From bustling Milan to calming Lake Como, exploring Italy’s Lombardy region

From bustling Milan to calming Lake Como, exploring Italy’s Lombardy region

The last time I was in Milan, Italy, was more than 10 years ago when I took my first trip and first solo traveler journey to Europe. I was coming from Venice and needed to change trains in Milan to get to Paris. But I got off at the wrong train station in Milan…little did I know at the time, in my limited international traveling experience…that Milan had more than one train station. I ended up missing my train to Paris and had to wait in Milan for six hours to catch the next train. I was just too intimidated to get out and explore Milan so I spent those six hours hanging out at the train station. Well, not today.

Our Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour guide, Patricia Brady, arranged for a group of us to take two buses from Orta to the Milan Central Railway and once I got there, even though I wasn’t getting on a train…at least not yet…I took a cab to my hotel in Milan, got checked in and hit the streets just like I’d been here many times before…except I haven’t. But this time, I have travel miles under my belt…so stand back Milan cause I’m ready for you now. And, I’ve got five days for us to get to know one another.

And, what better way to get to know Milan than through its most revered artist, Leonardo da Vinci and “The Last Supper.”

I specifically chose to not overload myself today, so I just scheduled a tour of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” which hangs on what was the dining hall wall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The dining hall and where “The Last Supper” resides is to the left and the Santa Maria delle Grazie church with its dome is to the right. May 14, 2017
This is the inside of the Santa Maria Della Grazie church in Milan, Italy, and next to the church is the former monastery dining hall where Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” resides. May 14, 2017
It’s considered the most well known piece of art in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” It is on what was the dining hall wall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The painting has been restored 11 times. The last restoration took 21 years, from 1978 to 1999 by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon who painstakingly worked to stabilize the painting and reverse the damages caused by dirt, pollution and previous restorations. She also did a detailed study to determine the painting’s original form. Since the painting could not be moved or removed, the dining room was sealed and made into a climate-controlled environment. To see “The Last Supper” you need advance tickets and only a certain number of people are allowed in for 15 minutes at a time…after passing through two de-humidifying chambers. And, then into this huge room with “The Last Supper” covering the wall from end to end. May 14, 2017
A close-up of “The Last Supper by” Leonardo da Vinci on what was the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, of Jesus and his 12 disciples when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Leonardo was in his early 40’s and it took him four years, from 1494 to 1498, to complete the painting. Although the most recent restoration took 21 years, from 1978 to 1999, the colors are quite dull and faded, but the restorer chose to remove previous restoration attempts and through research sought to bring the painting back to its original form. May 14, 2017
Another close up to Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” This painting is not considered a fresco because of the manner in which Leonardo painted it, on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster. The painting represents the scene of the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21. Although author Dan Brown of “The DaVinci Code” wrote a compelling piece of fiction, the person seated to the left of Jesus is not Mary. Instead, it is John, who was the youngest apostle and who was often painted with feminine features. May 14, 2017
This oil on canvas copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” was painted by Andrea Bianchi, also known as Vespino and can be seen at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy.  May 14, 2017
The south wall of what was the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, and the opposite end of where the “Last Supper” is located is this 1495 fresco by Giovanni Donato Montorfano called the “Crucifixion.” May 14, 2017
A close-up of Giovannia Donato Montorfano’s 1495 frescoed depiction of the “Crucifixion,” inside the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. May 14, 2017
Me doing my writing thing in my small, by centrally located hotel…Hotel Regina…in Milan, Italy. May 14, 2017
My small, bit sufficient room, with a desk, at Hotel Regina in Milan, Italy. May 14, 2017

Today was all about the Milan Duomo and my deep fondness for the history and art that make cathedrals like this one such masterpieces of worship. I could not help but to be impressed by this behemoth Duomo with its mass of rich marble accentuated by spires and statues gleaming in the sunlight as it commands its place on the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy.

