On the train to Malpensa Airport in Milan, all packed up. I count to 5 over and over before we leave the apartment–two roller bags, two backpacks and my small bag. Leaving our airb&b apartment, which has served us pretty well this week, we need to leave the keys on the table and leave the building. If I forget anything, we cannot go back.
We have completely given over to living la vita turistica di Milano. Gone are my pretensions of traveling like an Italian. At least in Milano. Our apartment is in Brera, the West Village of Milan, and we are in the most kitschy part of the West Village. Every restaurant caters to English speaking tourists. There is pizza with hotdogs and French fries on it. I’m sure there is the British equivalent. I just don’t recognize it. When we were in Venice last year, we spent an afternoon sitting in Piazza San Marco, with ice cream (Julia) and gin and tonic (me), listening to two dance orchestras and watching other tourists pose with pigeons on their arms. In Milan, it seems comparable to sit in a cafe on the via Dante. Julia has been lusting for a slushie -that really tastes like watermelon although just as incredibly sweet an any American slushie. I have a gin and tonic (in these ridiculously expensive tourist cafes, a small glass of beer is the same price as a mixed drink and I enjoy gin and tonic in the summer. And so rarely order one.). We share a plate of cheese and meats. The servers bring potato chips and olives, just like Venice, an excellent way to encourage a second drink. There is music from whatever is the boom box equivalent. It plays pop, mostly American and mostly impossible to understand. It soon becomes white noise and not bothersome. The people watching is as good as last year. Lots of Asian travelers and women in head scarves, none speaking English. I’ve read that Americans have been scared out of European travel and tonight I wonder if that is the case. Continue reading
Not so early in the morning but Julia is still asleep and I’m going to let her be for awhile.
We have been in Milano for 36 hours, gotten somewhat settled, walked a lot, spent hours in the daVinci Science Museum, eaten gelato and seen the Last Supper. I was last in Milano 32 years ago and although the I remember nothing about city or its sights, I vividly remember the energy and how that energy wraps its arms around me.
It is 5 in the morning and Orta is quiet. Amazing. Somewhere someone is waking up and getting ready for the day but the island, over which I continue to obsess, is dark (Is everyone asleep there?) and there are few sounds in Orta except for birds and air conditioners blowing. Too bad about the air conditioning but this is a tourist town. We had ours on for the night. Julia couldn’t sleep with the din from the piazza and the rolling thunder that presaged a late night storm. That thunder went on for most of the day! The lake is long and narrow and surrounded by hills and mountains and the sound bounces and pings around. That storm tonight has been slowly moving towards us since noon. Continue reading
Julia is sketching about what she sees the last few days and drawing landscapes for the first time. It is clear she lacks training but as usual her eye for design and placement is right on. She fumbles when trying to add color but I continue to encourage her. New learning is exciting. Besides feeding my wanderlust, I travel to open this incredible world to Julia. Continue reading
A concert tonight (Monday) and even though it begins at 9:15, I don’t manage to get us out for supper in time. We’ve become very lax about supper. Most restaurant don’t begin serving until 7:30 and we tend to wander about looking for something somewhere around 8:30. I should have checked the poster announcing the concert earlier in the day but I didn’t. Instead, I checked at 8:30 and finding out it began at 9:15 made the executive decision that gelato would make the perfect quick supper. Julia didn’t disagree. Continue reading
There is sun this morning and after breakfast we are on the ferry to the Isola di San Giulio which sits in the middle of the lake.
I read that there are two paths around the tiny island, and, in fact the island is not only tiny but so heavily built upon that there is no place to stand to get a perspective on the whole of the island. This island is so crowded with villas, church buildings and the church itself, that we cannot see the church building from the front doors. Inside, it is a tiny church, painted and carved and guilded. Parts of the church were decorated or build at different times. A church was built in the 5th century, then replaced by one in the next hundred years, then added to in the 12th and 19th centuries. It is the metaphor of the island, every inch developed, redeveloped and decorated. There is hardly room for the pews. What is in the church could easily fill a church twice its size.
We are lazy and utilitarian on Wednesday. If our hotelier did not want to clean and straighten the room, we might spend the day in it. We would be forced out for food. We are ready for a lazy vacation. It has only taken three weeks of intensive museuming.
Right after breakfast, we found a shop to launder clothes. It was a short walk from our B&B with filled backpacks and, thanks to a very nice older man who was also washing, we were guided through the process. Not quite as intuitive as one might think. All our clothes fit into one medium sized washer and so there was no division between darks and lights. I had just enough change to wash and so, once the washer, we had to find a bakery to get sweets and change. Julia has never waited for clothes to wash and dry–ah, a suburban kid life. She is fascinated and bored. Continue reading
Yesterday, we had a day in Genoa. It was Monday and much of Italy is closed on Mondays. We spent the morning at the Villa del Príncipe, the home built by Andrea Doria. I am not sure why his name is familiar but I learned that he was a very successful naval officer of fortune, working for the King of Spain and various Italian princes and kings. He made a lot of money, guaranteed Genoa’s safety (I’m not sure from whom) and then built his house. It was very grand, big as any royal palazzo but time has not been good to it. An elevated highway cut off part of the garden, the train station is next door and there is nothing but a traffic circle close to it. Still, it was open and we went. I didn’t realize it but most of the palazzos we’ve seen in Torino and Genova are publicly owned and thus have access to restoration funds. Good investments bringing in tourist euros. Andrea Doria’s house testifies to the value of a historic house being run publicly if family pockets are not deep enough. Although the Dorias have done some renovation (it is still owned by the family) much, much, much needs doing. Continue reading