Sunday, August 6, 2023

Eurotrip 2023 - Days 7-8 - 7/28-9/2023 - To Milan, part deux; heading home

Our Como Airbnb had an absurdly early check-out time of 10a, but that was fine with us since we wanted to head back to Milan with enough time to make our 3p ticket time at the Duomo. We walked over to the Como–Brunate funicular (Funicolare Como-Brunate), with a plan to take the tram up to the top (Brunate) and then maybe walk back down to Como. Some signage at the bottom station hinted at a 25 minute walk up (vs the 5 minute tram ride), so Fran decided to walk instead. I took her bag and got in line for the tram, eventually getting on the one that departed at 10:45. The plan was for me to get to the top and wait for her, as we thought she wouldn't be more than 20 minutes behind at most.

About halfway up I began to have thoughts that it would take me much more than 25 minutes to get up there. And then I received a phone call from a Belgian number, which I ignored until a voicemail was left for me. And then 3 texts came in from that number. It turned out that Fran had found out that the hike up is actually 2.5 hours (though in retrospect we're sure she could have done it in perhaps 1.5, given her hiking speed) and decided to abandon the plan, for fear that I would have panicked after waiting longer than the agreed time and begun hiking down, and would have had to contend with both our backpacks on the longer-than-expected hike, and might have missed her on the mountain as there were actually 2 different trails to the top. She had tried to call and text me using the phone of one of two women she had encountered who were also trying to find the trail up; she did not have international calling nor data activated on her phone. And then, unsure that I had received her messages, she had raced back to the bottom station to see if she could catch me if I hadn't yet gone up, but I was already gone. Then she found a worker at a nearby cafe who was able to get her phone on their Wifi and she was able to call me using WhatsApp.

We decided that I would get on the next available tram back down to the bottom; she didn't have any money on her, so she couldn't pay for a ticket for a tram to the top. I was already frazzled, and it didn't help that our call got disconnected. I had only bought a one-way ticket, so I needed to buy another ticket back down to the bottom. However, the station at the top did not have a ticket booth, and tickets had to be bought from affiliated shops nearby. I found a souvenir shop which sold tram tickets, but they only accepted cash for the tickets. So I rushed back to the tram station, which had an ATM, to withdraw cash before heading back to the shop to buy a ticket. It wasn't until I was back at the station with ticket in hand that it occurred to me that because there was nobody at the top station enforcing anything I could have either just stayed on the tram to ride it down or hopped over/under the turnstile to get back on. In any case, I made it back down and reunited with an equally-freaking-out Fran outside the bottom station. We learned a lesson for future trips - no more splitting apart unless she has a way to contact me and some money.

We debriefed each of our sides of the story as we started walking toward the train station. We decided to detour to get some breakfast/lunch treats at a bakery and then a fruit stand, and then headed to the station to catch the 12:26p train back to Milano Centrale. From there we headed back to the numa apartment to drop our backpacks off before walking over to the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral). Fran had purchased us 3p tickets that included the church interior, building terrace, and museum. We decided to do the terrace first. The climb was not terribly strenuous, and was split up between two levels. What made me sweat the most was the scorching sunlight, especially on the top section. After admiring the views and taking some pictures we headed back down to enter the church. However, we were turned away because Fran (as a woman) was wearing shorts that didn't cover her knees; we were directed to their shop across the street where she could buy a plastic weave shawl for 3 Euro, which she did. After that we entered and had a look around. We had a particularly fun time trying to find the correct place to take a picture to recreate the view from a couple of paintings we had seen at the Gallerie d'Italia a couple of days prior. After the church interior we crossed the street to walk through the Duomo Museum. There we split a free video guide, which was pretty informative, and made the museum visit worthwhile. In all we were both impressed by the Duomo, and found each portion of the experience enjoyable. And I got a figurine to add to my collection.

On the terrace of the Duomo

Afterward we meandered back toward the apartment, stopping at a couple of shops to look for some more gifts. For dinner we decided to go to a pizza restaurant called Di Gennaro that was recommended by a clerk at Lacoste. It was about a 10 minute walk away, and was partially tucked away from the super-touristy plazas. We split a couple of pizzas, one quattro formaggi, and one with an interesting mix of capers, olives, and oregano. They were decent pizzas (at least compared to the trash from Bellagio), but not in the top 50 percentile of pizzas that I've had in my life; perhaps Neapolitan style is not my favorite. After dinner we walked back to Cathedral Square (aka Piazza del Duomo) to do a bit of people watching before going to another Venchi location for our daily dose of gelato. We ate that back at the square while killing some time before it got dark enough to turn on the street lamps. The lit lamps were necessary to finish our project of recreating another painting of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. After that it was back to the apartment for our last night on the trip.


Fran and I were actually on separate flights back to JFK. When we initially planned the trip, she was going to spend a few extra days in the Como area after I left. However, she decided to change her plans, to leave the same day as me, after her sister Alexandria was having a rough recovery from brain surgery; thankfully Alexandria is doing better now. By that time my Emirates flight was sold out (in economy) so she couldn't get on the same plane. She ended up getting a ticket on an ITA Airways flight earlier in the day, 12:30p vs 4:10p. She also overpaid by a factor of 2 for the ticket, but that's a story for her to tell.

She left the apartment around 9:40a to catch the express train (XP1) to Malpensa airport (MXP) from the nearby Cadorna train station. Checkout was at 11, so I left at that time to check on a longshot that I could get into the Google office to hang out there (and get free snacks) before heading to the airport. As expected, the office was closed (at least to those without the separate building entry badge, like me), so I went to a nearby cafe to grab a bit of breakfast. The office is a short walk from the Garibaldi train staion, which also has an express train to Malpensa. I caught that train (XP2) at 1:05p and began the journey home.


My favorite pictures from the full trip are here.

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