Saturday, 21 June 2014

Italy, Milan's Shoppers

Shopping in Milan is so different from Singapore. In Singapore, I can casually go into a shop and pick up any items to look at. I don't even feel guilty if I don't buy them because I'm just browsing through.  

However in Italy, I feel like I really need some serious cash to enter a shop. It's like a culture in Italy to buy what you had shown interest in. I did feel kind of pressured when the salesperson came around, but parting with my hard-earned money on items with exorbitant price tags proved to be even more difficult. Having said that, I must admit that I am not much of a shopper.  

In Italy, high end boutiques like Prada and Louis Vuitton hired their own security guards. The guards looked like CIA agents in black Italian suits and shiny shoes. They looked really stern and had eyes that never seemed to miss a beat. They even wore ear phones to communicate with one another. Frankly, I found the guards a lot more interesting than all the branded goods on display. Hehhe.. 

At the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Jas bought a Prada and an LV wallet for her friends. Unlike Jas, I chose to deny any request list because it's troublesome. However, the experience of buying those wallets had me comparing Prada with LV. Overall, the hospitality in Prada seemed a notch higher than in Louis Vuitton (LV).

The structure of this shopping mall was breathtaking. It is one of the oldest mall in the world, opened somewhere in the 1880s, and it has that classy look where the royalty goes to shop. Seriously, I can imagine how the king of Italy used to walk along the mall with his large entourage of servants in the olden days. 

If I were to describe the mall, it consists of two adjacent streets covered by an arching glass and a cast iron roof. And along the streets, there were mosaics portraying the coats of arms of different cities in Italy. Over at the top near the dome, there were also paintings in recognition to Italy's great painters. The mall looks very modern to me despite its age and it's certainly something that will never get old with time. 

In the photo, Jas was standing on the famous Turin's mosaic. See the bull in the mosaic? According to the Italian's beliefs, placing the back of your foot on the bull's genital and turning three times will bring you good luck. I did not know how many times we turn. Well, according to our own logic, it's supposed to double or triple our luck. Hahha... we're a pair of nutcase.

Another expensive street with retailers selling haute couture, jewellery, and paintings. 

We were on our way to the supermarket when we came across this car. It's big but it's only a one-seater.

That's all for our second day in Italy. We just spent our day walking down the streets after we visited the Duomo. I wanted to buy the AC Milan soccer jersey for my dad and brother but it didn't materialise. On the fourth day, we set off to Tirano via train in the morning.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Italy, Duomo di Milano

We were fascinated when we saw the Duomo because it was our first time seeing such a humongous, Gothic structure. Built in 1386, it actually took nearly 6 centuries to complete the building!! You can imagine how many generations of engineers, architects, sculptors and stone cutters all over Europe were involved. Amazing. 

In Italian, the word "Duomo" means cathedral church. We visited the Duomo twice in a row as we wanted to explore its interior and climb up to the rooftop.

Photo credit to:

Here's a better photo of the Duomo.

The Duomo di Milano is the fifth largest Catholic cathedral in the world; the first is the St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. While we were there, there was a conservation work done to maintain the Duomo's marble. Not an easy work I would say because every part of the Duomo is a piece of artwork and it has really very high ceiling.

Just look at the facade of the Duomo. Elaborate and detailed. No wonder it took so long to complete.

Photo credit to:

The interior of the Duomo is very large and dark. Luckily, there were small openings at the top where the sun rays could come in.

There were many stained glass windows in the Duomo. And each part is meant to tell a story, just like a pictorial book.

This was found near the crypts. There were some candles already lit up by visitors. 

The final resting place of a priest...
There were actually quite a number of crypts in the Duomo. 

It was kind of freakish to see the crypts but I see that it's a common practice in Italy to display crypts of dead monks and priests. I only found out after I got home from the trip that there's another church nearby named San Bernardino Alle Olsa. This church was well-known to visitors because it had its walls stacked with skulls and large bones. 

Climbing up to the rooftop, we saw more statues, spires as well as gargoyles. The visit to Duomo kind of ended our morning.

We met a friendly staff on our way down. He said 'hello' in many Asian language, but we actually didn't know that he was talking to us until he said 'konichi wa'. We looked up and found him looking thrilled because finally, he got a response from us. The situation was cute especially when he said, 'Ah.. Japanese'. And I didn't want to disappoint him so I greeted him back in Japanese. Sometimes, making someone's day is a reward in itself.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Italy, Milan's Historic Buildings

The beauty of walking in Milan is one gets to discover many interesting streets that are not in the tourist guidebook. We wanted to walk like a Milanese so we also signed up for a free walking tour, and it was amazing as we met many like-minded travellers from different countries. The best part is that we can opt out of the tour anytime and give the tour guide any amount of money as a token of our appreciation.

