Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Milano Elan

The Senior Nomads packed up and headed from Berlin to Milan on October 10th. The Berlin airport was drab and lacking anything that would capture your attention or your wallet. The flight was fine - but the 'meatloaf' sandwich served on board was ground patty of raw pork with mustard and pickle. Really? I thought it was a mistake because surely Lufthansa wouldn't intentionally try to kill off, let alone offend a plane full of passengers, but it turns out this was a delicacy. Hmmm. No thanks, I'll have the dry cheese on a hard roll and a warm coke.  

We boarded a shuttle to the city center and then grabbed a cab for a couple of miles to our new home. That went well until we discovered we were dropped a few streets short of our destination. Tricky since we didn't have Italian SIM cards yet - so no phone or GPS service.We had to rely on a stranger  to call our contact so we could lug our way to the correct address and get the keys. We are becoming masters of flexibility, especially around changing phone plans in each city and getting the right program, etc. I know this is going to sound whiny, but we would like to see an affordable EU/SIM system that works wherever you are in Europe.  You certainly couldn't do it with an American plan.

We met our host and crammed in the little elevator up to our flat. The travel days are the only ones where we really have some serious luggage to manhandle - and we definitely put this creaky beast to the test.

The flat was great. Small, clean, nicely decorated and easy to live in. I am getting to know IKEA when I see it now. This was our third IKEA kitchen and I'd know that silver 'Matisse' fruit bowl anywhere. Fess up - you have one. 

Arrived safe and sound - Sunny and 70!

First dinner out. Calzone & Risotto. 
The best part was the location. We were just on the edge of Milan's Chinatown. So in one direction you could easily find the Duomo, the glamorous shopping areas, and the old city (more on that later). But out our door and to the right was a bustle of Asian stores, bars, shops and restaurants. You could buy just about anything. Dead or alive. The streets were teaming with very stylish Chinese hipsters and traveling fashionistas looking for bargains.

Milan's overdressed cathedral. 3,500 statues!
After spending two weeks in both areas, I could see a lot of what you might spend 200 euro for in the city center you could find displayed in crates in our neighborhood for half that price. And if you ever needed a cellphone cover (or 20) you could by them in hundreds of styles in dozens of stores. I am sure they are fronts for something more dubious or there is a need out there that I just wasn't aware of!
I could have taken shot after shot of these!
Once again we found inspiring markets and I really enjoy cooking at home. Easier on the budget, too. However, the kitchens are starting to blur together and just when I think I know where something is or how an appliance works I am starting over. It's been interesting to learn what 'essentials' are in an airbnb rental. As in what a '20 something' stocks her kitchen with as opposed to a more seasoned cook. Again, IKEA to the rescue in most cases. I can usually make anything work when I have an inspiring bag of market fare, a stove, a good knife (thanks Mary) and a couple of solid pans.

Lovely Porcini. $5 for ten - and so good roasted.
Happy Hour! Buy a drink and head to the buffet at any bar.
Milan itself was fascinating. Michael and I have been lucky to visit several parts of Italy over time but we were not familiar with Milan - so that's where we stuck the pin. I am glad we did because so much of Italy is so fairytale perfect. And Milan is not. It is big, busy, bossy, bold city that deserves to be taken seriously.

As always we took the free walking tour and learned things you might not glean from a more structured tour. The entrepreneurial people that guide these tours do it because they love their city, they have some flair, they speak English and they need the tips - so they craft their own styles and mix history with personal insight.

Our guide Paulo was not apologetic about why Milan is the 'very rich' but less attractive stepchild of Italy's major cities. It's because they work hard and don't have time for frivolity. They paved over the charming canals to make way for more roads. They leveled medieval buildings so that modern workplaces could be built. They did not give in to romantic notions about keeping ancient things intact and in fact, don't spend much of the city coffers on preservation or restoration. And it has paid off by creating Italy's leading city of commerce, style and design trends. Shoes anyone?

A mere $700. per foot! The doorman just glared at me.

Of course there were lovely part of the city - and plenty of 'Damn that's old!' moments. We were duly amazed at the sights from the top of the Duomo, ate our daily Gelato, read our books, sat in cafes and enjoyed life.

From the top of the Doumo.
Several food groups represented here. So it's OK.
Easy to use short term bike rentals all over town.
Two highlights would be a day trip by train to Lake Como on a crisp, sunny fall afternoon. And Michael's trip to the holy grounds of Italian football for a night match.

In Como we had a lovely lunch on the square, read our books and enjoyed being out of the city surrounded by fall color. I even took some time to contemplated how ducks and pigeons look the same wherever I go. That's how relaxed I was.

I knew I brought those binoculars for a reason!
Michael has been committed to trying to get to a football match in each city. Attending a match between Milan and rival Italian team Udinesse did the trick. There was a Champion's League match between Milan and Barcelona in town, but somehow we couldn't scrape together the 800 euro for a scalped ticket. We enjoyed that one at a nearby sports bar. He has been to matches in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and now this one.

There was serious strategic planning needed on how to get San Siro Stadium. One of the most famous in Europe. He took several modes of transportation and got home and back in one piece. The security was high - and so was the excitement level. He had a great time.

 Great energy and an exciting night out for Mr. Campbell
The souveinier stands and food stalls felt like Mardi Gras
Found a McLaren store that brought back racing memories!
We are reading like crazy, getting a little too competitive in the game department, and still walking for miles each day. And of course, taking time to enjoy this blessing.

Bakeries are a blessing, right?
We are currently in Florence. An all time favorite destination for us and many of you. Next up Athens, then Lisbon, Paris and Seattle for the holidays and all of January. Mr. Campbell (aka Head Travel Planner) is getting geared up. If we have enough money left, and we are still married we will implement Phase II. Thanks for reading!

Milano Mama's deserve their own doors.
p.s. If you read my previous blog about The Mamas. Here's proof they rule the roost. This is a 10 foot front door with a 5 foot entrance carved into it. They are all over Milan! We saw plenty of taller people ducking to get in and out of these doors, but the Mama's did just fine.

1 comment :

  1. I love your wonderful observations. Feel as though I am tripping along in your saddlebags. Thanks for keeping us updated. Onward!!!!!