Italy - Milan


We went for a walk to buy a ticket for the bus to take us to the airport tomorrow and to check the times. The bus leaves every 20 minutes on the hour, 20 past, and 20 to the hour. We are planning on catching the 7:40am bus to the airport.

We went to a coffee shop that we visited when we were first in Milan three weeks ago and had a coffee, it was still the best coffee we had in Italy.

The coffee place is called “” and facing the railway station it is on the right left hand side on the first street over – about 30 meters from the station.

We go to the supermarket and buy some water, and a salami and a bottle of wine.

We head back to the hotel and eat salami and drink some wine. We had a bottle of Prosecco ( A bubbly we bought in Venice) which was very nice but a little too sweet for me even though it was Extra Dry. The bottle of wine we bought at the supermarket was a Dolcetto which was not good at all.

We then went to find some food for dinner – today is May Day in Europe (1st May) and pretty much everything was closed. We wondered around a big block and found 2 restaurants open out of about 50.

We went to one next our hotel that had a lot of people in it. We got seated and ordered 2 beers and a two pasta dishes. The beers were OK, the food was crap. I sent mine back and refused to pay.

The dish I had was penne pasta with Salmon + Rocket in a cream sauce.

It had about enough salmon to fit in teaspoon and no Rocket. The cream sauce was disgusting, the pasta was cooked ok. What a waste of a meal.

Pam ate about 1/2 of her meal, and left the rest. Hers looked like it came out of a plastic bag and was microwaved.

So back to the room – finish off the bad red after the bad food in the bad hotel – not exactly what we wanted for the last night.

Milan – Hotel San Carlo

We arrived in Milan at 2:45pm and headed to the hotel which is only about 100 meters from the train station. The outside looks nice and the inside looks nice. We are told that our room is not ready and we need to wait 20 minutes for it to be cleaned. We ended up waiting 40 minutes and when we get to the room it is pretty dingy and crappy – does not look clean and the area outside of the room near the elevator stinks of mould.

The room is very small – hardly anywhere to leave your bag and still have room to move around the bed. One plus is it had CNN on the TV!

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The first photo is of the bed spread – threadbare, the second is mould what looks like mould in the bathroom and the third is above the shower.

This place needs a full renovation and is basically a dump – $250 NZD for 1 night

Milan to Triora

We packed up our bags and left them at the hotel and went to the train station to pickup our rental car – I could not help myself and had to have a final coffee on the way – great as always – 90 cents

We went to the EuropCar office at the train station and filled in the paper work for the car and then had to wait until someone bought the car to the train station. It was obviously a busy day as a couple of girls came in looking for a car for 1 day and the man said they only had 1 car left which was 120 EURO for the day which is about 300 NZD

We waited for about 20 minutes for the car to arrive which was an Alfa Romeo – 159, only 30,000 on the clock, 6 Speed Manual Gearbox


First off I could not even work out how to start it – I knew from Top Gear that you put the key in the hole and click the Start/Stop button but it did not work. I finally got it going without really knowing what I did.

We fitted the TOMTOM to the window and entered the hotel address as the destination since driving is different than walking the route.

We reversed out and onto the road and into the street. Since I drive an automatic I am not familiar with the 6 speed manual gearbox and we stopped at a set of lights and I placed it into 3rd instead of first since it looked the right spot – I stalled the car and then could not work out how to start it again – STUCK in TRAFFIC – people honking behind me – at least it was a Saturday.

I finally worked out you had to put your foot on the clutch and hold it down to start  (should have worked it out at the station).

We drove to the hotel and picked up our bags which fit in the boot nicely and programmed the TOMTOM with TRIORA as the destination – 300 km and about 3.5 hours.

We drove through Milan central where the roads were sometimes not much wider than the car and found the Autostrada (Motorway) entrance and we were off (did I mention the TOMTOM? great – no hassles – I think it would have a been quite hard work with Pam giving me directions as she is terrible with directions saying the maps are not left handed)

The Autostrada speed limit is 130 kph which is 81 mph. Most people go a lot faster – I would say some would be driving 180 kph quite easily especially the Mercedes, Porsche, BMW’s and there are heaps of them all everywhere.

The road is good – 3 lanes out of Milan on the A7 until we changed to the A26 where it dropped to two lanes.

On the way from Milan to where we turned off near the coast to Triora I think we went through about 150 tunnels. Some short 100 meters, some 2km long.

We decided to stop in Savona to get some groceries for our 7 nights in Triora – so we had to leave the Autostrada and pay out first toll. It was 10 EURO from Milan to Savona.

We were not sure were to go to buy food so we put into the TOMTOM we wanted a shopping centre and it found a few – the first 1.1 km and next 35km so we took the first option.

We found the shopping centre and all the parking was underneath it so we drove in the car park but I was not comfortable parking it down there as it takes time to work out the width and length of a new vehicle so we drove out again and parked on the road.

