Monday, September 26, 2011

A day and night in Milan

Milan by night

A little background story first--I met Rosy at the World Championships in July when she took my picture with Sabino Gadaleta, her friend, after the race. I knew her all of five minutes before I told her I was visiting Italy in September and she told me to come visit her. That's it. So I imagined she was a bit nervous having me there, which she later confirmed.  I didn't quite know what to expect either. It all ended up turning out well.  Here's the story:

Milan is a very happenin' city at night! Met Rosy and Barbara at the train station, then took a tram, then car, to her apartment, then car and tram back to the center of it all. The area was lit up well at night and had the intensity of a big city like Milan that one would expect. It didn't disappoint. The enormity of the age-old architecture that dominates the city was intimidating . The nightlife was there, on every corner, at every restaurant and gelateria. Places were overflowing with people and trickling into the street, and now, instead of a melée of languages, now it was all Italian.  Cars double-parked on both the street and onto the sidewalks oozed out life forms ready to lose their stress and meet with friends to sample all the alimentazione and bevande Milano had to offer. 

We met with Rosy's cousin, Sergio and his girlfriend, Gabriela, who reminded me much of my buddy Keith's wife, Bethany. Same joie de vivre, same smile--both awesome people. Sergio was great and we all had a blast.  I wanted to try a new veal dish besides veal cutlets parmigiana. I reluctantly ordered the osso bucco vitello com risotto. Wow! The rice mixed with saffron made it yellow and was out of this world! The veal, which I wasn't sure I'd like, also kicked my ass! In case things didn't work out, Barbara ordered the dish I passed up and was willing to trade if I didn't like it.  What great new friends!

We spent the night talking about the US and Italy and had some good, clean fun. I had some crêpe for desert that Barbara bought for me. It contained Nutella and mascarpone cheese.  I must find this cheese in the US! Delicious treat but I couldn't even finish it. 

Milan by Day

Milan was a city with some nice architecture. Like any good European city, it had a kickass church, the Duomo, which was closed to the public when we finally had a chance to go on Sunday. I did get to attend a few minutes of a Catholic mass in Italian at a smaller church earlier in the day, which I can cross off my list. I understood everything being said, mostly because I was an altar boy and have the darn thing memorized. I know all the priest's stupid lines because I was so nervous that I wouldn't ring the bell at the right time during his prayers.  I hated that gig.  Anyway, it was just like being a kid again, though this church was way cooler.  Took some pics and listened to the familiar hymns, hummed along in my head, then proceeded with my tour of Milan.  

Rosy and I did the entire city on foot that day, covering about 20 miles. I used my Garmin 310xt to track it and can't wait to see the map of it. Should be interesting! The first few miles were by car/tram, but the rest was all us!
We first got some coffee at one of their select spots, then started the day-long adventure. After walking about for an hour or so, we went to a nice little restaurant where I passed up my normal choice of veal in order to try rabbit (coniglio). At first I thought I got ripped off, because the meat resembled the consistency of chicken and actually did taste just like it. Then I saw the bone structure and knew it wasn't chicken. It was very tasty and I wish it was served in the US outside of Chinese restaurants. If they can cook it like this, I'm in!  
List of meats/creatures I've eaten in my life:
Guinea pig
All fish
And probably some obvious ones I'm forgetting. I'll eat any animal or creature of the sea, I guess. 
I ended up eating the majority of Rosy's and Barbara's meals, too. Lightweights. It was all good.  From there, I earned the nickname from Rosy "il pozzo senza fondo," which my dad gave to me when I was a teenager--the bottomless pit. Accompanying my coniglio, I ate some fennel, or finnochio, which happens to be the parolaccia (slang) for "gay, " but the more vulgar word used. It was tasty, but I wouldn't care much for it a second time. At her behest, I ate Rosy's sandwich and finished off Barbara's pork scallopini. Then it was time to walk it all off. 

