They say that the difference between a tourist and a traveller is that while the former visits the place, the latter actually experiences it. And, it is the experiences that remain with you for a really long time. So, our sole purpose of adding Milan to our itinerary was to have that one unforgettable experience – the experience of watching a Milan Derby. For two football fans, watching two legendary football clubs from a legendary city play against each other in a legendary stadium was nothing short of, well yes, legendary. Yes, we watched Inter Milan play A.C Milan at San Siro on 19th Apr, 2015 along with 74,000 other fans. But let’s start from the beginning.
After two extremely cold but fulfilling days in Venice, we took an early morning train from Venice which took us to the North Italian city of Milan in close to 2.5 hours. In Milan, just outside the station, we came across a new mode of transportation – the trolleybus. It is essentially an electric bus that draws power from overhead wires just like a tram. We quickly got onto a trolleybus headed towards our hotel. After a short ride and a 500m walk, we reached our hotel – Hotel Corallo. In spite of being costlier than our hotels in Rome, Florence and Venice, this hotel was no match for them in terms of quality. But it was close to both Milano Centrale Railway station and San Siro and anyways we were staying there for just a night so we did not mind it much.
A quick change of clothes and we were back on the streets. We had some time to kill before the match was scheduled to start, so we decided to do some sight-seeing. After our first trolleybus ride, we undertook our first tram ride in Italy which took us to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
The Galleria, built between 1865 and 1877, is one of the world’s oldest shopping mall. Only in Italy can a mere shopping mall be built with such artistic elegance, that it could be accepted as a monument in most of the other countries of the world. Located in this setting were the stores of world famous brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Versace etc.
We emerged from the Galleria and in front of us, dominating the landscape, was one of the most majestic works of gothic architecture – the iconic Duomo di Milano. This 600 year old cathedral is the 5th largest church in the entire world. The amount of marble work done on the exterior and its intricacy was unbelievable.
The interior of the church had numerous gigantic pillars and some beautiful stained glass paintings. There was provision for going to the roof but the lack of time made us give up on it. After spending some more time in the square and clicking a few photos we proceeded for our last meal in Italy.
After our lunch, we made our way to the closest metro station and that was where the real “experience” began. I don’t know why we weren’t expecting it; probably because most of the buses and trains we used in Italy ranged from almost empty to moderately full. But, as soon as we stepped on the platform of that metro station we were surrounded by a sea of human beings, almost all covered in blue and black jerseys, scarves and flags of Inter Milan (it was the designated home team). We let two trains go which were as packed as a Delhi Metro during peak hours but managed to get on the third. We belatedly realized that the reason we were able to get on this metro was that there was a fork after 2 stations and our metro was headed towards the wrong end of the fork. We got down one station after the fork, made our way back and took the right train this time. Once outside the station, we followed the crowd to the buses that were ferrying the fans to the stadium free of cost. As our bus inched towards the stadium we could see thousands of fans singing and chanting while making their way towards the stadium on foot. It was a carnival like atmosphere out there and it seemed like the entire city’s population was there enjoying themselves.
We finally reached the stadium and found vendors selling various merchandise of both the clubs. Being an ardent fan of A.C. Milan, I couldn’t stop myself from buying their jersey. We soon found our gate, showed our tickets and got inside the stadium. Once inside we made our way to our stand which was on the third tier of the stadium. The stadium was completely full and the atmosphere was phenomenal. Though the match ended 0-0 there was still plenty of excitement which included 3 disallowed goals, lighting of flares in the Inter Milan section and cheering and booing of thousands of supporters.
Once the match was over, we got out of the stadium as quickly as possible, only to discover huge chaos outside. All the buses were jam packed and there was no private cab to be found. After waiting for close to 45 minutes for a bus, we decided to start walking in the direction of our hotel. We never found a cab or bus and ended up covering a distance of four kms on foot which was another experience in itself.
With this gratifying day, our Italian sojourn was over. Next up – Switzerland.