We didn't opt out though as the tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly.

Walking along a small beautiful street in Milan, we reached the home of Alessandro Manzoni, a great Italian poet and author.

His casa (home) was a true gem in Italy. I couldn't help but marvel at the intricate details of its door; it was such a beauty.

Crossing the streets of Milan.

We came across yet another beautiful home, Casa degli Omenoni. 

There were a total of 8 telemons that embellished the building of this house. Telemon is the Italian word for a support sculpted in the form of a man, which may take place in the form of a column. The use of telemons was popular in classical European architecture.  

Seriously, my photography skills did not do any justice to these amazing columns.

Photo credit to:

I couldn't capture a great photo such as this. 

Casa degli Omenoni also means the house of big men. It was the home of Leone Leoni, a Renaissance artist who struggled to gain both professional recognition and social acceptance in the 1560s.

Wahh... I was seriously in awe when I saw all these telemons. Although they were unforgettable, wouldn't it be scary to come home at night and see these sculptures come alive?

Another medieval part of Milan is Piazza Mercanti. 100 centuries ago, it was the centre of activity for the Milanese. This was where the marketplace, city hall, law court and prison were situated. You can imagine how bustling this place used to be as weddings were also announced here. 

Piazza Mercanti was only a stone throw away from Duomo. It was in fact quite easy to explore Milan as the places were close to one another.

Up next will be my blog on the Duomo and Milan's posh shopping areas.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Italy, Milan

We touched down at Malpensa Airport at 7.50 am (Italy time). It was freezing cold that morning.

This is the Malpensa Express that we took from the airport to Milano Cadorna. From there, we changed to the Metropolitana (Urban Railway System) to get to Milano Centrale, where our accommodation was located.

Photo credit to:

Even though Italy was 6 hours behind Singapore and the flight took more than 13 hours, there was no jet lag. We were lucky in that sense, so as soon as we had secured our luggage at the hotel, it's time for an exploration.  

Actually, I also had a bit of a culture shock earlier on while travelling on the Malpensa Express. I didn't take this photo but Milan was not spared when it comes to graffiti. It was disturbing too because graffiti covered every walls along the railway tracks. 

Photo credit to:

However, the central area of Milan itself was a beautiful place. We went to Castello Sforzesco that morning. At Piazza Castello, there was a large fountain; it was really impressive. The water sprouting out had a rhythmic tune and it certainly had a calming effect on anyone.

Most of the buildings that we passed by were low rise buildings and there was so much space as compared to Singapore. Here, piazzas (public square) were built everywhere for people to get a good breather. 

Adrenaline high, I was being paranoid here. I had my bag placed under my jacket, a gesture to ward off pickpockets and those offering friendship bracelets.

Walking into the walls of the castle, I felt like I was in the era of medieval times. Strangely, of all the movies I could connect to in this era was the Lord of the Rings. That got a laugh from my friend because she thinks that I'm a craze fan of the LOTR. Urghhh... it should have been Robin Hood or King Authur.

This is one of the castle's courtyards.

I love the circular-shaped structure of the castle. This castle was originally constructed in 1358, but it was then enhanced into a princely residence by Francesco Forza, a duke, in the 1450s. When Milan came under foreign rulers, the castle became neglected. By 1860s, its state was really bad that the city wanted it to be demolished. Luckily, it was saved by an architect named Luca Beltrami. 

And today, this castle is a public building which houses 9 civic museums. After walking around the castle, we took our time to venture to other places.

Another piazza, Piazza Della Scala. 

This is the statue of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the three giants of the High Renaissance. The other two giants were Michaelangelo and Raphael (not featured here). I had to admit that I am always lost when it comes to art. But wrt Leonardo, I knew that he was the artist who painted the famous Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Huhu.. But I knew nothing on his other art pieces. 

And guess what? Nearby there's an exhibition on Raphael. Time to seek some knowledge.

Continue more of my trip to Milan in my next post.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Singapore, Blogging Again

I had not been blogging conscientiously for quite some time. Not because I had stopped travelling, it's because I kept on pushing to a later date and then the days eventually became months.

But, I'm back and I really need some time to recall my last year's December trip. It was the trip of the year for me because it was my first time in Europe. Gosh, just typing this out made me excited again.

I planned this trip with Jas, my travel companion. We didn't visit the entire Europe though as we wanted to learn more about a particular country and immerse ourselves in its culture. Italy fascinated us in a great way and 13 days is simply too short to cover from the top to the tip of Italy.

I have to stop here as I needed to get to work. Next post will be about our starting point in Italy, Milan.