What We Saw When We Got Our Second Wind

Upon arrival in Milan, we took a taxi to the hotel and checked in. We had arrived early and our room wasn’t yet ready, so we dropped off the bags and headed out the door. G asked, gazing longingly at the cushy seats in the lobby, “shouldn’t we sit down and figure out what we are doing?” To this I gregariously replied, “No necessary! We are going to the Duomo! We can figure out the rest after we get there!”

And off we went. Our first decision point was whether we should take the metro or walk. I wasn’t certain whether there would be a ticket machine, and so decided to walk. And walk we did. And walk. And walk, through desolate Sunday morning streets. It was at least a mile in the searing late summer sun, our sleep deprivation wearing at us. Trudging forward through the arduous noon heat, on our own private Bataan Death March, I held forth the carrot of seats and lunch to goad us on. 

Eventually we happened upon hope in the form of La Scala. And yet we slogged ahead, until finally the buildings parted and we crossed into the famous, and beautiful, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This is a four-winged mall that built in ~1870 and is covered by a fantastic glass ceiling. It was teeming with people just trying to take in what they were seeing. It was breathtaking.

We moved more quickly now, as I had a goal in mind. Yet when we eventually found my destination it was closed. Alas. And so it was that we finally found our way into Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the magnificent Duomo, aka Santa Maria Nascente. 

 We gawked briefly, but our need for food was urgent. And turning I found a sign for the Aperol Terrace. This spoke to my heart as well as my stomach, so up we went and found ourselves shady seats on the terrace overlooking the piazza. 

We each had an Aperol Spritz, which was the perfect refreshing drink for our conditions. And we also had lots of water. 


To eat G had a ham sandwich, and I had a caprese salad with burrata and 18 month prosciutto. This was absolutely delicious and much needed.

After our repast we finally went to the Duomo. This is a gothic church, harkening more to the art and architecture of France than it does to the Italian peninsula, so it is different from other places I have visited. It is spectacular, and even overwhelming in its scale. They ask us not to take photos inside, so I have none to show you, but take my word for it.

For a small price, we went underground to the ruins of the Paleo-Christian baptistry. Saints Augustine and Ambrose were baptized here, which is rather humbling from a historical perspective. Also here were the ruins of St. Thecla, which has since been buried by the piazza. I pointed out that it really makes sense that the old church isn’t under the new church. Its like when they build a new McDonalds behind the old one. That way they can keep working until the new one is ready and they can tear down the old. G was appalled at the analogy.


From here we went up. Way up, to the top of the church, where we were allowed to wander the roof. This follows a Butterblogger pattern of climbing to precarious heights at risk of life and limb. The risk here was minimal, although the grade of the roof was a bit discomfiting.

The views were astonishing.

As were the buttresses.

I just cant begin to do them justice.

We could see the modern parts of town, which presented an interesting juxtaposition to the setting of the old city center around us.

Finally we left the sun-baked roof and cooled down in the museum of the Duomo before heading back to the hotel (via the metro!) and cleaning up.


Dinner was pizza (many restaurants were, again, closed), which was really quite good. Had I never been to Naples I wouldn’t know the difference, but it wasn’t quite as good as the Neapolitan pizza I had with D.

After dinner we had a compulsory gelato and then sat once more in the piazza just absorbing the vibrance of the Italian night around us. And then we returned, at long last, to our hotel and our beds.

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