First Days in Milan: Friday and Saturday, July 28-29
Some people were surprised when I told them that I was in Italy instead of Latvia. One of the things I love to do is to do what I can to make time spent as meaningful as possible. I likely would have left America in June but for my CELTA course, so when I set my date for the end of July I didn’t really have any big objective other than getting to Latvia as soon as possible. However, school doesn’t start until September, so why rush? If I was going to travel to Europe anyway, why not see some other part. Instead of having a six hour layover in Frankfurt, I am having a five day layover in Milan. Rita also wanted to get back to Italy, so this worked out perfectly.
I don’t know much about Milan. I knew it was close to Monza which is where the Italian Grand Prix is held. I know it is close to Marinello which is the headquarters of Ferrari. I was told that it was an economic and fashion powerhouse with lots of important industries. But really, it wasn’t on my radar as far as cities to visit, but I am happy to be here. I have since learned that the Last Supper is located here and they have an amazing Duomo.
A quick spoiler… I never got to go into the Duomo, and we didn’t see “The Last Supper”, but, as Rita says, “You can’t do everything all the time, and this will give us something to look forward to next time we visit.” She doesn’t actually say those words, but something like that. (I just looked at that Duomo website to see the inside and… holy shit!)
Back to the story… so we made it to Milan, and we dropped the Alfa Romeo off, hailed a cab and made it to Via Elba 7 (an address that I have memorized) where Rita booked an AirBNB. We were let in through a locked gate into a lovely courtyard and then led up 5 flights of stairs to our room. We quickly unloaded our baggage, and then, even though it had been a harrowing day (see the last post), we decided to check out the neighborhood.
Again, streets in Italy are not straight, and most intersections are actually seven or eight (or nine in this case) roads coming together at diagonal angles and veering off in every direction. I believe that growing up in a city on a grid has been a disadvantage to me as I have to retune my instincts to navigate these streets. I get lost very easily. But Rita grew up in Latvia where you can’t get there from here, and roads never go where you think they will, so she helped me find my way. Much of traveling is learning to simply let go and allow yourself to be swept up in the moment. As my blog title reveals, I’m not very good at just letting go!
At the end of our block stand two “skyscrapers” at the Piazza Piemonte which just so happens to be on Via George Washington… go figure. Rita loved these two buildings as soon as she saw them from our taxi, and they’ve become our landmarks to remind us that we are close to “home.” They remind me a bit of the Ghostbusters’ building, but not quite as spooky. I can’t imagine how much it must cost to live at the top on the penthouse with the most spectacular view in the neighborhood!
So we walked past those, and followed our cab driver’s advice heading toward a lovely neighborhood with lots of restaurants and shops. We were tired, grumpy, and it was muggy. I just wanted to find something to eat… something Italian (smirk), so we stopped at a corner pizzaria. Finally, Italian pizza would be mine!
On another little side note, I sometimes get the feeling that waiters don’t want me in their establishments. It’s the little things like seating you in a corner next to the table where they cut meat… or not offering any condiments with the meal… or serving really slowly and making angry faces when you ask questions or make demands such as, “May we have some water, please?” You know… things like that.
To be fair, the food was delicious. I had the equivalent to a pepperoni pizza called Diavolo. Rita had another seafood dish with various shellfish and a lovely salad. They even gave me a to-go box with some advertisement for a theme park on it. It was just like being in America! Sort of.
On our way back, I got lost, and Rita pointed us in the right direction. We were chased by Italian mosquitos (aptly named “zanzara”) all the way home.
I don’t know if I’ve slept better in my life. Our plan for the next day was to take it easy. Rita had some work to do, and I was happy to just acclimate to my surroundings.
To be sure, Milan, like any major metropolitan city, has incredibly expensive real estate, so finding a nice AirBNB in the heart of the city was no easy task. We have a tiny but lovely attic flat with one room, a tiny kitchen area and a bathroom. It’s perfect for two people who aren’t worried about spending a lot of time here. The most important thing is that it has air conditioning and lots of storage space. The worst part is that it’s an attic, so the ceiling is slanted. If I told you how many times I have hit my head, you might cry instead of laugh.
On our first night, I was just examining the wooden beams that hold up the roof of this building. They are enormous and old. I have to imagine that they were from a tree felled not far from here and planed by an Italian craftsman. Dragged by horses and placed by a series of pulleys and ropes long before mechanical cranes. It does one’s soul good to be reminded of the bones of the building.
Since it was an uneventful day, I’ll take a moment or
two to just give you an overview of life in Italy. We started the morning with a walk to a coffee shop for a double espresso where I took a photo with Marilyn. Then we found the local supermarket, Esselunga, where I bought this tiny bottle of olive oil, and we also bought some groceries. I think you can tell a lot about the values of a country by exploring their supermarkets. In America, it’s all about snacks, candy, and soda. In Italy, it’s olive oil, olives and wine. No surprise, right?
After asking a few people for directions, we found our way back to via Elba, and back at the flat we had a relaxing afternoon. Rita did some work, and I did some writing. I did have a cool moment where some Italian person at the store asked me for help… in Italian! Rita says I look Italian, and maybe the Ferrari shirt helped? I don’t know.
In the evening, I ran out to get some wine and some other ingredients so I could cook a nice Italian supper. I used fresh tomatoes, garlic, wine and oil to make my own sauce with some Italian sausage. We had a wonderful salad and some penne pasta. Everything tasted fresh and glorious… but again, I may exaggerate a bit. I find that I am easily pleased.
I almost forgot that on the way to the market, it rained, and I was able to see an Italian rainbow. Take that for what you will, but it was a welcomed sight for me!
I have to shout out to my son Kyle who suggested we have some Chiante while in Italy. So far, we’ve had several glasses and we haven’t been disappointed yet. Although I had to explain the entire plot of Silence of the Lambs to be able to get Rita to understand my Hannibal Lecter reference… cultural differences.
Tomorrow? The Duomo!