Monday, October 18, 2010

Milan, Italy

We took the bus to Milan, going underneath Mont Blanc to get to Courmayeur, Italy, where we stopped and changed buses.
The center roundabout as you come into town. There is a cable car like the one in the picture which you can ride across the valley from Chaminox, France, to Courmayeur, Italy.

Along the road to Milan we saw numerous castles. Many were still in use today.

These castles showed up about every 10 miles.

Most were built around the 1300s by the lord who protected the surrounding area.

But some castles were not so fortunate and were in need of repair.

Between the castles were terraced field of vineyards. I always thought of Italy's vineyards being in the Tuscany area of the country, but I saw more here in the northern hill area.

This was some of the most beautiful countryside in Italy.

We stopped at several small towns to pick up more passengers. This brook and bridge ran right thru the center of town.

In Milan we wanted to see the Duomo, which means 'large cathedral'. Most towns have a Duomo in the center of town, surrounded by a square. This cathedral is the 4th largest in the world. It is a classic gothic styling.

On all sides of the square were beautifully designed buildings. Inside this was a modern mall.

We climbed to the top of the cathedral and found it to be as ornate as the rest of the building. The 'new basilica' was built on this site in the 5th century and an adjoining basilica added in the 800s. In 1075 the buildings burnt and the duomo was started. It took over 500 years to complete. Over those years each Archbishop would make changes, extending the completion. In the 1700s it was again rebuilt under Archbishop Frederico Borromeo.

This was on top of the cathedral.

When we came down we saw what looked like an old fort down the street, so we started walking towards it. What we thought was just a few blocks turned out to be 1.5 miles.

The fountain in front of the fort.

Inside the Castello Sforzesco, named for the Duke of Milan. The front of the castle was built as we see it today during his reign in the 1450s.

One of the orginal gates in the city wall, built in the 12th century. The orginal fortress was built as a defensive structure upon the walls which surrounded the city. The rulers of the Milan used this structure until the 1800s.

Some more of the original walls surrounding Milan. The wall separated the city from the surrounding countryside and farming communities.

Coming out of the gates, looking at what once would have been the area outside of Milan, we saw this arch. Of course we had to walk over and find out what it was, so another mile later we are there. This area in the 16th and 17th century was a park, owned by the Visconti Dukes. It was a walled area creating an estate of over 3 million square metres. In the late 17th century, followingl the fall of the Sfzorza's and the arrival of the Spanish, most of the estate was turned into farmland. In the late 1800s it was proposed to demolish the castle, but that project failed and instead the area was determined to be rebuilt as the historical site it was. The arch was built in the early 1900s as part of the restoration project.

Following all that walking we decided it was time to eat at one of the outdoor restaurants which lined the streets of Milan.

Inside the train station at Milan.

We never made any reservations for hotels, trains, buses, etc., and never had a problem. We even rode the train second class. We walked through the first class car and couldn't really tell the difference.
Next stop: Florence.