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  • Tony

Italy - Milan and Palermo

May-June 2023

Off to Palermo this week to join a few friends and since our best flight option was to connect through Milan we tacked on a few nights to explore the fashion capital as well.

A quick note to those flying through Milan, pay close attention to which airport you land and depart as it is not simple or fast to traverse between them. There are three international airports Milan Bergamo 45 km NE of Milan, Milan Malpensa 49 km NW of Milan, and Milan Linate 7 km E of Milan. Malpensa is the main airport and second busiest in Italy and sits just under an hour outside the center by train or car. Linate is the second largest Milan airport and is the closest to the city center about 20 minutes by car. Bergamo is the third busiest airport in Italy and serves most low cost airlines, just under an hour by car and slightly longer by train. Of the three Bergamo is the best city for a stop on your itinerary. Quaint with easy access from the airport, beautiful monuments, great restaurants, and the Venetian walled Citta Alta.

Landing in Bergamo a quick 10 minute taxi ride and we arrived at our hotel in the center of town. After settling in we walked a short way through Bergamo to Bella Napoli for dinner. Afterwards a stroll up cobblestone streets toward Citta Alta then back through the avenue. Were definitely planning a return trip to Bergamo to enjoy the city and its sights that are often overlooked, like we did in favor of the larger city of Milan.

Literally Trains, Planes, and Automobiles today. An hour train ride from Bergamo to Malpensa Airport, an hour and a half flight to Palermo, and a 45 minute Taxi ride we finally arrived in Palermo. Our hotel is located just outside the Historic center and close to the shopping promenade. the Grand Hotel des Palmes is a recently renovated hotel in a historic building that felt like we were the first quests to stay there since the restoration was completed. The stay was very nice.

After settling in to the Hotel we took an afternoon walk to the historic center passing Teatro Massimo, Quattro Canti (the four corners), and Fontana Pretoria before a nice dinner at Gigi Mangia near the Hotel

Passing Teatro Massimo on our way to explore the old center

A full day of exploration through the historic center including Quattro Canti (the four corners), Fontana Pretoria, Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Padri Teatini, Mercato di Ballarò, and the Norman Palace

Baroque, octagonal public plaza featuring 4 fountains topped by ornate statues in niches. Construction of the cantons was completed in 1621. Each canton has the three overlapping orders: Doric, Ionic and Composite. In the lower order are the statues of the "Seasons", in the middle order the statues of four Spanish kings, and, finally, in the upper order there are the statues of the patron saints of each district (S. Oliva, S. Cristina, S. Agata and S. Ninfa).

Soaring, 17th-century Sicilian Baroque Catholic church with marble, frescoes & a notable crucifix.. The rooftop provides a commanding view of the city, Quattro Canti, Fontana Pretoria,

Church of St. Mary of the Admiral Domed Norman-era (1143) church with ornate baroque remodelling known for its landmark Byzantine mosaics.

Church of San Cataldo Atmospheric Arabic-style Norman church built in 1154 with mosaic floors & 3 red domes.

Fontana Pretoria, Landmark 1500s fountain known for its ornate, tiered design & nude statues of mythological figures.

The racus Mercato di Ballaro winding through a narrow street filled with tourist kitsch, and loud vendors vying for the attention of the locals and tourists and the occasional shopper mounted on their trusty scooter barrelling through the crowds, stopping next to their favorite vendor to stock up on goods.

Norman Palace - Grand 9th century palace with a neo-classical facade, historic chapel & ornate royal apartments. The oldest royal residence in Europe.

Dinner at Stabile 169.

Day trip to the town of Cefalu known for its 12 Century Norman Cathedral and resort atmosphere. Today is a national Italian Holiday Festa della República this day in 1946 the Italian people were called to the polls to decide on the form of government following the Second World War and the fall of Fascism. Needless to say this sunny beach resort was packed! Lunch at Bastione & Costanza was excellent.

Dinner at Locanda del Gusto. We complimented our server on his english and asked how he learned to speak the language. He looked at us smiling and said I am from Wisconsin. We all had a great laugh

With only two full days in Palermo this trip, there were several sites that we weren't able to see Like the Massimo Theatre, Palermo Cathedral, La Vucciria, Archaeological Museum, Mercato di Capo, Mondello Beach, The Palermo Marina, and much more. Now that we live just a short lane ride away we have more reasons for a return visit.

Saying goodbye to friends as they return to the states, Mary and I headed back towards Milan to spend an extra few days in the city

Arriving in Central Milan by train from Malpensa airport we stumbled across a really nice Food Market in the lower level of the station. The large maze like space is filled with individual food and Beverage kiosks curated by local chefs. The selections were outstanding and served a great purpose for hungry travelers.

Our home base for the next few days is the Hotel Indigo located just outside the Historic center of milan. Nice mid scale hotel with a fun central courtyard complete with Giraffe chandelier.

in the Afternoon we walked through the arcades and monuments towards the Piazza del Duomo. The City is stunning, vibrant and feels very sophisticated without feeling stuffy or rigid. We sat at the Bar Doumo for aperative and pasta overlooking the Duomo as the sun set.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - Glass covered 19th century shopping arcade filled with luxury clothing brands and upscale dining on the Piazza del Duomo

Teatro alla Scala - 18th century building damaged by allied forces bombing in 1943, re-opened in 1946. The museum houses performance treasures from the past.

Dinner at Sidewalk Kitchens. A little break from all the great Pasta and Pizza we have eaten this week. Smash burger and asian chicken sandwich.

Castello Sforzesco and Sempione Park

Tour of the Duomo and rooftops one of the largest cathedrals in the world, this iconic masterpiece started in the 14th century took over 600 years to complete.

So long for now Italy, we enjoyed the cities we visited on this trip and look forward to exploring more of your treasures. We will return in a few weeks to experience what the Emilia Romagna region has to offer by exploring Bologna, Modena, Parma, Ravenna, and Ferrara. Looking forward to this region's famous foods like Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto de Parma, Balsamic Vinegar, Tagliatelle and Tortellini pasta, Mortadella and Bolognese.

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