We dropped off Barbara at work and began just walking around everywhere. We saw il castello, a castle filled with immigrants peddling the Gucci purses and sunglasses before they return to Senegal and Pakistan.  They can be quite annoying and in your face with their merchandise, especially the roses. Just because a guy and a girl are walking around together, one shouldn't assume they're "together." It's rude in any language or culture, especially if you're intruding on one's conversation.  Throughout the day, these peddlers, mostly the Pakistanis, wore on my patience.  Just like a good waiter/waitress does his/her best to not interrupt a conversation, so should these people. I understand they're trying to make money to survive and they're somewhat entrepreneurs, but they annoy the crap out of me.  They sell their same junk all over the place and it makes me thankful that we have big bouncer dudes and security guards who will get rid of these people in a heartbeat. If not, the police arrest them for selling goods without a license or something else-loitering, trespassing or soliciting. I'm serious when I say thank goodness for that!  More on that later.  As a result of these constant encounters throughout the day, I did learn the word "maleducato," meaning "rude." On a side note, that night at the bar, one guy came up while we we all sharing stories and stuck some roses in my face and I lost it! I told him to go away, get lost, leave us alone and stood up and threatened to kick his ass!  It's not like me to pick a fight, but I think I snapped after that 100th time being approached by some jackass who has no manners and seriously  invaded my personal space bubble with roses to face.  He just stood there like he didn't have a clue what I was saying, which was probably true, but I wanted to toss him in the canal.  It was like having I'll-mannered children around all day, ones whose parents never taught them to say "pardon me," or anything resembling manners.  Now I can understand why people hate the gypsies. While I did appreciate their work ethic, I wished some slack-jawed monstrosity of a dude named Bruno would have "politely" asked them to leave the premises, like they do in the US at nightclubs, or at least have it where the useless security guards phone the police and then law enforcement arrives for even the pettiest thing. I love the US!

Speaking of police, I was sad to see Milano in such the state it was.  Graffiti was everywhere, especially on buildings from long, long ago.  Some of these surfaces are either very expensive or impossible to clean! Today's youth just has q As I said before, drivers loosely followed the rules, weaving in, cutting off, endangering others and such.  Even though we all hate traffic cops and the douchebag bike cops, they serve a purpose to remind us that if we are driving irresponsibly, there are consequences that are enforced.  Milan's drivers in general seemed to treat the driving laws  in a manner similar to what we do with photo radar tickets. We know that they're not enforceable unless it's delivered by a process server or we make the mistake of calling the court to acknowledge we received it.  Italian cops seem to be well-hidden and not so involved in protecting the public.  I certainly have a new-found respect for law enforcement officers in the US.  I was even told by Barbara that it's absolute do-what-you-want with driving in the south of Italy. That's scary!

Now that I'm done with my rant on that...
We continued our walk through the park outside the castle and I nearly got a taste of my second Roman stadium of the trip. This one happened to be closed Sundays, so it was a no-go. I was happy to see many runners in the park. Outside of running with Christophe and friends, I hadn't seen a whole lot of runners with the exception of a few sexagenarians in St Elena in Venice. The park was nice, like most are, and was a pleasant little diversion before we hit the streets of Milan again. 

The people of Milan were well-dressed, and compared to Venice, they were very en vogue. In fairness to the Venetians, their jobs in their own city don't require a suit like the Milanese because the jobs in Venice itself are more tourist-centered, for the most part. In general, it seemed like the Milanese care a lot more for style and fashion and the women wear makeup and high heels, which the Venetians, though mixed in with tourists, didn't. I expected such manner of dress--after all, it was fashion week in Milan, and Milan is known for its sense of fashion, after all!

There were definitely not as many tourists here as there were in Venice, which was nice, but at the same time, it makes me the only guy carrying around a camera.  It's not the pocket-sized one, either. I'm talking the Canon 400d. I bought it on craigslist for $250 a while back and love it.  It does really well outdoors and has some cool settings I messed with for night shots, but I would like to get a better lens for action shots. I also have a Canon 8Mp digital Elph. That camera rocks, too, and has a bunch of manual settings that make it easy to transport. Canon all the way,baby!

Rosy knew a couple of secret spots in the city and she brought me to these stone columns, had me stand next to one, walked away and then started talking into the wall across from me, about 20 feet away. Her voice suddenly struck out from the wall next to me!  Pretty neat! The other spot was this mosaic bull inlaid into the ground. Legend has it that you'll become lucky if you spin around atop the hole where the bull's testicles would be.  You have to spin three times on your heel without touching down, from what I understood. No one was doing it right. I didn't want to do it because it might negate my pre-existing luck.  

I ate a lot of different things while in Milan, just as I did in France. The difference was that Sylvie does home-cooked meals that are fantastic, but more about that later. During the course of my day, I consumed gelato, rabbit, pork, some fried bread filled with mozzarella cheese that wasn't a calzone and some fried triangle cone thing filled with risotto and ham and cheese. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I must thank Rosy for getting me to try some of these things. 

I really feel like I really experienced Milan because I ate the popular local dishes and saw the secret places. This was a very fun trip!

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