Open the photo gallery >>

And so begins the “proper” bit of the holiday after having spent the whole of the previous day travelling or being tired. Before we could do any of that, though, Kas went out for an exploratory run round the neighbourhood while the girls and me were generally taking a very long time to get dressed. Kas got back into the hotel room at about 8:20, which meant she had oodles of time to get herself sorted before we went down for breakfast at 9am.

I’d made sure every hotel we booked included breakfast in the price, hoping that we’d be able to eat so much each morning that we’d be able to skip lunch, other than drinks and ice creams. The breakfast at this hotel definitely fell into that category. It was a buffet style, but it had a veritable plethora of options – fruit, cereals, continental style meats & cheeses, pastries, coffees, juices, yoghurts, … You get the picture. As with the bedroom, this breakfast became the yardstick against which all subsequent hotels were measured. Most of the others came up short. The only downside on this first morning was that we were sufficiently late to have missed bacon. That meant that Izzy had to survive on cereals, toast, pastries and juice, but it was a minor issue that was corrected on all the following mornings.

Because we’d had quite a slow start it was getting fairly late by the time we headed out for some touristing. On the radar for this day was a visit to the city of Milan. We’d sort of allowed two days for this, hence us being happy with our general tardiness on this first morning.

I’d sort of decided in advance that attempting to take a car into the middle of Milan wouldn’t be a great idea, so instead we drove to San Donato Metro Station, which is on the very end of one of the lines and has a very substantial car park right next to it. As it was a Sunday the car park was kind of empty too. Once we’d plucked up the courage to believe it was possible to fit the car through the barriers and up the ramp (which took a while) we found ourselves in a nearly empty and rather large parking area. I picked a random space, and off we went.

The next challenge was figuring out how to buy a ticket, but we were assisted in this by a homeless lady who seemed very happy to guide us through the process in return for the €1 coin I got back out of the machine. Fair enough. I’m sure we’d have figured it out ourselves, but she was quite efficient at explaining, even despite the lack of common language. I got the impression she’d had a fair amount of practice at explaining it to tourists.

San Donato is at the end of a metro line that goes directly through the Duomo Station, taking a fairly painless 9 stations and 15 minutes to get there. The Duomo is obviously the place that tourists gravitate to on their first visit to Milan, and who were we to buck the trend ?

We took a few photos in the square and then went into the ticket office to see if we could get an entry to the Duomo itself. It was somewhat quieter than it might have been and we ended up getting tickets to do the walk onto the roof, which also gives a fast entry into the cathedral (by virtue of the fact that the return staircase descends inside the building).

Obviously the downside of having tickets for the roof is that you have to climb up to the roof (unless you pay extra for the lift). It was the first of many medieval staircases that we climbed during the holiday and one of the easier ones, given that it took us just 3 minutes from bottom to top, but we still managed to reach the top feeling hot and bothered. This was also a running theme for the holiday. It was the first time we’d been outside in the heat apart from jumping in the pool on the previous day, and boy was it hot ! The suncream and “big hat” were going to take a bit of a hammering during this holiday.

We seemed to be progressing around the roof at the same speed as a woman from Bristol, which was handy when both she, and we, wanted photos of ourselves on the roof. It’s really worth a trip up to the roof because from ground level you really don’t get much sense of the incredible detail in the carvings and sculptures up there. It must have taken a large number of masons a very long time to do it all. There’s no concept of skimping on the bits that can’t be seen from street level. Oh no indeed. It’s ornately carved fiddly bits from top to bottom.

When we’d got to the bottom and done a brief but wonderfully shaded walk around the inside of the cathedral it was time to grab some cold drinks and do a couple of geocaches around the cathedral square. We plodded our way through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II whilst slurping away and came to rest for a while in the small square between the Galleria and La Scala. We sat in the shade for a while here. At least Kas and Ami sat for a while. Izzy came for a quick walk with me to find a geocache and then rejoined the other two while I walked in the other direction to find another. It was oppressively warm, even after 9 weeks of unusually warm and dry weather in the UK. I have to say that the exterior of La Scala is a bit of a let down. It’s really quite plain. Presumably it’s nicer on the inside, but the outside looks a bit shabby and drab.

When we reassembled in the square we had a brief discussion about what to do. We hadn’t expected to be done with the Duomo and the Galleria this early in the afternoon, so we were into unplanned territory. So assuming we’d continue at “faster than expected” we decided we’d probably got time to go for the other thing we’d planned to do in Milan, which was to visit the Sforza Castle. It was a fairly leisurely 25 minute walk there from where we were, and we were ready for another drink once we reached the fountain out front. We also bumped into the woman from Bristol again.

The castle buildings are quite impressive and very photogenic, and we spent a good while meandering our way through to the north side and the Parco Sempione. We walked through the park all the way out to the Arch of Peace, grabbing a few geocaches as we went, but also getting heavily bitten by the insects. The insect biting was getting the better of us when we reached the arch, so we hot footed it back to the castle and treated ourselves to another cold drink – our first slushie of the holiday. We strode back through the castle and back to the fountain whilst drinking these, and sat for a while trying to decide what else to do. It was past 6pm by this time so we decided we’d take a walk back through town looking for somewhere reasonable to get dinner before going home.

By “reasonable” we sort of meant “relatively cheap”, and the stretch of land between the cathedral and the castle in Milan is not a great place for finding reasonably priced restaurants, and there’s also not a great variety on offer either, so eventually we stood on a street corner and googled “burger restaurants”, with the girls having expressed a preference for this after the previous evening’s failure to find burgers. The best looking one that came up was called Mama Burger, and it was a few blocks away from where we were, but once we got there it was pretty good. The burgers were substantial and the fries were made from genuine thick-cut bits of potato. It fitted the bill very nicely.

From here we felt we were about done for the day, so we plodded back past the cathedral and into the metro station in the evening sunshine and caught a train back. The car was where we’d left it and was undamaged. The drive back to the hotel was painless.

When we got back to the hotel we were well in need of a shower and change of clothes, and then were in need of a pre-bed drink. We grabbed a couple of beers and some Amaretto until the girls had had enough, and we discussed what we were going to do on the following day. We’d planned to go back to Milan but had already been to all the places we’d wanted to go, so rather than make something up to fill a day we decided to add a new place onto the plan. Bergamo looked like it might be good, so that’s what we settled on.

The girls all went to bed as soon as we got the room. I sat up for an hour typing up geocaching logs.