Arrived today on a direct flight from JFK airport for the first stop in my Italian vacation: Milan. Famous more for its soccer teams and companies than for historic sites, Milan is a convenient first stop because of the abundance of cheap flights from America.

After taking an express, lighting-fast train from Malpensa airport to Cadorna train station where we spent about half an hour trying to catch the correct tram to our hotel near Piazza Santa Maria della Suffragia. We were given wrong directions by two tram drivers in a row and finally saw a tram stop with a map, which pointed us in the correct direction. A few bystanders also either expressed ignorance of our stop or told us to get on a different tram going in exactly the opposite direction. This would be quite unlikely in NYC or most other major cities. Today, I managed to cover the main cathedrals of the city: Duomo and the Basilica of St. Ambrose. The former is quite likely the most famous site in Milan, with dozens of tourists inside the cathedral and hundreds outside on the famous square. Interestingly enough, there are three types of guards around the Duomo: local police, federal police (carabinieri), and the army. Unlike Paris, very few Gypsies or Africans were in sight. As for food and drink, well, already on the first day, Italy seems to be head and shoulders above France (at least Paris). The inexpensive thick crust pizza we had in the “Spontini” national chain restaurant was excellent if too filling and the red McFarland (I think that was its name) beer was a nice accompaniment. Tomorrow, we plan on going to the Brea gallery and exploring some shopping/arts areas in the city.