14 January, 2010

Catching up, and a quick Italy wrap-up

Back to schooooooool.

Yes, it is quite boring. Its been a dull week...too many classes, too many assignments. I have gotten used to sleeping until past 11 and not getting dressed. At all.

But to make this week easier, tomorrow we are off to London! MJ and PBB and others gave us a ton of suggestions, so it promises to be a good trip if it doesn't snow anymore. And yeah, its my birthday, so it had better be a good trip. Hint, hint (Stu.)

But Italy turned out to be a fantastic trip. Stu had never been to northern Italy, and I hadn't been since 2003, so Venice felt new. We stayed in a lovely palazzo just behind San Marco, and enjoyed about 4 days of museuming and architecture-touring. Really, four days, because the weather in Venice threw us some curve balls. Aqua alta (wow) and rain and snow and even long days of full sun, but still, ridiculously cold. Its just our luck that all of Europe, parts of Asia and even the US (those poor, poor Florida orange growers!) got hit by a record-breaking cold snap the one week we were out of snowy Stockholm.

But yes, tons of early Renaissance art, making my Och and Intro to Art History classes in college flood back. And Stu loved it! He has such a strong knowledge of religions, he could profess in the rules & stories of christianity if he wanted to, and got a kick out of talking shop in art terms about the various St. Marks, St. Sebastians and the Pieta representations that Venice had to offer. Since my family wasn't particularly religious, my only knowledge of biblical stories comes from studying art, especially early Italian art. Stu literally broke out the multi-lingual hotel bible in Milan to get technical on "Last Supper" details. Which was great, until I fell asleep. Food makes me drowsy.

Anyway, lots of lovely things to see, eat, and drink in Venice. We put away an entire bottle of lemoncello in less than 2 days...no easy feat, that stuff is SWEET. You know, when in Italy... The Tetrarchs & their anchor San Marco's were pretty fantastic, the awe of the Frari Church, the over-the-top gilt of the Doge's Palace (which held the only real chastity belt I have ever seen, whoa. That poor woman, whoever she was) and the Peggy Guggenheim museum, among others, were not to be missed. Oh, and the espresso. That is only to be missed when you leave :(

We took a train from the teeny, tiny easy-to-navigate Sta Lucia (yeah, Italy is where the Swedes get her from!) station to the holy crap, I-had-no-idea-Milan-was-that-huge bohemoth that is Milan's central train station. We spent 3 confused days in that city.

Here is the strange thing about living in Europe: you kind of forget traveling through Europe is a big deal. Planning a trip to somewhere abroad when you live in the States requires a lot of money, and with that, the idea that you had better get your time/money/long plane ride's worth of culture and exotic European city experiences. We traveled to Venice with Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) and Erik Denker's book "No Vulgar Hotel," and got some lovely, non-touristy Venetophile recommendations in a very funny novel-like format. But I didn't so much as wikipedia "Milan" before arriving, so we really had no idea what the city offered aside from Gucci.

Turns out its the 5th biggest city in Europe. They have a GIGANTIC, beautiful duomo in the center of the city. Cheapest public transportation I have ever experienced outside of "The Fred" bus in Fredericksburg. Not a ton of English-speakers. And streets upon streets of high-end fashion mecca stores...seriously. I do not speak Italian, but I totally understood the slick guy in the suit when he asked "Dovè Armani?" Like I look like I should know? We traveled RyanAir, so I packed only 2 pairs of pants for 7 days of travel. But yeah, its on every other street corner. Like H&M in Stockholm or Starbucks in Anytown, USA. They even have a planned Armani hotel. We probably won't be staying there.

But the highlight of the Milan visit was definitely Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. I didn't remember that this ridiculously famous fresco is stuck to a wall in Milan (bad art history major!) Thankfully, the Milan tourist brochures given out in hotels remind you many, many times over. But the fresco is in such bad shape (it managed to survive Leonardo's stupid experiments, having Jesus' feet sawed off, WWII bombings that knocked down every other wall in the refectory, AND the crazy polluted air of Milano) that they only allow a handful of people in at a time to see the masterpiece, and they decontaminate your clothes before you get in there. Oh, and they sell tickets WEEKS in advance. So they were sold out for the following 2 weeks when we got to the Santa Maria delle Grazie on day 1.

But we decided to head back the next day, and luckily, some poor schmuck who probably got stuck in the-snowstorm-that-ate-the-UK had to cancel, and we got to see it. We don't plan to go back to Milan anytime soon, but when we do, it might not be there. So we were both psyched for the opportunity.

And our last day in Milan a cold, gross rainy mess, with us killing several hours before our delayed flight home, which made us enormously happy to be back in -17c Stockholm. And made me wish I hadn't turned down our heat for the week we were gone...it took a day and a half to get the apartment back up to liveable temperatures.
So next year, we are thinking Thailand or Cambodia or Sri Lanka (no more civil war!) WARM and sunny. Culture was great, but we will be selfish beach-goers next winter.


  1. So lovely! I've never been to Milan but it's on my list. Warmer climates sound perfect right about now.

  2. I discovered your blog through a different blog- dont remember whose blog right now but just wanted to say your journey sounds fascinating! My fiance, two year old son and myself spent Jan-July of 09 there studying in Karlstad and it was THE best 6 months of my life! If we could figure out a way to go back for a longer period of time I would be there in a second!! Anyway goodluck with everything!

  3. to be clear, Milan and Venice were not warm, they were warmer. Still just hovering around freezing actually. But the extra sunlight, that's what was nice. Rained half the time, but the other half was some welcome soaking of the rays...