People may disagree with me on this, but I find Milan to be a very somber place. Yes, you can argue the beauty of the main square, the rare magnificent church, the frescoes, the fashion, the design, but I just can’t be convinced. To me, Milan has always been a pass through town. The few times that I challenged myself to stay longer and like it, I left thinking – well that failed.
Maybe it’s because Italy spoils you with the biggest concentration of mind-numbingly beautiful cities in the world. Or maybe I have developed a particularly strong aversion to cities that haven't especially cared about planting trees and developing green spaces. I live in Wisconsin, I have come to expect an encounter with nature. I feel cheated otherwise. And here, you have to agree with me – Milan is hopelessly indifferent to nature.
Ed and I have less than an hour to kill in Milan and not wanting to risk missing the bus to Bergamo (Milan’s third airport – dominated by Ryan Air and other discount flights) we decide to waste it walking the blocks around the Stazione Centrale. That kind of a stroll is not going to do the city any favors.
But I’ll say this: where cities fail to provide greenery, people will try to compensate. On balconies, for example.
And in any case, it’s the week before Easter so you’ll find color alright – in the candy shops, at the Sicilian bakery – places that make you smile in spite of it all....
We pick up a few Sicilian pistachio paste cookies and make our way to the airport to catch the late flight out.
We’re heading for Sardinia.
Midnight in Cagliari
It’s the last hour of a long day. Our Ryan Air flight came into Cagliari on time (they play a horn fanfare on the audio system when that happens) and we’re checked in for the night at a nearby hotel (the T – very sleek, very modern, very colorful, and very inexpensive now in the off season).
I am hungry. The town seems closed for the night, but we’re hopeful. We’re in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Surely there is food to be had at this hour. I ask for a local pizza place.
Cross the square, walk for a block and you’ll see it.
Is it good? I ask. I’m willing to walk farther for good.
It’s fine. It’s pizza, the people are nice.
The place is not just hopping, it’s jumping. Animated. Families, groups of young people, groups of older men, couples. All with the dark dark hair of Sardinia.
We eat a seafood antipasto and we each have that wonderful thin crust pizza – mine with Sardinian mushrooms – the one that makes you weep because it is so simple and so good.
I ordere the half liter of the Sardinian white wine (at 4 Euros for the jug, it was meant to be), Ed orders fizzy water. An unopenable bottle of fizzy water.
I call the waiter-owner-boss over and ask for a replacement. He picks up the bottle and looked curiously at it. What’s wrong with it?
He can’t open it, I say. And he’s pretty strong.
The waiter-owner-boss looks at Ed, smiles and gives the bottle one mighty twist. It flies open.
A Sardinian challenge if I ever saw one.
I wont say who won.
Sardinia. One hour, and I’m in love. But love often happens that way, no? One hour, one night and you’re smitten.
I watch the slow awakening of Cagliari from the window of our hotel room. We’ll be leaving this afternoon and heading north. But for now, there is the stillness of a sleeping city to admire. Good morning, so happy to be passing through this week.