The Milan Duomo, dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity, is considered to be one of the largest churches in the world. The exterior of the Duomo is the result of several construction stages over the centuries. The saints, on top of the 135 spires, seem to reach up into the heavens. May 15, 2017
Inside the Milan Duomo and although you can’t see it just yet, there’s actually a crane towards the High Altar of the Duomo. May 15, 2017
This is the High Altar of the Milan Duomo. Unfortunately it is a photo from the side of the Duomo because a crane (not pictured in this photo) is in the way. May 15, 2017
The ciborium of San Carlo, in the form of a circular temple contains a fine tabernacle donated by Pope Pius In and is flanked by silver statues of Saints Carlo and Ambrose, the patron saints of Milan and can be seen in the center of the Milan Duomo’s High Altar. May 15, 2017
The marble even carries through to the floors of the Milan Duomo. The pink-white blocks of Candoglia marble are inset with black marble from Varenna and red from Arizona. The flooring was designed by Tibaldi at the end of the 16th century. May 15, 2017
Okay, here’s the crane. It actually looks small in the middle of this cavernous Milan, Duomo. May 15, 2017
The massive capitals with the niches at the tops of the capitals portray a procession of saints and martyrs in the Milan Duomo. And, the multicolored illustrated stained glass brings in the light. May 15, 2017
A close-up of just one of the thick capitals inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
There are 52 capitals with these procession of saints and martyrs in the niches of the capitals inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
There are 52 capitals with these procession of saints and martyrs in the niches of the capitals inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
The amazing interior of the Milan Duomo with its massive capitals and its niches of saints and martyrs. May 15, 2017
The “Sun of Justice” stained glass window by the High Altar inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
The 16th century monument to Medeghino and the allegories of War and Peace inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
One of the more famous statues inside the Milan Duomo is this statue of Saint Bartholomew, with his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a piece of cloth. May 15, 2017
A full view of the Saint Bartholomew statue, with his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a piece of cloth located inside the Milan Duomo in Milan, Italy. May 15, 2017
This gorgeous 16th century relief, to the right aisle altar in the Milan Duomo, is called the “Presentation of Mary.” May 15, 2017
This statue of the Madonnina, the Virgin Mary, is inside the Milan Duomo and the same statue can be seen atop the exterior of the Duomo. May 15, 2017
The stained glass of the Virgin Mary inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
The Crypt and the underground chapel containing the remains of San Carlo Borromero inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
The Crypt and the underground chapel containing the remains of San Carlo Borromero inside the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
Me trying to get a photo in among the flying buttresses of the Milan Duomo under the spires of the terraces. May 15, 2017
Okay, let’s try this side instead…terraces of the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
The view of the Piazza del Duomo from the terraces of the Milan Duomo.
The top level of the terraces of the Milan Duomo. May 15, 2017
A view of Milan with its eclectic mix of the old and the new. May 15, 2017
The triumphal arch entrance to the very swanky shopping center of the Galleria Victoria Emanuele II from the Piazza del Duomo side in Milan, Italy. The Galleria, with its visible iron and glass interior structure, is a large octagonal center with two triumphal arches that was built between 1865 and 1877. May 15, 2017
The glass-vaulted arcades in an octagon shape cover the interior of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy. May 15, 2017
The glass-vaulted arcades in an octagon shape cover the interior of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy. May 15, 2017
The beautiful artwork in the archways of the interior of the Galleria Victoria Emanuel II in Milan, Italy. May 15, 2017
The beautiful artwork in the archways of the interior of the Galleria Victoria Emanuel II in Milan, Italy. May 15, 2017

I spent my day getting to know Milan, first with a morning walking tour and then some explorations on my own. And, this is what I saw.