We went in side and found the supermarket or in this case a COOP on the second floor – We found a trolley (normally you have to pay 1 EURO and you get it back later when you drop it back) and went inside. You can buy a stereo, television, game machine, clothes with your groceries in this place.

We went for the food section – there is so much variety there compared to NZ:

  • 1.5 Litre water – 45 cents
  • 6 eggs – 1 Euro + 80 cents
  • Parmesan cheese – depends on the quality but from 12 to 30 euro
  • Olives – plastic bag 50 cents to glass jars 2-3 euro but it depends on the type and size
  • Pork Chops – 7 euro / kg

We spent 80 euro on food which included 3 bottles of wine – mostly cheap stuff since I don’t know anything about Italian wine.

We bought some 24 month old parmesan, about 350 grams for a bit under 6 EURO

They have interesting toast here – it comes in a package like a pack of biscuits – and yes it is toast – pre toasted – Brittle but actually quite nice

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They have lovely other cheeses everywhere and cheap – so we bought a selection. We also bought eggs, pasta, olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salami, prosciutto, lemonade, coke, artichokes, butter and jam.

After the shopping centre we put Triora back into the TOMTOM and off we went (picking up a new motorway toll ticket)

We drove for another 30 minutes and exited the motorway and had to pay 9 EURO in tolls this time so 19 EURO in tolls.

Now we leave the coast and work out way into the mountains – the roads now get quite narrow and in some places very hard for 2 cars to pass each other. Pam mentioned that there is a bus in Triora and it would not be good to meet this on a narrow corner  - we inched around a corner with another car from the other direction and the found the bus, but at least we had a wider section of road now.

I put a software application called HEIGHT on the TOMTOM that tells you your height and we could see we were climbing quite fast- our destination is at 700 meters.

Milan – Food

We have not had a huge amount of food while in Milan – we arrived early on Thursday morning and ate on the plane so we did not need too much food. We went to visit the Duomo and after that we went to a restaurant around the corner (in the view of the Duomo means you pay far too much)

Chris had a salad - very nice and quite large, lettuce, Radish, Olives, Mozzarella  and you just add Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar – cost 7 EURO

Pam had a Pizza, Milan style – pretty basic a very thin base which looked like a flour tortilla, with cheese and some tomato and basil – cost 7 EURO

A 1.5 litre bottle of water – 2.5 EURO

I think my salad was better value and I enjoyed it more than Pam enjoyed her pizza.


Well what can I say – great (but it still depends on where you get it)

We went to a little bar next to the train station and their espresso is 90 cents and is great. Basically an automatic machine (I may try to get a photo tomorrow before we leave), the man grinds the coffee and the just clicks a button to get an espresso.

I asked for a Cafe this morning in the hotel and they came back with crap American style watered down coffee. This is suppose to be called Cafe Americano so I asked for an espresso – but this was too hot and tasted like some in Christchurch- a bit bitter with a bad extraction.


I enjoyed the breakfast in the hotel this morning – basically as you would expect – bread, jam, sweets buns etc. There was also eggs (uova), cheese, salami, and luncheon.

There was a nice Pianoforte with orange which I liked.


Pam and I went to the park today and had lunch there.

I had a Panini with Tomato and Mozzarella drizzled with Olive Oil which I enjoyed very much, Pam had just a Gelato.


We went to a local restaurant around the corner from the hotel and had a pretty simple meal.

I had a Risotto Milanese – which was basically Saffron Rice and cheese – pretty basic and yellow – 7 EURO

Pam had a dish of Spaghetti and Clams which tasted nice to me but she said she preferred mine. – 8 EURO

A large beer (660 ML) – 4 EURO

Milan – a stroll through Parco Sempione

Parco Sempione was built on part of what were originally the gardens and the huge 300-hectare hunting reserve of the Duke, adjacent to his castle. Sforza Castle, named after its architect Francesco Sforza, dates back to the 14th Century, being one of the last examples of Napoleonic art, as it was modernised by the Napoleones.

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We sat on the grass and had a simple lunch, Pam just had a Limone Gelato 1.5 Euro, I had a Pomodore and Mozzarella Panini (sandwich) 2.5 Euro and later a Pistachio Gelato 1.5 Euro

We then strolled the park and caught the metro back to the central station and our hotel. We bought some beer (1.5 Euro per can) and water (49 Cents for 1.5 Litre) at the Super Mercato at the Train Station.

Milan – Leonardo's Last Supper

Today is Good Friday and as such it is a public holiday in Italy (as it is at home)

We have tickets (see to Leonardo's Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie church. You need to buy tickets well in advance and in our case we bought them on the internet about 2 months ago. You are granted 15 minutes in a group of 25 people maximum which is actually quite good since there are no queues and you have a good view of the restored painting.

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle Grazie

You can get very close to the painting, about 6 feet, and in fact there was no security to stop you taking anything in the room.

This page allows you to view the room the painting is in in 360 degrees and zoom in and out

This page allows you to zoom into parts of the painting


You are not allowed to take photos in the gallery and you must go through a dust removal process where you go through a couple of air locks before you get in.

