When I visited Florence for the first time, I was amazed. The people, the food, the history, the art and architecture were all incomparable. Not only was it the heart of Tuscany, but also the heart of the Renaissance. Go see for yourself. I was so enchanted that even though I had no place to stay and had already purchased a train ticket to Nice, I knew I had to stay an extra day to soak up more of everything the city had to offer. So I did, with no regrets.
I managed to book my hotel for an extra night and found I could exchange my train ticket for the following day. I showed up at the ticket booth with loads of time to spare and was told that I had to change trains in Milan and that there was only a ten-minute layover to catch the train for Nice. No problem! I thanked the kind lady, took my ticket, and boarded the train for Milan, congratulating myself on my good fortune. The departure time came, and nothing happened. A half-hour passed before we finally got going, and I realized there was no way I was going to make my connection. As it turned out, I was right. When we pulled into Milan, the train to Nice was long gone.
Dragging my suitcase through the gravel around the side of the station, I got in line at the taxi rank. When it was my turn, I asked my prospective driver if he spoke English because my Italian was limited to grazie, prego, vino, and pizza. "Sure, no problem," he said and smiled. Since the next train to Nice left in about two hours, I asked for the one-hour tour of Milan, and off we sped, blasting through the city, accompanied by the appropriate horn-honking, gesticulating, hand waving, and running commentary, which was much more entertaining than either Frommers or Lonely Planet.
Who knew, for example, that Milan boasts one of the top Chinatowns in Europe? Or that The La Scala opera house also housed a museum, or that at Giuseppe Verdi's funeral, thousands of people lined the procession route singing "Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate" / "Fly, thought, on golden wings"? It was a very moving and educational detour.
Eventually, though, it began to rain. As I stood at the foot of the statue of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Piazza della Scala, I noticed at the foot of the great master a white rose covered with raindrops. Like almost everything else in Milan, I found it charming.. I raised my camera and recorded it to share with you. Here it is: