The first half of Saturday in Milan was sort of a rest day for the Cyclones. This was different from previous “rest days” because we were not waking up early to get on a bus to go somewhere or not playing on the day, so we would not be “working” (that trail in Cinque Terre yesterday involved zero volleyball, but was more than enough work). With how our match schedule for the day laid out, it was decided to let the players rest up if they wanted to, so we had no team-related event until noon.
Our hotel, Hotel Accademia, is in a more residential part of Milan, especially in comparison with where we stayed in Prague. There are businesses all around, but there are many apartment and condo-type buildings in the area that give it a slower pace than being in the city center. There was a mall nearby that gave the players a convenient by close option.
Because I am not the one who had to play in a match today, I decided to start my morning with a two mile walk to the San Siro, the home of Italian soccer giants AC Milan and Inter Milan. The walk allowed me to experience some more of the residential and quieter areas of Milan, which was nice for a Saturday morning. Before arriving at the soccer stadium, you walk past the Hippodrome de San Siro, a horse racing track that is among the largest in Italy. There is one reason to stop by there when there is no racing going on, Leonardo’s Horse.
That there is a 25-foot tall bronze horse. The Leonardo referenced in the horse’s name is none other than Leonardo da Vinci. The Italian was commissioned by the Duke of Milan to create a statue in honor of his father, a fan of equestrian. However, da Vinci was involved with many other projects and he eventually created a clay, full-scale model of the horse in preparation to bronze it via one of his revolutionary theories. However, as part of the French invasion of Milan during Louis XII’s War in 1499, the clay model was destroyed.
The project eventually regained footing when the plans for the horse were found in the 19th century. In the 1980s, an American named Charles C. Dent started an organization to help raise money to create the bronzed horse not only in honor of da Vinci, but as a symbol of the relations between the United States and Italy. The project was eventually completed in 1999 and the horse was brought to the Hippodrome de San Siro.
Back to my ultimate goal of visiting the San Siro soccer stadium, it didn’t happen. Unfortunately there was a concert that night at the stadium and the stadium was locked up with multiple police surrounding the stadium. The only positive was that I was not bumped out by One Direction, which will happen to some wayward American tourist next month when they are there (I don’t memorize their schedule, I saw a flyer).
When I got back to the hotel just in time for breakfast, Jon Newman-Gonchar and Jesse Tupac asked if I wanted to go Portello Park to walk up La Collina, a hill with an interesting concept. La Collina is a circular hill that through its design features a different way up than down, with pedestrians walking at certain levels on the way up and on the way down. It was not too terribly demanding, especially after yesterday’s “hills”, so it was a nice walk to get a good view of the parts of Milan we could see. It was worth the trip.
After a team lunch, it was off to our match, which would take us to Busto Arsizio, Italy. A city of over 80,000 just 20 miles to the north of Milan, we arrived to the PalaYamamay, where we would take on our opponents, Busto Arsizio B1. Busto Arsizio is one of the top volleyball clubs in Italy, with their A1 team playing in Serie A1 and finishing as runners-up in the 2013-14 season. Their B1 team had just recently been crowned B1 regional champions and were preparing for the national championships. You can read about the match, a 3-1 Iowa State victory, here.
After the match, we returned to Milan and headed to the city center for dinner and to see what was all there to offer. We arrived at the Piazza del Duomo and it was really full as Radio Italia was having a concert in the square. It was weird to see a major tourist area clogged up with a massive stage, but it provided for an incredible environment in the area, lots of energy.
Sunday is our final day in Milan and we will be sightseeing and exploring the city.