The very busy and pedestrian street of Via Dante which leads to the Sforza Castle is filled with restaurants and shops in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
The entrance to the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. May 16, 2017
The entrance to the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. May 16, 2017
The inner court of the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
Inside the Sforza Castle grounds in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
Me inside the grounds of the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2016
Although the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy, now houses several of the city’s museums and art collections, the only thing I wanted to see…after a long day on my feet…was Michelangelo’s unfinished Pieta marble sculpture. Michelangelo worked on the “Rondanini Pieta” from the 1550s until the last days of his life in 1564. This final sculpture revisited the theme of the Virgin Mary mourning over the body of the dead Christ, which he had first explored in his Pietà of 1499 housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. May 16, 2017
A close-up of Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta at the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
Park Sempione and the Peace Arch Arco della Pace behind the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
The Columns of San Lorenzo are prominent Roman ruins, located in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in a very trendy neighborhood in central Milan, Italy. The 16 corinthian columns, all in a row front an open square where young people hang out in this very bohemian area. mingle. In the 4th century, the columns were moved here, after removal from a likely 2nd century pagan temple or public bath house structure. This gem is located about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. May 14, 2017
The columns of San Lorenzo are prominent Roman ruins, located in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan, Italy. May 14, 2017
The columns of San Lorenzo are prominent Roman ruins, located in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan, Italy. May 14, 2017
The ancient Porta Ticinese is one of two medieval gates that still exist in modern Milan, Italy. These gates are located just south of the columns in the same trendy neighborhood. May 16, 2017
A close-up of the ancient Porta Ticinese, one of two medieval gates that still exist in modern Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
The Teatro alla Scala or La Scala Opera House, built on the site of a 14th century church, Santa Maria alla Scala, was inaugurated in 1778 in Milan, Italy. La Scala hosts a variety of theatre performances including opera, ballet and classical concerts. May 16, 2017
I was able to peek in on a ballet rehearsal today at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
Me letting Giacomo Puccini know, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy, that I had been to a concert in his honor in Lucca. Puccini was an Italian opera composer whose work has been played at the theater. May 16, 2017
The ballroom In Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. May 16, 2017
Across the street from the Teatro alla Scala is this park-like area in the centre of the Piazza della Scala is the monument of Leonardo da Vinci by sculptor Pietro Magni from 1872. May 16, 2017
A close-up of the monument in honor of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, Italy’s Piazza della Scala. May 15, 2017
A close-up of Leonardo da Vinci a top a monument in his honor in Milan, Italy’s Piazza della Scala. May 15, 2017
This turned out to be the small side chapel of San Bernardino, better known as an ossuary of numerous human skulls and bones. The church’s origins date to 1145, when a hospital and a cemetery were built in front of the next door basilica of Santo Stefano Maggiore. In 1738 King John V of Portugal was so struck from the chapel, that had a very similar one built at Évora, near Lisbon, which I saw when I was in Evora about three years ago. May 16, 2017
A side wall of the San Bernardino alle Ossa church in Milan, Italy, is best known for its ossuary, a small side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones. May 16, 2017
The San Bernardino alle Ossa church in Milan, Italy, is best known for its ossuary, a small side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones. The ossuary’s vault was frescoed in 1695 by Sebastiano Ricci with a Triumph of Souls and Flying Angels.
The beauty of old European cities is that the old and the new are commingled. This baroque-styled Catholic church, San Giorgio al Palazzo is actually located along the very busy commercial street of Via Torino in Milan, Italy. But inside this church is an amazing piece of art, called Passion of Christ. May 16, 2017
This beautiful masterpiece is inside the San Giorgio al Palazzo church located on a very busy commercial street in Milan, Italy. The painting and frescoes by Bernardino Luini dated 1516 is located close to the High Altar to the right and is called the Passion of Christ. May 16, 2017
Another nice surprise during the walking tour was this historical building, the Loggia deli Ossi in Milan’s Piazza Mercanti, one of the oldest square of the city. So old it used to be Milan’s central square during the Middle Ages. May 16, 2017
The Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine to the left is a historic building of Milan, Italy, located in the Piazza Mercanti, the former city centre in the Middle Ages. It served as a prestigious place of higher learning for medieval Milan. May 16, 2017
The Giureconsulti Palace also known as Palazzo Affari, with the Milan Duomo in the background, is a 16th-century building in Piazza Mercanti, the former center of Milan in the Middle Ages. The construction of the palace began in 1562 and originally served as a school for aspiring politicians and lawyers. May 16, 2017
The Borsa Italiana, Milan’s stock exchange building, was completed in 1932 in marble and travertine with various sculptures on its exterior. However, the sculpture of the hand and finger, is not a part of the building. May 16, 2017
The Finger, which was created by Italy’s most famous contemporary artist, Maurizio Cattelan, caused quite a controversy when it was displayed in the parking lot area of Milan’s stock exchange building, the Borsa Italiana. May 16, 2017

Today, I just kicked back and took it easy. I’ve been going non-stop for weeks and my mind and body needed a rest, so I am resting during my last day in Milan. I’m taking a vacation from my vacation and doing some lounging, some reading and then some more lounging…and loving it.

