Today was an absolutely beautiful day. I started off late because I slept in and took my time getting up as I was somewhat behind in sleep. I caught the bus to Piazza Santa Babila which is a large shopping Piazza in Milan and is the start of the nice street that leads all the way from my hostel to the Castello Sforzesco.
Nothing was open (because it was Sunday) which was probably a good thing, because I was definitely feeling in the mood to spend. I walked down the back side of Via Dante to the Piazza Scala which is a really nice little piazza with the Scala Thatre which is a famous Opera House and this great statue dedicated to Di Vinci. It is also the gateway to the backside of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele which is the oldest indoor shopping mall in the world. It houses a bunch of upscale Milannese shops like Louis Vuitton and Prada and has a bunch of cute restaurants as well. It's huge and extremely nice. There are murals painted at the top of all of the junctions and the ceiling is made of glass.
From here, you walk out right in the middle of the Piazza Duomo. The piazza itself is huge. There is a large statue in the middle with a guy on a horse but other than that, there is absolutely nothing in it. Except... annoying men. There are these guys who will walk up to you when you're taking pictures or just standing admiring the duomo and they will put bird seed in your hand and then ask you for money for the bird seed. Even though you didn't ask for it. Then there are these other guys who have these lame woven bracelets that they literally throw on you and then ask you for money for them. They literally drape them over your arm as you're walking by and then chase after you. You have to start just shaking them off on the ground and ignoring the swearing that follows it. It was quite a relief to go inside the Duomo.
First off... from the outside, this is the most beautiful church I have ever seen. It is so massive (the 2nd largest cathedral in the world) and so intricate. The spires that come out of the top are so massive and carved so beautifully and there are so many of them. The inside feels like being in an empty warehouse. I arrived just after mass had ended and so you could smell all the incense and it was still a little cloudy from it all. It made for the most eery atmosphere. I took a couple pictures of the main nave and then walked to the side to pay some respect - lit a candle and prayed for a couple of minutes. You would not believe how many people were praying. And it was so strange because EVERYONE is catholic. There was a certain place where they had holy water and if you didn't take it and know what to do with it, the little priest guy wouldn't let you pass. There were probably 20 benches full of people praying and there were thousands of candles lit at the ofteratory table. And the organ music in the background didn't help to make things less spiritual. It was strange but I just sat there in this ADD sort of state for the longest time. It was like I couldn't pray because there wasn't enough room in the air to fit another prayer. I waited for a long time kneeling on the pew before I finally got out a couple minutes of dedicated goodness and then got up so someone else could sit where I was. There were probably 10 people also saying the rosary in various places around. I can't imagine how it's going to be at the Vatican. I mean, this is close enough though. This is like the suburbs of Christian headquarters. I didn't take many pictures of the inside of the church although it was the first Catholic one I've been into where they let you take pictures. For some reason, I just wanted to keep this to myself. Ya, ya I know, I'm selfish, but I'm not sure a picture would do this place justice and I didn't want to try. I guess you'll just have to see for yourself :)
After I walked inside the duomo for a good hour, I went up on top which was SOO much easier than the one in Florence. There were only 120 steps to the top and they were all in groups of 4 so I was never really scared. Once on the top, the views were great. It was a clear day and you could see all the way to the Italian Alps to the north. The city laid out in every direction (although you weren't as high up as you were in the duomo) you could pretty much see everything. I think the reason it didn't feel as high up as well was because the buildings here are much taller than they were in Florence. Here, they will easily be 6 to 8 stories tall where as in Florence, there wasn't much over 3 or 4.
After I came down from the duomo, I walked down the Via Dante towards the Castello Sforezsco which is this huge old castle that sits right in the middle of the city. It has a ton of museums in it and has a lot of cool parts that were damaged during WWII (it was weird here, because this was the first place I was at where the Allies were the ones who did the damage...). On the way to the castle, I was stopped by a huge crowd that was watching a parade. Low and behold - a Communist parade!! It was thousands of people marching with Communist banners and crazy outfits on. They all walked to the Piazza Duomo and then had some sort of rally that, of course, I couldn't understand because it was in Italian. It was really interesting to watch though.
I walked down to the Castello and grabbed a foccacia to go. The castle was great, huge, big moat, big walls, lots of fake purses. There wasn't much going on inside though. The museums didn't house anything I deemed necessary of €20 so I moved on to the Parco Sempione which is this huge park that used to basically be the backyard of this castle. The park was really nice. There were some people practicing some form of Asian fighting where the guys were actually hitting eachother (although it was more of a dance and was choreographed) and the girls were doing these really slow warrior dances with big swords. It was interesting, to say the least. I also walked down to see a group of black market purse dealers pretend to be playing soccer in the park with their bags of fake purses under the tree while they were waiting for the police to leave the castello.
After this, I walked to the Piazza Sempione which is basically just the other end of the Parco and then back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to my hostel. On the way, I stopped for about 15 minutes to watch these break dancers dance at the base of a mall staircase. There were about 100 people stopped to watch them and they were just a bunch of guys in their early 20s dancing for fun. A couple of them were REALLY good and would get shouts and applause when they finished their little move, not only from the crowd, but from their own friends. I also caught a nice sunset down the Via Dante which was a nice finale to my evening.
Once back at the hostel, I learned that we had a nice dinner cooked for us thanks to Mido, the guy who runs our hostel (very close to Mimo, the guy at the last place). He cooked us this fantastic Penne with Peppers and Mushrooms and Zucchini in a really light tomato sauce and there was a big salad with REALLY fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on iceberg with a balsamic dressing. It was a really great meal!! And he gave me 2 stella artois' which was very nice :)
After that, him and his friends all went upstairs to hang out, so I may be currently in charge. He said he'd be back in two hours... Haha, not sure what that means :)
Anyways, I'm off to Switzerland tomorrow pending that the train strike is over. The Italian trains have been striking for the past day or two so I'm hoping that they've had enough and will let me ride tomorrow.