Hannah and I booked a flight to Milan from Bucharest because the price was excellent and it dropped us into northern Italy in time to explore a bit before making our way south for Easter with her cousin Claire and her family. Little did we know, accommodation in Milan would be a nightmare. The average Airbnb was $350 per night in Milan. There was an annual major design conference and EXPO going on during our 2 days there (of course). We ended up booking a much cheaper Airbnb about 45 minutes outside the city by train in a little town called Ferno.
Our Airbnb reminded me of something out of a movie about small town Italy. Terra Cotte roofs on white washed two story homes stood surrounded by lush greenery, tall hedges, vine covered iron gates, and lush gardens pouring with tulips and other flowers. Our bedroom opened onto a terrace by two shutters and small French doors. The host had even created his own Spotify playlist of Italian and Mediterranean music. It was very romantic and we immediately regretted not booking it for longer.
We took a train into Milan and landed north of the city center. The differences between Italy and the countries in Eastern Europe we just arrived from were readily apparent. Everything seemed cleaner, and as Hannah put it, finished. Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania all had buildings in a state of mid construction, as if maybe the funds ran out or project abandoned rather than finished or demolished. It was almost like culture shock as we walked into Milan, one of the culture and fashion capitals of the world.
The decadence of the average person stood out. Fashionistas with daring new clothing trends and heels dotted the streets. A man sat at a café wearing a spotless suit and silk ascott. His hair and beard were impeccably trimmed. He ordered an espresso and sat there with legs crossed and a cigarette held away so his clothes would not smell. Meanwhile, I was wearing a turquoise polo for the 5th day in a row (still smelled fine 😊 ) and Hannah had puffer jacket tied around her waist, 90’s style. We both are sporting running shoes, with jeans, like parents in their late 30s. If nothing else here, you could call us authentic.
One of the greatest things we saw in Milan was the cathedral, the Duomo di Milano. The gothic arches jaggedly reach to the heavens throughout the entire top perimeter of the church. We assumed it would be expensive when we saw the 25 euro fast pass price. We were able to acquire tickets to just see the inside of the cathedral for 3 euro, a steal! The inside was awe inducing. I have never seen a church that large on the outside or inside. The decoration and sculpting were incredibly detailed to the smallest minutiae. I wandered around head up and gap-mouthed for a good 15 minutes before looking toward the wings.
Hannah recently read a book I had recommended to her, called The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is the first book in a historical fiction trilogy set in the middle ages about an aspiring cathedral builder and the historical events surrounding his and his descendants’ lives I HIGHLY recommend you give it a read if you are looking for something new. Anyway, she remarked how viewing such an ornate cathedral like this made the book really come alive, and I couldn’t agree more.
Seeing as we rarely gorge on new outfits and typically pay little attention to fashion, we weren’t certain how much we would take from Milan. To our surprise, the city holds much more than that reputation. One of our favorite parts was walking through an old intact castle to a luscious sprawling park. Its inhabitants were numerous, picnicking, reading, sunbathing, and enjoying the fresh air. We took part, sitting on a bench, with Hannah’s head nestled onto my arm, taking it all in and remembering how blessed we are to have this journey. We eventually left and slowly meandered back to the train home for the evening.
We left our Airbnb around 9am with a partly cloudy Italian morning. As we walked, Hannah had an astute observation. She remarked that, “It is funny that to these people, we are less than a blip, only here 2-3 days in most cities, but to us, they will be remembered forever.”