When I was planning my trip to Italy, I ended up leaving Milan and the Lake District off my itinerary. So I couldn’t wait to hear all about it from today’s guest blogger, Jill Martin Wrenn (whom you might remember from her previous guest blogs posts about The Georgia Aquarium and Birmingham, England). For even more of Jill’s writing, check out her entertaining blog, Reverse Culture Shock, about readjusting to life in the U.S. after spending seven years living in London.
While visiting relatives outside of Milan earlier this month, I hoped to check out the big city, thinking that was the main draw of the area. What I didn’t realize was that the Lombardy region in Northern Italy also offers lovely lake getaways, spectacular Alpine views, and unusual but delicious pizza toppings.
Of course, Milan lives up to its reputation as a cosmopolitan city with a hefty dose of culture. My husband and I visited the Duomo (pictured left), the nearly 700-year-old Gothic cathedral in the center of the city, on a gorgeous spring day.
Sunbathers basked on the roof, flanked by the intricate marble carvings on the spires of the cathedral. You could get a 360-degree view of the city’s bustle below, surrounded by a clear view of the snow-capped Alps in the distance. I am told by former Milan dwellers that our clear view was unusual. Pollution often obscures the mountains. But that was hard to believe while we were there.
On a trip to Arona, a lively town alongside Lake Maggiore, Italy’s second largest lake, the Alpine view was even crisper (pictured at top). We enjoyed a picnic on a sunny day with a blustery wind, surrounded by throngs of families enjoying the view. I didn’t detect any American accents, though. The crowds seemed to be comprised of locals, or at least Europeans, which made the experience feel even more exotic.
We wandered through the winding streets, window-shopped, and ate gelato while sitting in the sunshine outside a quaint old church, away from the crowds. Even a massive traffic jam on our drive out of the town didn’t dampen the mood of the day, although we decided that we would take the train next time.
Another spot worth visiting that Is also accessible by train from Milan is Vigevano, home to the exquisite Piazza Ducale (pictured right), which dates back to the 1400s. It boasts artistic contributions from Leonardo da Vinci. The city is famous for its shoe manufacturing, so in an effort to soak in the culture, I bought two pairs of sandals at a shop called Gival.
And of course, one can’t visit Italy without sampling lots of the local cuisine. We went out for pizza four times during the week, and would have tried even more varieties had we stayed longer.
The menus at every restaurant we patronized had page after page of unique types of pizza, and they were all delicious: something about the homemade dough, the wood-fired oven, and the perfect amount of cheese made them unforgettable. On the advice of my teenaged nieces, I tried a pizza that must have been devised by a teenager: pizza patatine which is pizza topped with French fries (pictured left). It was not nearly as greasy as I had feared; in fact, it was quite tasty.
In Italy, from the sights to the suppers, you really can’t go wrong.