Friday, April 06, 2012

Milan, reconsidered

Well, just as the Italian is flowing nicely again, just as I’m finding my Lombardian bearings (hundreds of years back there was a lot of co-mingling between northern Italians and Poles, even as, sadly, the gene of lush dark hair never survived up north), it’s time to leave.

It was tough turning my back on Gargnano. (Here’s a photo of my front, taken on the last evening there.)


I’d grown very fond of the place. A town with character. Easy to observe – not shy before intruders.

I’ll be back. Soon, while I still have it in my legs to do the fourth and last of the D.H. Lawrence rambles. That one is a doozey – you go past Cima Comer! I’ll need to start climbing at sunrise to get back before the moon is out.

Valerio gives me a lift to the bus. He’s worried that I’m cutting it tight.  
Listen, I tell him. I made it in three minutes from the train to the bus in Brescia! I’m quite proud of that one.  
You like public transportation, he grins. I hear you don’t have many trains in America?
It’s a long story, having to do with our over the top love affair with cars.

The one minute trip to the bus in Gargnano is the only car ride I will have taken since leaving the States one week ago.

Milan. If you stay in the center, it’s all stone and no heart. If you go to the outlying neighborhoods, it’s hard to catch morning flights out the next day. You can’t win.

I catch the metro at the train station. Milan has one of the easiest ticket machines to work with, but hey, here are the hustlers, ready to “help” you purchase the ticket, so that they can run off with the change that comes out. I have to go to the station master to get them off may back. (It’s the camera I carry. It’s such an invitation for anyone who wants to swindle a tourist. And yet I continue to hang it from my neck, tempting fate, but liking the ready access to it.)

I’m at the Duomo. Here, enjoy, it’s all clean now, finally.


What you don’t get from the photo is the urban toughness of the square. All major sights draw crowds. That’s a given. But here, it feels like China – you get accosted with peddlers of junk. It’s not a place to sit back and indulge your senses. You want to move on. I want to move on.

My hotel is nice, extremely nice, but I can only afford it because I am traveling solo. They have cheap single rooms. (Cheap -- meaning under $200 with breakfast and taxes included. Milan is so outrageously expensive that I often compare it to New York. It’s impossible to find a nice room for under $200 in New York and it’s equally difficult to do that here, but I found one, at the lovely Gran Duca di York – an internet special and they go fast so you have to book super early.)

So now I’m on an upswing. Time to discover other pleasant curiosities about the city. Not museums. I’ve done that here. I know one can go back, but I’d rather just walk.

First, let me time the walk to the public city bus that goes to the airport. (Now there’s a steal! 1.5 Euros and you’re at the airport!) I have an early morning flight and I cannot afford to dally. Okay. Twenty minutes.

Now for the city. What did I come across on my ramble this afternoon? Well, skinny people and skinny dogs. And lots of Easter candy and cake displays.

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And many trams and electrical wires.

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Churches. And buildings with religious affiliation. And pigeons.


Bold art.

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Somber people. With somber dogs. (Even the kissing couple to the left looked somberly passionate. Like maybe they weren't enjoying their love.)


Old neighborhoods.

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In these neighborhoods, an old bakery (Marchesi, since 1826!), where I bought a fresh Easter bread for home.


Newer looking chairs (forgive the slight glare, it’s through a window). I see them everywhere in this city.


And there are some things that are just universally Italian, like Aperol spritz, only the people drinking it here look Milanese. (And no, I didn’t pause for one, but only because my hotel room comes equipped with free Campari and soda.)


For dinner, I went to a neighborhood place – the Hostaria Borromai. Had I read the reviews (mixed) I may have wavered. But some people like it and it has what I was in the mood for – solid Milanese food: Ossobuco Milanese (a veal shank, cooked in the usual veggie and wine sauce, but without tomatoes up north) and risotto Milanese (with saffron).

Very filling and neither especially photogenic: a glob of meat and a glob of rice. So I'll give you instead a photo of two gentlemen from Milan, eating there.


Ah, but the moon – a few hours short of being full, it shines brightly on Milan as well.


And maybe its force casts spells of some sort because despite all the grumblings about this big, noisy, unfriendly city, I have to admit it – I liked my half day here. Or at least, it was an interesting set of hours. And that’s a good thing.

Next post will be from the farmhouse. Tomorrow.