Today, St. Valentino, was our first day in Italy. After a short plane ride over Belgium, Germany, and the Austrian Alps (beautiful!) Allison and I landed in Milan. We stayed at a budget hotel (there are no hostels in Milan) called Hotel Brivio. Our "hotel" was really a hallway of four rooms with a bathroom at the end and an office. Our room was like a dorm room with two beds and big cabinets. It reeked of cigarettes, but was pretty clean otherwise and had a tv! After getting settled, we hopped right on the metro, which was the easiest metro I've ever had to navigate, and went to the Duomo (Do-oh-mo). Coming up the metro steps, I was talking to Allison...then I looked up, gasped, and completely forgot what I was saying. The Duomo is the most breathtaking piece of architecture I've ever seen in my life. It is gigantic, the world's third largest cathedral, with around 135 white marble spirals, intricate detailing, and space for 40,000 people inside...you'll have to look at my pictures, but even those cannot do it justice. It took four centuries to build! And they have a saying in Milan that when something is taking a long time it's like "la fabbrica del Duomo" (like making the Duomo). We then went to the open air mall right next to the Duomo called Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. There was a crowd of screaming girls in front, waving up at a balcony where there was some famous guy in a pink shirt and a couple of people filming him. I took a picture of him, but Allison and I have no idea who it was. The mall is amazing too, huge with glass covered halls and a grand glass dome. There aren't many stores inside though, its mostly restaurants and tourist shops. They have the nicest McDonald's there; it looks like a fancy restaurant and has a cappucino bar. We then wandered down some side streets looking for lunch and found we don't really understand how it works in some places. We couldn't tell if we were supposed to order and then sit, or sit and have a waiter, and we didn't know how to ask. Finally, we found a charming outdoor cafe with a very friendly waiter that spoke some English. He took a picture of us and exclaimed "I love you!" when I got up to leave. When sitting at an outdoor cafe though, beggers come up to your table, or men selling roses (since it was Valentine's Day?) and they don't leave you alone for awhile, which is annoying. We then went inside the Duomo, which was also beautiful. The church is dark inside, and the ceilings go up forever. We looked at the stained glass, some statues, and then went downstairs into someone's crypt. They were in a glass coffin, although I really don't think it was their actual body. I loved this church, it is my favorite one in the world. We then went to the tourist office located in the Piazza del Duomo and got a map and a copy of "Hello Milano" which had a lot of good suggestions for things to do in it. We hopped on the metro to go to the Navigli, the artsy, student area located along Milan's two canals. First, wewent to the Rinomata Gelateria, the best gelati place in Milan, if not all of Italy. It is a small store, with glass cabinents lined with cones and golden bells covering all of the flavors. We tried to figure out what the flavors were, and then I ordered nutella and strawberry, which was a wonderful combination. I dragged Allison to see the Basilica di Sant' Eustorgio, a church with the oldest bell tower in Milan, dating back to the 11th century. It was a peaceful place, and there was a crazy tree that was bent at an extreme angle too. We then walked back to the Navigli and walked down Ripa di Porta Ticinese, one of the canals. It was very ugly; the canals were drained, so they were just mud and construction vehicles inside. The Navigli, and most of Milan is ugly too...cold, dark, grafitti everywhere. The stores and restaurants inside were very chic though. I bought a pretty silver cuff bracelet, and we went to a few other stores. Then, we settled on going to Mas! for happy hour. It was a Spanish tapas bar with plush couches and warm colors inside, filled with people celebrating St. Valentino. Allison and I sat at a small corner table talking and enjoying the scene. We then went back to the hotel and relaxed and watched the Olympics on tv, exclaiming, "that is only an hour away from us right now!" and then went to bed to rest up for another day in Milan.