Early this morning we checked out of the hotel and took the train to Milan. Even though we have Eurail passes, we were smart to book a reservation online because the high speed train was completely full. The ride was very nice and at one point our speed reached 300 km/hour.
We checked into the Hotel Ibis and set off to find the meeting point of our tour. According to Google maps, the walk should have taken 28 minutes. Yeah, right! After asking at least half a dozen people along the way, and retracing our steps several times, we finally arrived, an hour and a half later. It was truly a miracle that we found the travel agency meeting point and thank goodness, it began with a bus tour, because our feet were already tired.
Our first stop was the famous opera house here, La Scala. Our guide told us many interesting stories about the famous musicians who have made their careers here. Here was the heart of Milan’s social life, and people saw the same opera six nights a week, and for two weeks in a row. But before Arturo Toscanini’s 50-year tenure, people came to the opera but carried on with their conversations, eating, drinking, and what not. Toscanini changed the culture and told them to be quiet and listen.
It is not only the acoustics and the world class musicians who have performed here which make La Scala special. It is also the extremely high standards the La Scala audience expects from the performers. The music must be perfect, otherwise the audience in the “chicken seats” (nosebleed section) will whistle. Even Pavarotti got whistled when one night his performance was less than perfect.
We also made a stop at the Duomo, which like the cathedral in Florence, has a façade of marble. Unfortunately the interior was very dark. Like we had seen in Florence, the design of the marble floor was elaborate and exquisite.
The capacity of this cathedral is supposedly 40,000 people, making it the third largest Catholic cathedral in the world.