Before I begin, I must mention that along with an outstanding continental breakfast spread, our hotel makes the most beautiful cappuccinos you’ve ever seen. Seriously. As my husband says, they are latte art! Coffee here is serious business. I think hubby’s probably going to cry when he has to return to the watery espresso of Indianapolis as compared to the real-deal Italian version.
Lots to report from the past few days, but not much food-related! After Thursday night’s dinner and gelato, I awoke Friday feeling like crap. My tummy is still trying to figure out just what the hell I’m trying to put it through and decided to stage a major revolt. Perhaps not coincidentally, I realized that the two times I’ve felt ill on this entire trip have been after eating gelato. Alas, no more of the frozen concoction for me. I’m not really a frequent ice cream eater anyway, so guess I’ll just go back to the occasional Haagen Daz at home.
So, my breakfast Friday morning consisted of hot peppermint tea. For lunch, I shared a few peanut butter crackers with the toddler and ate a pear. I felt somewhat recovered by dinner time that night, which was a quick crudo/mozzarella sandwich at hubby’s trade show and the rest of the fresh fruit cup that the toddler didn’t finish. Still not sure exactly what crudo is, will have to research. It’s like a super-salty meaty proscuitto kinda thing. You find paper-thin slices of it in sandwiches and salads and such; like bacon, a little goes a long way for flavor.
Speaking of the trade show, we got an opportunity on Friday to check it out and see just what hubby’s been up to all week. The EICMA show took place at Fiera Milano, a HUGE-ass convention center. This event was enormous – something like 18 full-size pavilions bursting at the seams with all things motorcycle. TONS of people (mostly men, surprise, surprise) everywhere. Supplies, equipment, racing schwack, the bikes themselves – it was absolutely overwhelming. The toddler and I took a cab to the show and somehow managed to locate hubby’s exhibition stand amid the chaos. It was seriously something to see and I’m glad we went to understand what all the fuss was about. The toddler had a blast running up and down the aisles; he was so excited by all the lights and noise and motorcycles, I thought his little head would explode.
A quick tangent – It’s interesting to note the difference between public reactions to the toddler here and in Germany. Last week, people didn’t really pay him much mind, with a few exceptions here and there such as the kind Asian gentleman at our hotel. Here, he is a total rock star. Nobody looks twice when he makes a high-pitched squeal in a restaurant. In Germany, I was half-expecting someone to ask us to leave when that happened. Women fawn all over the kid in Italy (even more so now that we’ve taught him to blow kisses on command). He’s got the female staff at the hotel absolutely wrapped around his little finger. Even at the trade show, people we didn’t know were smiling at him and taking photos of him sitting on the bikes. It’s all very sweet, really.
Saturday was perhaps the best day I’ve had here in Milan. I have to say, Milan did not make a good first impression on me, but I’ve slowly warmed up to it within the past few days. It’s kind of a hard place to get used to right off the bat, but after a week, I feel like I’ve sorta gotten the hang of how things work. A little bit anyway. I actually gave someone on the street instructions on how to find the right tram line yesterday! In English, mind you, but I still knew the answer!
Got up yesterday and headed out on our daily walk. On a whim, I decided to give “The Last Supper” one last go. The toddler and I were never able to board the tram line that would have taken us to the nearest stop, so we just boarded the one we’ve been riding to the Duomo all week, got as close as we could and walked the rest. As it turned out, this was a happy accident. The section of town we strolled through to get to Santa Maria Della Grazie was the most beautiful area I’ve seen all week.
We got to the church at 11:45 a.m., I entered the ticket office and crossed my fingers. I told the man behind the desk that we didn’t have a reservation, but wondered if there might be any cancellations this weekend. I don’t know if he was being honest, or if he merely cut me a break because I was pushing a stroller all around downtown Milan, but he hooked me up with a ticket for a viewing at 12:15. SCORE! I was thrilled! And it was just enough time to feed the toddler some lunch, another bonus.
Small groups of around 25-30 people are allowed to view the painting in 15-minute increments throughout the day. They keep things moving on a strict schedule; at five minutes prior to your allotted time, they call you in. Visitors are herded through two vestibules on the way in with doors that keep each crowd self-contained in one small space at a time. Finally, you enter THE room.
The painting is huge – 15 feet by 30 feet, I believe – and takes up an entire wall of what was once a church dining hall. There is now nothing else in the room, with the exception of a couple benches and another huge painting of the crucifixion opposite “The Last Supper.” All the focus is on the art. The painting is massive, and honestly, breathtaking. A docent gave a little narrative about it in several different languages, all of which I missed as I was keeping an eye on the toddler, overjoyed at being allowed to run free for a few minutes within the closed room. On the way into the church, I was furious to realize that my camera battery had gone flat, but as it turned out, it didn’t matter. They are deadly serious about not allowing any photos inside. A Japanese man kept trying to sneak one in, and they busted him every time. On his last attempt, a big booming voice came over an unseen P.A. system announcing “NO PHOTO!!!” I about jumped out of my skin; it was like an edict from God. I kept looking around for armed guards to storm in and take the poor man away.
After 15 minutes, you’re ushered out again and that’s that. It really isn’t enough time to take it all in and appreciate the level of detail that Da Vinci put into this commissioned work. No wonder it took him something like three years to complete. The painting has gone through several restorations over the years, the most recent taking place within the past few decades. I just can’t begin to describe how impressive it is. If you’re ever in Milan, this is definitely something you should try to do. It was well worth all the trials and tribulations I went through to get there.
I was enjoying this new area I’d discovered so much that when the toddler nodded off in his stroller, I just let him snooze and found a not-quite-rip-off cafe overlooking the Piazza del Duomo for my own lunch. Again, nothing fancy, just a Caprese panino (no tuna this time) and a Coke. I enjoyed it at my leisure while people-watching and taking in the lovely Duomo.
We caught the tram back and I decided to get off a few stops early to explore a promising-looking street market I’d glimpsed earlier on the way downtown. Turns out, the few stands I’d seen from the tram were just the tip of the iceberg; this market continued on down one of the side streets for about six blocks! Unlike the Paris markets, there weren’t many food vendors, and what they had wasn’t nearly as top-shelf. However, this seemed THE place to be for designer knockoff shoes, purses, wallets and belts, plus a bunch of other clothing vendors and some trinkety stuff. I bought a beautiful (and seems to be nicely made) brown leather wannabe Prada bag for 30 euros, and a silky cashmere-ish sweater top for 20. FINALLY, some shopping I could afford in Milan! Now I actually can go back home with something to show for my visit.
We’d been away from Il Pavone for two nights in a row, so were due for a return last night. Dinner was good, although I have to wonder if Maria’s got it in for me somehow. There was the whole steak confusion last time, and then last night, she forgot my salad. Feeling up to tackling some pasta again, I filled up on spaghetti bolognese and a little taste of hubby’s pizza. It was good, as everything is, but not the best thing I’ve had there.
After busting ass all week, hubby’s hoping to get things wrapped up at a decent hour tonight. Today’s the last day of his show, and I’d really love to take him back downtown and introduce him to my newly discovered territory from yesterday. We’ll see, hopefully it will work out. Tomorrow, we’re off on a road trip to Ducati, the Rolls-Royce of the motorcycle world, and hope to pay a visit to the world-famous Dario the butcher and taste some of his culinary delights. I’m excited to get out of the city and see some of the Italian countryside. A domani, mi amici!