But before I lounge myself into a coma, let me share my Lake Como/George Clooney experience with you. Yesterday, I took a cruise on Lake Como, the upscale resort set picturesquely against the foothills of the Alps along the Italian-Swiss border, and saw a villa that was said to be Clooney’s villa. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it was a gorgeous day for a boat ride and a peek into the Lake Como luxury buzz. Take a look for yourself!

Tomorrow I head to Sorrento, Italy.

Me by the ancient medieval walls of Como, Italy. Como may be better known for its famous attraction, the lake and the villlas along the lake, better known as Lake Como. But the town itself has its own medieval lineage, including the remains of the walls which were built in the 12th century around the old section of the town. May 17, 2017
In the town of Como, Italy, is this medieval gateway to this ancient city built by the Romans as an important location for trade between European countries and the Mediterranean. This medieval gateway is called the Porta Torre. May 17, 2017
The gothic-renaissance west front of the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy, which began construction in the late 1300’s, is dedicated to the Blessed Lady of the Assumption. May 17, 2017
A close-up of the exterior statues of Como Cathedral in Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
The side entrance of the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
The interior of the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
The high altar of the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
The gorgeous ceiling of the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
There are a number of side altars in the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy, including this one called the Altar of the Assunta (Our lady of the Assumption) and the Blessed Sacrament. May 17, 2017
A close-up of the Altar of Our lady of the Assumption inside the Como Cathedral in Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
The Como Cathedral in Como, Italy, has a number of 16th and 17th century tapestries. May 17, 2017
I don’t know the age of the floors in the Como Cathedral, in Como, Italy, which began construction in the late 1300’s, but I loved the black and white color, the design and how worn these floors are from the years of people coming in to worship. May 17, 2017
The town of Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
The town of Como, Italy. May 17, 2017
I think this view, of my boat ride on Lake Como, is more of what people have in mind. The picturesque villages dotted along the shores of Lake Como with views of villas, ritzy hotels and the elegant idolized Lake Como lifestyles of the rich and famous. And, I’ll get back to this. May 17, 2017
The best way to see the infamous Lake Como is to take a boat ride, which I did. Although I can’t claim this to be true, the tour guide said this is actor George Clooney’s Italian Lake Como villa in the village of Laglio. As you can see, the villa looks closed up so I guess George, or whomever owns this gorgeous villa, is away from home. May 17, 2017
This is Villa del Balbianello which lies on a promontory of Lake Como, Italy, with its elaborate terraced gardens, was built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery. lies on a promontory of the western shore of the lake near Isola Comacina. This villa, which is now a museum devoted to the work of explorer Guido Monzino, has made cameo appearances in several movies including the 2006 James Bond movie “Casino Royale.” May 17, 2017
According to the tour guide on the Lake Como boat ride, this is the villa of English business magnate and philanthropist, Sir Richard Branson. But from what I’ve read, Branson says its news to him. May 17, 2017
The boat I rode on along Lake Como from Como to Bellagio, Italy, with its villas, gardens, luxury shops and tourists descending from packed boats onto the lakeshore. Bellagio is a small village at the tip of a long hilly promontory between the two southern branches of Lake Como. May 17, 2017
A look onto the mountainside and Lake Como from Bellagio, considered the pearl of Lake Como in Italy. May 17, 2017
A look onto the mountainside and Lake Como from Bellagio, considered the pearl of Lake Como in Italy. May 17, 2017
A look onto Lake Como from Bellagio, considered the pearl of Lake Como in Italy. May 17, 2017
Bellagio is considered as the Pearl of Lake Como and from the lakefront there are these pedestrian alleyways with medieval stone stairs (about 140 of them) that lead to a piazza at the top. Along the way up, the alleys are full of shops and restaurants. May 17, 2017
The colorful pedestrian alleyway from the Bellagio’s Lake Como lakefront in Italy. May 17, 2017
The colorful pedestrian alleyway from the Bellagio’s Lake Como lakefront in Italy. May 17, 2017
The colorful pedestrian alleyway from the Bellagio’s Lake Como lakefront in Italy. May 17, 2017

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