My offspring have let it be known that they expect regular Blog posts while Sheila and I are on vacation in Italy. Frankly, I can’t stand to write on an iPad and WiFi connections in Milan and Venice have not been great. If motivated, I will write when I can in an effort to keep you up to date with our culinary tour of Italy.
We arrived safely at Malpensa airport some 40 minutes early on Air Emirates. Nice flight, adequate food and the cabin staff were both young and quite courteous as opposed to the staff on US carriers. We took the Express train to Cadorna station in central Milan. Hotel Ritter was adequate, but a great location to walk to downtown Milan (Duomo), restaurants and subway connections to Expo 2015.
Now Milano has a reputation of being the most congested city in Europe, but I didn’t find it so. People walk, cycle (includes motorcycles) and use public transportation, but few seem inclined to drive – how civilized!
After checking into the hotel and changing into something a bit more comfortable, we took the subway to the newly restored Duomo. What a remarkable Cathedral! While I probably could have used a touch of divine guidance, I settled instead for a Campari spritz at Bifi Bar in the Galleria. Nets have been placed at all of the entrances to the Galleria to keep marauding pigeons in check.
Having failed to get a ticket to see Da Vinci’s recently restored Last Supper, we settled instead for an even more impressive exhibit of Leonardo’s engineering and artistic brilliance in a nearby gallery. Working from Da Vinci’s manuscripts (codex), designers had recreated models of his flying machines, cannons, bridges, musical instruments, city plans and the occasional piece of art: the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper where he was simply experimenting with paints. What genius!
Dinner was at Giaccomo Argentario (Anna and Claudio’s wise recommendation), which overlooks the Duomo. The food and views were magnificent. Sheila and I split the traditional and wonderful risotto Milanese, followed by the best grilled calamari I have ever eaten and puntarele (a bitter green escarole).
The following day we were off to Expo 2015. While still not totally completed, this World Fair celebrating the sustainability of food is a gigantic undertaking that showcases the artistry and rich culinary diversity of the world’s nations. You walk under a great open-air canopy and can visit one or more of the many wonderful national exhibits. The Brazil exhibit featured a rope-walk over a simulated rain forest; the UK showcased a wild flowering garden and eccentric “humming” piece of modern architecture; and the U.S. exhibit featured hanging gardens (see picture above). Although very interesting, the Expo was simply too large and overwhelming to fully embrace. Like most Italian visitors, we eventually settled for San Daniele prosciutto and mozzarella di buffala at Eataly.
The food highlight of the visit to Milano was dinner at Prime near Piazza Garbaldi. Sheila had a remarkable dish of marinated sliced salmon served over mozzarella with a thin wedge of filo and honey – an unusual but remarkable combination.
Just south of our hotel is the lovely area of Brera – narrow streets and interesting boutiques. The University of Milano has taken over a very large Jesuit Church. The enclosed botanical gardens are used to study scents and we were most fortunate to have a walk-through as it is normally closed to the public.
It is now Sunday and we are off to Venice.