Sunday, May 1, 2016

Daytripping (and back) from Milan

To break up our visit to Milan in the middle, we took a local train to the town of Como Lago and got right on a two hour ferry boat to Bellagio.  The lake was a deep blue green and the surrounding hills were full of lush spring greenery, with picture perfect little villages at the bottom.  Beyond the hills we could could see the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.  After the helpful crew of the ferry took apart one of the walls on the boat to extract Trevor’s fallen iPhone(!!!!), we disembarked in Bellagio and climbed up the cobblestone steps to the streets of the village with shops and cafes.  We picked a simple place for some pizzas / salads / pasta and had a nice lunch.  Then we wandered along some streets away from the center of town along winding skinny roads with ivy covered walls and pretty homes and hotels.  The view from everywhere was lovely, especially at one point that looked out over the lake.   A shorter boat ride took us to the town of Varenna, were a short walk to us to the train back to Milan.   Back in our Brera neighborhood, we had some good modern pizzas at a bar called Dry (no, not like Drybar in NYC) and some dessert at the Milan Eataly, where they have a dozen flavors of soft-serve gelato. Eataly is HUGE, and way less crowded than the NYC location on 23rd Street, so it made us look forward even more to the opening in the Financial District this summer.

On Thursday morning, Matt and two kids had some American style breakfast at the “California Bakery” near our apartment.  At noon we showed up at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie 
to see “The Last Supper” as part of a tour with “Walks of Italy”.  Our tour guide handed out little headphones and a walkman type necklace so we could hear her easily, and took us into the church, in which viewing time was strictly limited to 15 minutes.  It was really cool to see a painting that has been so influential in the world of religion, art, and even modern mythology in person.  The tour had many more stops, so we continued to add to our daily steps as we made our way back to the Brera neighborhood and the Castello Sforzesco from Day 1 and on to the top of the Duomo.  It might have been a lot for the kids to put up with, but they were really good sports about it and we were all certainly rewarded with the views and the novelty of just standing on top of the great cathedral!  It was so cool.  We decided that if we lived in Milan, the top of the Duomo would be the place we would bring EVERY visitor!  I also liked that the tour guide told us a few things we might have not thought of ourselves and that she took us inside another church I might not have visited - the Church of San Maurizio at the Monastero Maggiore, which was a Benedictine convent in the 16th century, and we learned how most girls sent to the convent were just the second or third children in their family who would not inherit any land of their own, so were sent to the convent instead, where they still lived in relative luxury, though they would never marry.  The artwork on the walls here was colorful and beautiful.  
After the roof of the Duomo, we went to the roof of the big department store, La Rinascente to “il Bar” for some aperitivo and snacks.  Then the boys went back to the apartment and out for some Eataly pizza while Matt and I took Yamini shopping (H&M) and out for some Ramen for dinner.  It was soothing to have a nice soup after days of pizza and pasta, and the ramen noodles were on par with some of the best pasta we had been eating anyway.
On our last full day, we did all the activities Matt wanted to do.  We started with a visit to the aquarium in the nearby Parco Sempione, where the highlights were the flounder that blended in with the gravel in its tank and the turtles in the outside garden that were all trying to climb on the same slippery log to dry out in the sun.  We seriously spent a LOT of time watching these funny creatures.   Next stop was back to the Castello Sforzesco (third time) to see the very LAST work of art sculpted by Michelangelo, which was supposed to be a piéta-like sculpture for his own tomb of Jesus carrying Mary on his back, but which he did not finish before he died.  Pretty cool.   We managed to snag some amazing sandwiches at this small but VERY popular panini place called De Santis (I had salami and brie with truffle oil).  We did one detour for me, because on the first day Yamini and I took a walk I saw this giant supermarket that I wanted to visit.  I just love supermarkets in other countries.  (Got some good soap and lip balm to bring home.)  Finally, our last stop was the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, which is noted for its “artistic tombs and monuments” in Wikipedia!   It was a cool, sunny afternoon, and the cemetery was peaceful, lovely, and just the right amount of creepy all at once.

