La Bella Italia
The much anticipated trip to Italy is underway and we are now well settled in our apartment in Milano, minutes away from all the main attractions that come to mind when you think of Milan.
The trip across the pond was, you know, air travel, with all the associated indignities.
Take you shoes off, take the computer out, take a picture with the big camera to show it is really a camera, wait in line, delayed flights, lugging suitcases and walking forever to reach your gate. Did I mention sleeping on an airplane?
To be honest, it wasn’t that bad. Flying business class helps but somehow the proverbial pea in the stack of mattresses presses against me and I can’t get comfortable, unlike my husband who seem to enjoy everything and has very few complaints. (I am the head of the complaint department sharing this position with my friend Laura. Sorry Val, you are not in:).
But get here we did and of course, it was worth the minor indignities and inconvenience we suffered en route.
We landed at Malpensa airport and a driver waited for us with my name splashed across a raised iPad screen and drove us to our destination in a beautiful shiny black SUV, courtesy of the rental company through which we rented our apartment.
The apartment is located in the center of Milan in a lovely residential building with a concierge and an elevator. The apartment itself is comfortable, if minimally decorated and has a small kitchen out of which we could cook a couple of meals during our stay. We are in Milano for only 10 days and I don’t intend to do a lot of cooking. I have several restaurants on my list and I don’t want to buy too much food and drag it with us when we leave, which often happens as I am kind of out of control when it comes to buying foodstuff. I always have big plans.
So here we are in Milan, a beautiful, sophisticated, historical city blending the old with the new in a seamless fashion. Just walking around the streets is an education.
I am told that Milan does not impose a restrictions to maintain architectural continuity in its neighbourhoods and you often see architecture reflecting baroque, renaissance, fascism and modernism standing side by side. Focus on preservation and repurposing makes this possible. These buildings tell the story of Milan through the different stages of its history. The Spanish, Austrian and French were some of rulers of Milan and left their mark on this beautiful city. The first public library was built under the Spanish rule. Teatro alla Scala was built under Austrian rule and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Milan in the Duomo. Perhaps the most interesting history involves the Visconti and Sforsa families and their Coat of Arms , snake and an eagle, respectively, are seen throughout the city. But in the end, Milan is distinctly Milan and belongs to its chic population.
Milan is a dynamic city with a chic urban, social and cultural style. Right now it is hosting three major events. One is the World Expo and the other is MITO 2015, the International Music Festival and BookCity, a literary event to promote reading as an individual and collective event. These events are bringing millions of visitors to the city. Expo Milano ends at the end of October and will visit there this week. The music festival takes place on an enormous stage right in the Pizza del Duomo with deafening (sorry) sound of contemporary music spreading from there in the early evenings.
Like most visitors, on our first night here we went to the Piazza del Duomo for a walk and a late dinner. Since the music festival was in full swing we passed along the edge of the noisy piazza to escape the loud sound and walked into Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Now that’s a stunning glass and steel structure not to be missed. The soaring glass dome in the center connects four large glass topped corridors where expensive shops and restaurants cater to the top 1% of monied population wherever they originate. We paid (unintentionally) 200 Euros plus for a dinner for two.
Dinner under the glass dome of the Galleria was an interesting experience but not the kind of authentic food experience I am interested in. The salads came without the olive oil and vinegar bottles that are placed on the table so you can drizzle your own dressing on the salad. My order of risotto with chestnuts appeared as risotto Milanese, made with saffron and no chestnuts. I had to wait for the parmesan to be shaved over the risotto and the chestnuts and ricotta dessert we ordered seemed to have been made with figs instead. You know, not the way it should be, especially at that price. Still the quality of food was good. The risotto was beautifully prepared, the salads were crisp and fresh and the figs were good with the ricotta mousse. We left it at that but will know better for next time. Do not eat where they cater to deep pocketed tourists.
Tonight it’s off to the opera at the famous Teatro alla Scala a few minutes walk from our abode (performing Verdi’s Falstaff), tomorrow dinner at a private home through Eat With and Monday, viewing of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper at the Santa Maria della Grazie. We are up for the adventure and exploration and will continue to report back on these pages.
If you have been to Milan and have suggestions please tell me in the comments below.
Stayed tuned, wish you were here.