The painting is large at 4.6 by 8.8 meters (roughly 15 by 29 feet).

History of the Painting's Restoration

The method in which the painting was executed, on a dry surface, rather than on wet plaster, the traditional method for a fresco, meant that it stood up very poorly to the test of time. By 1556, the notable contemporary historian of the Renaissance Giorgio Vasari was describing the painting as  "ruined", to such a degree that the figures were no longer recognizable. In 1652, a door was cut through the bottom of the painting -- almost completely gone by that time -- and this can be seen in the gray unpainted area immediately below Jesus. The arch was eventually bricked up again.

Michelangelo Bellotti was the first artist to try to restore the painting. In 1726, he attempted to paint over the damaged sections with oil paint, and then cover the lot with varnish to preserve it from further deterioration. However, the methods and materials of the time were unequal to the task, and another restoration had to be attempted in 1770, some 44 years later. Giuseppe Mazza completely undid Bellotti's work and started from scratch, essentially re-painting the work. However, he was never allowed to finish, as the public was outraged at what they saw as creative liberties on his part.

In 1796, Napoleon's French troops were stationed around the convent and used the refectory as a makeshift prison, though it is unknown what further damage this caused.

In 1821, an attempt was made to move the "fresco" to a safer location. Stefano Barezzi, the expert charged with this task, damaged the painting quite badly before he realized that the work was not a fresco, but had been painted on a dry surface. He attempted to fix the damage he had done, but this only made the situation worse. From 1901 to 1908, Luigi Cavenaghi began a careful cleaning of the painting. He was followed by Oreste Silvestri in 1924, who cleaned the painting further and stabilized those parts that were still intact with stucco.

In 1943, during World War II, the convent was struck by a bomb. While sandbags had been put up to protect the painting from bomb splinters, vibration may have caused further damage. After the war, from 1951 to 1954, another cleaning and stabilization was attempted by Mauro Pelliccioli.

It was not until the end of the 20th Century that a major restoration of this key work of art was undertaken. Between 1978 and 1999, under the leadership of Pinin Brambilla Barcilon, a concerted effort was made to reverse the damage caused by time, dirt, pollution and previous restoration attempts and to permanently stabilize the painting. Since the method used for the original painting made it impossible to move, the refectory was sealed off and set up with climate-controlling equipment. A detailed study of the painting was conducted using state-of-the-art methods such as infrared reflectoscopy and microscopic core-sampling. To determine the painting's original shape, the restorers studied Leonardo's sketches, as well as contemporary copies of the painting.Some areas had undergone such extensive damage that the restorers concluded that they were unrestorable and re-painted these areas in subdued watercolors, in order to demonstrate that these were not part of the originial work.

The results of the restoration were unveiled on May 28, 1999. There was considerable controversy over some of the decisions made by the restoration team, which included drastic changes in color, tone, and even the facial features of some of the apostles.

Milan Collage around the Duomo

Milan - Collage of the Duomo

Same photos in a different layout

Milan - Collage aound the Duomo

Milan – off to the Duomo

After a quick rest in the hotel we decided to go to the Piazza Del Duomo to see the Cathedral (Duomo in Italian)

It was a lovely day – probably 18 degrees Celsius or so by 11:30am

We caught a Metro train from the central station to the Duomo station for 1 Euro each

On exiting the metro station you are presented with the following:


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We have had a few coffees, the price of an Cafe Espresso is generally around 80-90 euro cents (that is if you stand at the bar) and they taste good..

Milan – Arrival

We arrived in Milan from Singapore Airlines flight SQ387 ( 12 Hours + 45 Minutes ) at approx 6:45am local time.

The aircraft was a Boeing 777 300 ER which means not a lot to most people but it was larger than the 777 from Christchurch to Singapore which was probably a 777 200.

We had more leg room and there was more space between the isles, the entertainment system was also updated with screens that were about 9” or 10” wide and of very high quality.

We left and aircraft and went through immigration which was basically “here is my passport, they stamp it” and it was all over – nothing to fill in at all.

We picked up our bags and went through the nothing to declare isle (we bought two bottles of Bombay Saphire – $29 Singapore each – which is about $33 NZD) and we were out in the Milan Airport terminal – time 5 minutes

We bought a ticket on the Malpensa shuttle – 7 Euro each, the trip into town took almost an hour to cover the 60km – lots of traffic at 7:45am-8:30am on a Thursday morning.

Once the bus arrived at the Stazionne Central (Central Station) we walked to our hotel which was around the corner  - 3 minutes

We checked in to the Hotel Monopole, and were given a room right away and also got a free upgrade to a superior room.  When we made the booking back in December we asked for a refurnished room and also that we would be arriving early, and it was very nice for both of these requests to have been accepted.

Not long after we settled in we needed to go out and visit Milan and found that our door could easily be pushed open so we told the reception and we got a new room.

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