Saturday, September 12, 2009

Milano and the meanest baddest drivers

We left the comfort of Lake Maggiore and the casablanca-esque Europalace Hotel after just scraping in breakfast to the the hotel meal times. Helen has bought a swag of postcards - you know the kind, the kind with the views that you could never get yourself.

One last coffee at the Ferry Terminal. A few last photos. And we head out of town for the south. We have programmed Kate and when we entered the street Via Leonardo da Vinci, there were 9 choices. Hmm, took a punt and selected the first one.

We got there in reasonable time. That is, if our bed tonight was to be a pile of sand or aggregate and Kate proudly announced "You have reached your destination". "Bullshit," we all replied! We tried to again select one of the others, but no luck. Out comes the mobile to phone the hotel. "Hang on", I said, "lets try the suburb instead of Milan." Aha - that got it first go.

So off we head again, 32.5 kms on the other side of the city. 35 minutes to travel says Kate. Yeah, right! That might have been the case if there had not been an accident. Try 4 km per hour. Yep, that slow - an absolute crawl for most, although there were some crazy drivers who sped up the roadside verge at high speed - probably the next casualty.

The road system here is wierd with a capital W. There is the main road and then a secondary one to the side. To turn across the traffic, you actually exit on to the secondary road and then kind of go round a roundabout. W-i-e-r-d and wacky. It almost looks for a momet that Kate wants to take us to another industrial site for the night, but then we turn up a little residential street and back out on to the secondary road to find ourselves right outside our hotel! The Hotel Tiffany Milano is a laid back and 'slick' place. We feel a little apprehensive when we see a 'couple' leaving the hotel that looks like they only stayed a very short time, and another possibly ahead of us! But maybe we are reading too much into nothing!

However, there is a beautiful terrazzo marble floor in the foyer, a huge plasma TV in the foyer and nicely appointed rooms - also with a plasma TV and the European version of Austar including a channel that shows movies in English. And Oh WOW, the Italian Grand Prix is on. And you would never gues, it is at Monza - only 35 kms away. Hels and I go to the trouble of trying to get tickets for tomorrow. Too bad, so sad - all sold out. Probably just as well as the bottom price (general entry, no seating) was €245 each ($A413.64) each!!!

So in to the centre of Milan we go with Kate programmed for the City Centre. Drivers here in Italy are crazy - they are well and truly living up to their international reputation. At one point there was the rudest young piece of work sitting hard on my tail and on her horn - our first experience of road rage in Europe. Hah, let her. I was doing the limit and in traffic. She weaved, she dodged, she gestured and she ranted, repeating her little antics a number of times with other cars - and we still pulled up behind her at the next lights - having used much much less petrol!

(Saint) Frances struggled to find us a parking spot - although she finally came good with one in the dark back streets near the San Babila church.
We walked up back streets, with Helen nervously casting glances at groups of young goth and emo youths. She is a bit overwhelmed by the closeness of it all. The area was dirty and covered in graffiti. Fashion and body jewellery left us all hanging on to our eyebrows from the inside in case our expressions might be mis-interpreted.

The further in to the shopping area we got however, the nicer the area became and Helen even found a shop where she found the perfect anniversary gift for Greg. Aha, no hints from me guys!!! We passed the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.

And then all of a sudden we turn a corner and there across a large open square is the amazing sight of the Santa Maria Nascente or the Duomo di Milano - one of the largest churches in the world. It faces out across the square which is then framed by collonaded buildings including the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. And in the centre of the Piazza is a statue of the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele riding on his horse which seems to be rearing up as it comes to face the Duomo as if to say 'Whoa there Nellie (Helen's embellishment!) what the heck is that building?' Lit at night as they are know, this part of Milan looks refined and beautiful.

But still, Milan so far is not at all what I expected. One associates the name of Milan with the peak of the fashion industry, the catwalks with the haughty models strutting their thin little bodies like a clothes hanger holding a garment. Hmm. Perception vs reality.

Anyway, we are now crossing the Piazza del Duomo. Off to our right is a huge projection screen that is showing news clips intersperced between lots and lots of plush advertising. And it is reflected off the facade of the Cathedral! We sit outside the Galleria shopping centre and have a light dinner - the most amazing Pizza Magherita, Torchietti al pesto and Tortellini panna e prosciutto which we all share. They were all good, but that pizza was amazing - the crust was light and crisp, the tomato rich and the cheese was so well, cheesy and stringy and yum. Oh yes, Helen has just reminded me that the waitress had forgotten to give us a knife. Michael asked for one, but that pizza beckoned (oh god did it beckon), so we cut it with a fork and tore at it with our fingers. Then the knife arrived! Helen and I washed it down with Pinot Prosecco - one of the nicest sparkling reds we have ever had.

After this, we were all happy to go back to the car and drive back to hotel. We return to the car via another route that doesn't take us anywhere near the Goth meeting point, but does let us see (?) could that be??? Don Quixote? Nah, just some old guy with a horse!
A champers in the bar before bed and the offer to take their Grand Prix tickets should two other guests fall ill!

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