The plane ride from RDU to JFK to Milan was pretty smooth. I had the good fortune of sitting next to a very friendly Italian woman. She is from the Lake Como district and was pleased to hear our group would be visiting Lake Como and Bellagio on the second day of our trip. She recommended some local fish, digestive liquors, and cheeses that are famous in Milan.
We met our tour guide, Andrea, at the airport. He led us to the big tour bus for our trip. When the driver opened the trunk, we saw the size and were little worried about fitting all of our luggage in there.
As we proceeded towards Milan from the airport, Andrea gave us a brief history and description of the city. He informed us that Milan is home to 1.4 million people, which makes it the second largest city after Rome. It has one of the biggest stock exchange in Europe and is known as the economic capital of Italy. Milan is also known for its fashion industry and all the famous fashion power houses like Armani, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana have their headquarters in Milan.
Our first stop was the breathtaking Duomo Cathedral. This structure took almost 600 years to build and is the largest in Italy and fourth largest in the world. The exterior is striking with many spires and statuary. The interior is also equally massive and impressive. You can climb the stairs to the roof for 7 euros or take the elevator for 12 euros.
After the visit to the cathedral, we all had some free time and decided to explore the city on our own and all to meet back at the Duomo around 2:30 pm. Some people went shopping and others went to the nearby museum.
Our second stop was Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Our tour guide informed us that tickets to this masterpiece had to be purchased in much advance and only a maximum of 25 people are allowed at a time for 50 minutes. The painting was not in a good shape and I was surprised to learn that this painting was crumbling within five years of its completion. Two hundred years later, Napoleon’s troops were using the wall and painting for target practice. A Second World War bomb flattened most of Santa Maria, leaving only the wall bearing Leonardo’s painting-perhaps a miracle!
The final stop was thankfully our hotel, Dei Cavalier. We all freshened up and went to dinner around 7:30 pm. Our Elon MBA family enjoyed attentive, kind, and courteous service at this amazing restaurant. Everyone raved about their food, from appetizer to entree to dessert. Portions were generous and the sauces were very flavorful. Overall the meal was a superb experience in a relaxed but professional atmosphere.
All in all it was an amazing first day adventure and I realized Italy is not just a land full of museums of antiquities and art but also a land of amazing warm people.
The second day we went to Lake Como and were treated to an amazing landscape. We started off with an hour long bus ride to Como city center and had a quick 25 minute free roam. Next we boarded a ferry for a two hour ride to Bellagio, which is at the center of Lake Como. The lake is the deepest in Europe, with some parts measuring in at a depth of 400 meters. Along the way we were able to see many famous lake-side villas, some dating back to the time of the Roman Empire. One of the favorite villas was the one belonging to George Clooney.
When we arrived at Bellagio the first task on the agenda was to taste some of the local cuisine. The café served white fish caught from the depths of the lake itself. Along with the white fish, thin crust pizza was also on the menu. After lunch the group spent about 45 minutes scanning the local silk shops, which the area is famous for. Next it was one final ferry ride, this one much shorter, and back on the bus for a quick stop in Switzerland. After about an hour of window shopping we all boarded the bus for a final time and made the two hour drive back to the hotel. More to follow soon…
Anu, Andrew, and Mark