We went back to the apartment to watch the last Netflix episode of “Shadowhunters” that Yamini got us all into during the week, and then the kids stayed in for dinner and Matt and I went to a lovely place with an emphasis on Italian preparations of fish and seafood called Da Giacomo.  We had an 8:30 reservation, which was a bit late for us, but it was fun because the place was packed and the food was delish.  We shared a tartare appetizer and then had our own seafood pastas, mine with shrimp and Matt’s with lobster (though he tried to eat our neighbor’s spaghetti with lobster and mussels instead).   I had a yummy strawberry tart for dessert and we got a slice of chocolate cake from a nearby British family celebrating a birthday.  It was a nice date to end a lovely week.   We would certainly want to return to such a friendly, easy to navigate and lovely city.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Livin' in Milano

Usually, I have a lot more planned on a vacation, but this one, I just decided that we should go there, check into our apartment for the week, and just hang out.  Of course, it is pretty easy to live in ANY city when you do not have to work or go to school, so just being on vacation makes it pretty good in the first place. . . and maybe that is what has made Milan pretty GREAT for us.

Arrived in the morning off an 8 hour flight and made it to the apartment in Milan’s Brera district by noon-ish.  The apartment was lovely - bigger than our NYC place, and in an excellent location for walking, subway and restaurants.

Wandered over to the Castello Sforzesco   but did not go inside, instead kept moving around the neighborhood and got a bite to eat - meats, cheeses and our first aperitvio of the trip.  Aperol Spritz for me, and a BOWL of Lambrusco for Matt.   Boys went off to watch soccer match at San Siro stadium - InterMilan won 3-1 (Yay!) and Yamini and I wandered around some more, finding her new favorite dessert - dark chocolate gelato!

On our first full day, we let the kids sleep in while Matt and I picked up some groceries at the Carrefour, and then we all made it out to the Centro Storico district to see the Duomo of Milan and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle shopping center.  Visited the small Museo Del Novecento, which has a great view of the central square and the Duomo, and did have some lovely art of its own.   Spotted the Aperol Cafe from the museum windows and headed over there for some more drinks and snacks after some shopping at Zara and some yummy inside out pizza bread at Luigi Panzeroti where the long lines are definitely worth it!   Did a trendy dinner later on above the DSquared2 offices at Ceresio 7, which despite the cool factor, stylish decor, swimming pool and sunset views, was super friendly with great food.  Two thumbs up.

Monday, which was Italy’s Liberation Day holiday, celebrating the fall of Mussolini's Italy and the end of German occupation in 1945.  We headed a bit further from “home” to the Fondazione Prada, funded by Miuccia Prada and her hubby before the Milan Expo on the industrial outskirts of central MIlan.  Lunch was again trendy but reasonable (something we are growing to like about Milan) at the Wes Anderson designed Bar Luce - coffee and yummy sandwiches.  Two great exhibits that we were able to check out were a group show called "L'image Volée" and a multi-room sculpture called "To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll" by Goshka Macuga. 

 Then we did a little more shopping at the D Magazine Outlet (like the designer floor of Century 21 with all Italian designers) and a little more wandering around the super-luxe fashion area until it was again time for an aperitivo (some Proseco), snacks and dinner.  At Dongio, on a cute little street, the pasta and desserts were the standouts.

On Tuesday, Matt and I checked out one of the several EATALY locations in Italy (pretty nice looking, but same stuff as in NYC) and then rallied the troops for a visit to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology - very cool!   The museum had early to modern versions of telegraph / telephones, radios, and televisions, and entire buildings devoted to trains, airplanes and ships.  Then we met up with our friend Eric’s Italian cousin, Barbara Nahmad, an artist, who is showing her work at the gallery in our Brera neighborhood.  She took us on a walk through several gardens to the Porta Ticinese (a popular area with young people) and on to the Navigli canals, where she has her studio and where the nightlife is now booming.  We also walked by Milan’s oldest synagogue, which was quite beautiful.  Exhausted from our 23K steps that day, we returned to the neighborhood and had some delicious food (raw sausage, risotto cakes and mini raviioli to die for, desserts that vanished in 5 minutes) and a bottle of Pino Nero at Ravello 18, thanks to Morgan and Dudley’s rec from their trip to Milan.  A pretty good three days in which to get to know Milano.