The last we left off we had just boarded our plane. The trip was pretty uneventful, I fell asleep pretty quickly, but woke up for dinner and my free cocktail! 😁
I’ve got to say, for airplane food, it wasn’t so bad. I had a chicken with polenta, Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, crackers with cheese and for dessert a cinnamon brownie! I was too tired and hungry to think to take a picture, but I’ll be sure to get pictures of the rest of the yummy food we enjoy. I started watching a movie (The 33 – based on the story of the 33 Chilean miners that were trapped underground for 69 days, but couldn’t stay awake to finish it. Five hours later I woke up to the flight attendant handing me a boxed breakfast and asking if I would like coffee – YES PLEASE!!
Breakfast consisted of a mini bagel with cream cheese, a Greek yogurt and an orange juice, it was quite refreshing! I finished the last 45 minutes of my movie and by that time we had started out descent. Celina and I prayed morning prayer on the plane and finished as we pulled up to the gate.
Once we got off the plane we went through customs – yes they let me through! We picked up our luggage and made our way to a bathroom where I tried to make myself look like a normal human being who hadn’t just spent 19 hours on a plane or in an airport. I think I did an okay job. Next it was off to start navigating the Italian train system. We tried to use the self-service ticket booth, but it didn’t accept cash and my card didn’t seem to work…boo!! So we popped inside and bought our tickets and made it on to the train just one minute before it took off! We traveled from Milano International Airport on the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale train station.
From there we had to navigate the train station and figure out the metro as well. We were able to check our luggage at a secure facility so that we would not have to drag it around with us all day and the bought our train ticket from Milan to Florence so that we were ready to go this afternoon.
Next it was onto the Metro. We were able to find a map online and so I have that saved to my phone for easy access. In a nut shell we took the Metro to the Duomo from Central Station. We were fm going from Centrale FS to Duomo and we determined that if we got to “Missori” we had gone to far!
When we got off the Metro we walked up the stairs to this sight:
This is the Cathedral of Milan (also called The Duomo) and it is as breathtaking in person as it looks in this photo! They have the Duomo split into two sections – one for “worshippers” and one for “visitors.” We went on the worshippers side first, and you basically have to prove to them that you are there to pray and not just a tourist, they make you turn off your cell phone in front of them and there are a few security guards throughout that side to keep an eye on things. No pictures are allowed to be take on this side. The doors that we entered through are actually part of the Doors of Mercy for the Jubilee year that Pope Francis called for, so I was able to offer all of your intentions up as I walk through those doors.
We prayed for a bit on our own and then we were able to attend Mass. I was reflecting on this in my journal today and it is in circumstances like this where the Universal portion of the Catholic faith comes into play. Here I am in Italy, where I speak all of 5-6 words and I was able to go to Mass and (for the most part) understand what was happening. Sure I didn’t know the words they were saying precisely, but I knew what part of the Mass we were at, I knew the format well enough to know that there is the opening, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and then the closing. I knew that the Body and Blood of Christ were present in the Eucharist and that the priest used the same formula for consecration that we hear at home. To say it was a powerful experience would be an understatement!!
After Mass we went over to the “visitors” side so that we could see the rest of the Cathedral – it does cost €2 to get in on the visitors side. There was a really beautiful statue of St. Bartholomew on this side. If you aren’t familiar with St. Bartholomew he was being persecuted since he was a Christian and when he refused to denounce his faith in Jesus Christ they skinned him alive. He is often depicted holding his skin in statues and painting. This statue in particular was incredible because the artist was able to make the body anatomically correct, so you can see the outlines of muscles and veins and whatnot.
From there we went to the Basilica of St. Ambrose. Ambrose is a Doctor of the Church and is well know for his role in converting St. Augustine.
This church was smaller than the Cathedral, but had a really cool courtyard that you walked through first:
St. Ambrose is actually buried inside this Church so we were able to pray in front of his tomb. There are actually three saints all in one crypt (St. Ambrose is in the middle and on either side is a martyr of the Church – St. Gervasius and St. Prutasius).
They also had a little museum inside this Basilica where there were lots of super ornate chalices and monstrances that St. Ambrose used back in fourth century. (No pictures were allowed back there – sorry!) There were also reliquaries in there that were filled with relics of different saints. There are a few different classes of relics – a first class relic is a part of their actual body (most of the time it is a drop of blood or a piece of their bone), a second class relic is something that they used, wore or touched (so a piece of clothing or really anything that they owned), finally a third class relic is an item that has been touched to either a first or second class relic (so I have a rosary that I carry with me that I have touched to tombs and other reliquaries that is a third class relic.
I am going to try and keep count of how many saints we “see” and you can follow along as well. At the top of the page here you will either see a tab that says “Saint Counter” or there will be a Menu button – once you click menu you will have the option for “Saint Counter.” I will do my best to list out each Saint that we encounter and were we were at. Know that if I lost a saint’s name on here I have offered your intentions up and asked that Saint to intercede for you as well!
One other picture I wanted to share was of an Altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
After spending some time at St. Ambrose it was time to start making our way to Florence. But as we were leaving they were opening up the Doors of Mercy at the Basilica so we went back inside through those doors and said a quick prayer before heading out. We hopped on the Metro back to Milano Centrale, picked up our bags from the luggage check and made our way upstairs to the platforms to find our train.
BUT…we realized we had yet to do one very important part of this trip – EAT GELLATO! So we found a shop grabbed some gellato and sat on a bench waiting for our train to arrive:
The train ride was pretty uneventful, somehow we ended up on a car that was the “cinema” so there was actually a movie playing while we rode. The ride was about 2 hours and once we made it to Florence we had our first taste “where the heck are we.” The friends we are staying with gave us some basic directions – take the number 6 bus here then switch to the number 10 bus and go here, then walk down the hill and around the corner and up a flight of stairs and you have made it! The only problem was finding the number 6 bus! Haha! We came out on the “wrong” side of the train station so we were no where near where we needed to be and had to walk all the way around the station to the opposite side to get to the correct bus stop…then we got the the stop where we were supposed to switch to the number ten, and you guessed it, we walked to the wrong spot and had to walk all the way back around to where the first bus dropped us off at!
However, once we were on the number 10 it was smooth sailing, we made it to the Villa Morghen and got settled in our room for the night. We were able to briefly meet up with our friends to say hi, but then we all needed to get to bed! It was dark out when we arrive so I have not taken any pictures of the Villa yet, but I will tomorrow morning!
My final step count today was 16,807 – which is 7.02 miles (and I would venture to guess that two of those miles were just trying to get on the right busses 😉)!
Well it is 12:12 in the morning here and I need to get to sleep! Good night from Italy! Ciao!