Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6: Kicking Around Milan

This morning was a lazy morning. After yesterday's excitement we could barely stand to get ourselves up and out by noon. That doesn't mean we weren't awake, however: Benny woke us all up very early after he had an alarming dream where I turned into a monster and tried to kill him. Gosh, as a parent, I can't even describe how wonderful it is when kids have this type of dream. It just fills my little heart with satisfaction when I learn that my child's nightmares are populated by deviant versions of ME. Sigh.

At this bed & breakfast, we have our own fridge and I have permission to use the kitchen when I need to, but it still very much feels like we're living in someone else's house: not quite guests but not quite customers... it's very odd. IF it were an overnight, it would be perfect, but in terms of living here for a week, I'm not sure how we're going to get through it. Dan has a horror of visiting people because he worries so constantly about inconveniencing them, disturbing their routine, causing them trouble, messing up their house, etc. I think that this week might feel a lot like that to Dan, and put him on an edge that is already finely sharpened.

The lady who lives here and runs the B&B is very sweet though. And she and I are communicating pretty well considering she speaks very little English and I speak very little Italian. I like her, so that helps. Maybe she likes me too, but probably not as my doppelganger in dreamworld is a monster who kills children. Ok, the situation is making me a little testy as well.

So at about noon or shortly thereafter, we headed out to adventure in Milan. Dan has a rest day today because of his exertions yesterday, so no bicycle, but we did need things for the bicycle, so our first stop was the bicycle shop around the corner, which was closed. Many things here in Italy are closed from about 1 to about 3, we are finally learning. So we turned the car toward downtown Milan.

Milan is a modern town, a friend told me before we came here. There aren't that many things to do. And it is. In many ways it reminds me of Chicago. It's not like Rome and it's certainly not like Florence or Venice. However, Milan's sophistication is sort of charming -- the cafe capitol of Italy, the panini capitol, and most enticingly the gelato capitol? I could get used to this kind of modern. Though there are skyscrapers and a lot of construction, which is actually really nice to see (progress good, paralysis around exhibiting artifacts bad), there is a historic "core" to Milan that we were attempting to find.

My plan was to start with the cemetery. We love cemeteries and this one was supposed to be a majestic example of exorbitant markers, spendy statues, etc. However, it was wreathed in construction and then when we finally did figure out how to get near the gates, it was closed. A cemetery closed on a Monday? I guess yes. Our parking spot was so perfect, however, that we decided to just ditch the car and walk down to the Sforza Castle, which we found to be huge, medieval, daunting, and on the other side of a lovely green park which the children enjoyed.

DaVinci lived in Sforza Castle for years, but while we appreciate any connection to DaVinci, we did not subject the children to any museums. Instead we marched on bravely toward Il Duomo, and on the way stopped for paninis for us, hot dogs for the children.

Sadie is driving us mildly crazy with her eating issues on this trip. She ranges from very very brave and adventurous, for example the grilled chicken the other night, to completely picky and ridiculous, like today when she first refused to eat any of the bread of her hot dog and then refused to eat what were basically cheetos, just because they were white! In Italy they don't use lashings of artificial colors all over the place. We explained this to her at length (again) and also the fact that the color orange, in cheese itself, is actually *also* an artificial color, and that white is the color of milk and therefore cheese, etc. etc. to no avail. Luckily Dan and I seem to alternate getting frustrated on this, so that there's always someone sympathetic to her issues. Sort of. When we get home she's going on a steady diet of brussel sprouts and cottage cheese.

After eating, we pressed on to the Duomo, which is a huge, staggering, monumentally gothic thing, laced with decor on top of decor. Like one of those drip castles you make with wet sand. This was not my favorite cathedral. Inside it reminded me of the austere gothic architecture of, for example, Notre Dame, without any of the attendant sentiment. The space, inside, felt cold and forbidding. The cool part of this cathedral, however, is definitely, definitely the roof! You can go up stairs or an elevator and explore almost the entire roof on multiple levels -- it was so cool! The best thing about it was that there were stairways, doorways, walkways and openings that showed the designers/builders had created these spaces on purpose to be used for people to go up and stand on the roof -- which was just so awesome. Loved that. I also did love one of the windows inside -- picturing a white horse and angels fighting a dragon and demons. It was beautiful and completely riveting.

After the Duomo we fed pigeons. These were by far the best pigeons we have found in Italy thus far -- they were very friendly, had no problem working with our crushed pretzels as food, and made Sadie and Benny very very happy. After pretzels were gone, we went to this very lovely, very old covered mall where we saw the Prada flagship store, a Louis Vuitton store, and other pricey hovels, as well as a McDonalds and a store selling sports jerseys and caps. But no Chipotle! Hahaha. Sadie and I have plans to embark on some sort of colossal Milanese shopping excursion, but for today we were just window shopping. We window-shopped back down to the Castle Sforza, stopping for gelato on the way, and then to the car and the bike shop, which was now open.

We now understand that parking in Italian cities means finding any spot into which you can jam your car and jamming it in. However, when Dan jammed our car into a "passe carribile" doorway, someone came and shouted at me and honked for me to move it. I did move it, but good grief. People double park, park on sidewalks, park in other people's exhaust pipes, and commit all manner of violations, and the only remedy for any of it seems to be shouting. When we got back to our place there were no available spots on our street, so we parked on the sidewalk on the next street over. When I say on the sidewalk I mean there was a FOOT HIGH CURB that Dan had to get the car up onto without scraping up the undercarriage. Which he managed, of course, being Dan, but again, good grief.

We ate dinner which I awkwardly cooked, and then I immediately washed up all the dishes which is completely unheard of for me, as my friends and family can attest. There is no reason for me to feel awkward around this nice lady -- she's been nothing but helpful and kind to us, but I think I just feel observed and maybe critiqued. Probably the language barrier, she seems immune to my charms. Or maybe she's enslaved to my charms -- who can tell? I'll find out tonight when I turn into a monster and assault her in her dreams.


  1. Milano....ok, you may be able to get in to see The Last Supper; but why not go up to Lake Como or Lugano? All of the lakes are beautiful. And there's Madonna d'Ghisallo the "cyclist's church" above Bellagio (Lake Como)...a pilrgimage! Como is crisscrossed with ferries, etc...easy to get around....and a "secret" place.... Villa Balbianello...scene from Star Wars, a Bond take a little boat out from Lenno. Have fun.
    S. Swan
    VA Cycling

  2. I took an "enough Italian to get by" class before I went a few years ago and the most helpful phrase we learned was "Sei molto gentile" (Pronounced: Say molto jhen teel ay). It means "you are so kind" and everyone we used it on was charmed and then even more helpful than they already were before.

    I just noticed Joshilyn's link to this blog and I have really enjoyed goign back through some of your posts. I am jealous and living vicariously. : )

    -Jill W.