we had touched base with our friend Michele. Michele agreed meet us at the Duomo for dinner in Milan, so we got back on the train (with DH this time) and back to Milano Cadorna. This time, though, we transferred to the subway and rode three [incredibly crowded] stops to the Duomo station. Coming out of the station, you get a breathtaking view of the Piazza, and then you turn around and are whacked with a stunning view of one of the biggest churches in all of western Europe.

Unfortunately, tonight was a post-Fashion Week party in the Piazza. There were throngs of people, thumping music, and general hubbub going on. It was hard to walk, especially since Michele had his bike and we had the girls firmly in hand. We walked around a corner to a pizzerria called DeGenero’s, but it was packed and there was not a table to be found. Michele locked his bike to a post and we walked around a few more blocks until we spotted another place that looked appetizing (and available). We were able to get a table, so we hustled inside and parked ourselves in a quiet corner.

Of course, DH ordered carne and the kids got pizza again. I ordered a cassoulette with thigh of duck, which was very homey and satisfying. Michele got pasta with tartufo, a black truffle. We shared plates and everything tasted delicious. The meal ended with adorable sorbetti in tiny glasses and a very nice cappuccino.

After dinner we headed back out to the throngs to seek out more gelato (because, really, what else does a person eat in Italy besides pizza and gelato??!) Michele took us to a place he liked, Gelateria Vanilla, and we agreed it was very delicious. I had a gelato caffé (coffee flavored); DH and O6 had stracciatella; S8 had mango, and Michele had three different flavors.

By this time, we were ready to head back to the train. We walked via La Scala and took the long way back to Milano Cardona. S8 was so tired that we took turns carrying her on our backs, and she passed out almost immediately. Finally, we made it to the train with just five minutes before the 11:15 Saronno car was leaving. We hopped on, found seats, and relaxed – exhausted, but happy -for the half-hour ride back home. I’ll upload pics tomorrow because I’m pretty much wiped out tonight.