2004-11-25 : Angels in the architecture. Behind all the scaff, that is.
One of the cool things about London is it's something of a transport hub – you can get to most places in Europe quite cheaply, so it seems silly not to avail oneself of the opportunity from time to time. On the weekend just gone, I (along with Annie and a friend of hers from work, Joyti) grabbed a RyanAir flight over to Milan. My chief reason for doing so was that I hadn't been before, and now was as good an opportunity to visit Italy as any.
The trip began with the usual RyanAir 2.5 hour trip out to the middle of nowhere to get to their airport (Stansted). See that's the thing – the flights are helluva cheap (about £40 return to “Milan”), but the airports they fly to are not usually remarkably close to the city they're claiming to be. The one I took to Paris dropped me in Beauvais, which was a 10 euro, 1.5 hour bus ride away from Paris. This one took us to Bergamo – again, about 45 mins from Milan (or, if like us you hit traffic on the way in, about 1.5-2 hours). But anyway, we made it there and life was fine.
It occurred to me a couple of days before leaving that I really had no motive for visiting Milan, and upon phoning Rodney the Shoe Expert – the man who goes to Milan twice a year – it became apparent that the main reason people go there is for fashion. I am aware that there is a thing called The Fashion Industry, but the two of us sort of avoid each other and get on with life, so from that synopsis I figured that the weekend wasn't going to be a life turning point.
Friday night was chiefly a spot of dinner then a hunt for a pub. In the centre of town we found a building that had all the hallmarks of a pub, but after an hour or so in there it seemed to have more of the hallmarks of a professional ladies' emporium, and as we were cream-crackered we called it a night.
Saturday morning I looked in my Lonely Planet guide, and it mentioned that Milan was home to Leonardo DaVinci's painting, The Last Supper. This intrigued me somewhat, so I planned to go to see that. Also, there's a bloody enormous and reportedly awesom cathedral in the center of Milan called Il Duomo (The Dome), and cathedrals are usually worth having a squizz at…
After leaving the hotel I made my way through a street market that had set up immediately outside the hotel, and I went a-wanderin to check out a place or two I'd noted off the Virtual Tourist website – something I'm finding increasingly useful. I decided to head up and check out a shop on Corso Como, followed by a gelateria that was meant to be *excellent* just north of that. Upon eventually finding and reaching Corso Como, it turned out the shop had now turned into a cafe, and as I wasn't yet hungry, that was a bit pointless. Moving north through 2 more street markets I eventually tracked down the gelateria, and had the most Enormous gelati I've ever seen… and get this – it was only 3 Euros !!?? Incredible. Buongiornos and AlFresco's, forget it – I may never enjoy gelati again after this.
Heading south trhough another street market (and pausing to buy a pair of leather gloves – an essential for winter London) I headed for the Duomo. Upon arrival I found that there was some kind of renovation going on, and the entire front was covered in scaffolding. The bits I could see looked amazing, and I figured Sunday morning would be the time to see this. I moved on to the church, Santa Maria della Grazie (Saint Mary of the Thankyou) to hopefully see The Last Supper. The nice man there instructed me that they only let 25 people view the painting every 15 minutes, and that you had to book at least 4 days in advance. Presumably they had to have a nun in the building for every person who saw the painting, to pray for forgiveness when they invariably said “F$%k me, we rang 4 days ahead for THIS !?”.
Heading back towards the Duomo – via another street market – I passed through the Galleria Emanuelle II (or words to that effect). I hadn't researched this, so I don't really know what it was originally for or whose memory it was bult in. What I *do* know is that it's enormous, and it's crammed with expensive shops and tourists.
At some point that afternoon – most likely due to a wrong turn – I also wnadered through the Castello (castle). Again, a lack of research left me wondering what it was all about, but from what I could piece together it was orignally part of the city's fortifications, and it had been knoced down and rebuilt several times between the 1400's and 1700's… which probably explains why it's largely made of red brick now – seemingly a strange material to build a castle from, I'd have thought.
That night I met up with Annie and Joyti (fresh from a spot of power shopping), and we had a variety of misadventures at bars, pizza joints, bars and nightclubs before somehow taking the beer scooter back to the hotel. One of the places we took up residence was The Kookabar – allegedly an Australian Bar and favoured hangout of expats. It was more likely to be the quietest spot in Milan, and somewhere no expat in their right mind would go… still fun though. Highlights included the soundtrack (one CD of Aussie Rock, including Icehouse, Crowded House, and of course the National Anthem – Khe Sanh), and Joyti ordering the “house special” – the Adelaide Colada. WOrds fail me – ask me about it some time.
Sunday we didn't really have time to do anything except wake up, get ready, pack up, and make our way back to Bergamo to fly outta there.
The only other things I want to mention were that contrary to Mum & Dad's assertions, my Italian language skills did NOT come into play – I guess there was no call to say “My name is Jason and I am in Grade Four” or “I like tomatos and my dog is happy”. Also, bullshit translations are still funny no matter where you go.
One other observation – there seem to be an extensive list of forbidden activies on a Milan Underground escalator, all chronicled on signs. According to the diagram, intercourse with certain breeds of dog is prohibited ?
And on that happy note, I'll sign off. Milan was excellent fun, and I'd happily go back again now that I've got some idea how the place works. Big thanks to Annie and Joyti for a great weekend !
I've uploaded a bunch of photos to my gallery, for those who are interested… the Hayseed Dixie and Europe photos aren't quite as they should be – whilst resizing them I sorta forgot that I typically sized my gallery shots to 400, and made the all 300 pixels wide instead. I might get around to fixing it one day when it's not after 1am and I can summon up the enthusiasm to do so. But yeah, new photos ! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !