April 17, 2004: Landed in Milan at 9 am. It was a pleasant flight but felt like we were in the plane forever. In any case, the fact that we were in Italy (finally!!) took all the fatigue away! Since we didn’t have any checked in luggage (phew!) we could walk out as soon as we got out of immigration (which was a breeze).
We decided to spend a few hours in Milan before heading on to Venice. The cool thing is that the metro (or subway as it is called in US) is right there, below the airport arrival lounge. We headed one level down, did a little bit of currency exchange (what a shocker to actually lose money since the dollar is so undervalued in Europe), and bought metro tickets to go into the city. One advice: better to use cash than credit or traveller’s check. My recommendation is to use an ATM card that does not charge you.
We headed over to the Piazza (which is the central square in most Italian cities) – the metro has a stop right there below the Duomo. Walking out of the metro stop, I got my first glimpse of the magnificent architecture of the Duomo – part gothic. I was in awe… before I knew what was happening I had walked into the Piazza and there were tons and tons of Pigeons flocking to my arm!! The reason, I realize a moment later, is because pigeon food (corn kernels, I think) was forcibly thrust into my hand for the benefit of that ooh-la-la photographic moment! While my hubby happily snapped away pictures of me being mauled by Pigeons in front of Vittoria Emanuele, I was trying hard to get rid of them. When I finally managed to get rid of them, I was flocked by these men who were responsible for putting the food in my hands – they started demanding money from us! That was some experience! We walked away after handing them a Euro (they kept insisting 1 euro wasnt enough!) into this narrow alley behind the Duomo, trying to find a decent place to eat. This brings me to the point that there’s no lack of decent places to eat in Italy but because I am a vegetarian we had to be a little picky. Which is again not a problem in Italy – I had plenty of choices! We finally settled for a cute little sandwich/pizza place called Le Tre Gazzelle. After a hearty lunch of pasta and sandwich (boy, were we hungry!), we sunk our teeth into gelato – the delicacy that everyone promised me was going to taste heavenly! And was it! We had mango, limone, pista and niceolea (hazelnut). And it was yummm! I would move to Italy just for the gelato!
We walked around the fancy stores around the Piazza and then walked till we found a place where we could buy a SIM card for my phone. I had a Motorola v600 and needed a SIM card, so I could latch on to a GSM service in Italy. Now there is no need for a phone in Italy during travel but since I had one anyway (thanks to my job), thought I might as well use it. After some aggravating search, we finally found a SIM card from TIM (Telefonica Italia Mobile) that worked! And that was so cool! We called my in-laws in the US from Milan using our cell and had so much fun doing it!
We then boarded a Trenitalia IC (InterCity) from Milan to Venice. We had bought train tickets in US (this allowed us five days of travel anywhere within Italy in the span of 1 month). This did turn out to be cheaper than buying tickets in Italy.
[http://www.railconnection.com – for tickets to trains across Italy. We bought a 5-ride pass that can be used for any 5 train rides from any point in Italy to any other point.]
The train ride into Venice was uneventful. Took us about an hour and half (??). As we passed Venice Centrale stop and started entering the islands of Venice, the lands rising out of water looked mesmerizing.