Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Milan, Italy

When in Italy, eat gelato. As much as you can, because it's that good. Gelato, which contains about 50% less milkfat than North American ice creams, has a dense, rich taste. It's intensely fruity, flavourful and smooth, and it's good at pretty much any counter. When we crossed the border, eating gelato replaced my daily eating of pastries. I was thinking of writing a little blurb about frozen desserts, but there is such a vast literature on the subject that I didn't know where to start to give it any sort of justice. Let's just look at the yummy picture and I'll tell you what we did in Milan.

Strawberry & Tiramisu

We hadn't planned our trip around truly experiencing Italy, instead using a few days as an opportunity to stop in two famous cities en route to Croatia. It was too short, but still worthwhile - we'd love to visit again, next time for a longer stay. From Paris, we took the overnight train (a gruesome experience if you're in the bottom bunk of a 6-person sleeper) and stayed at Hotel Berna, which seemed very upscale compared to our stays in Paris and Venice. Our day started bright and early:

Two days in Milan meant limited time to see the sights, so we started at the Duomo, a massive gothic cathedral that took four centuries to build. It was about 7am, and nothing was open yet, except a McCafe, so we stopped in to have a cappuccino (D was appalled that our first coffee in Italy was at McDonald's, but even he'll admit to being impressed - a real coffee bar that made real coffee beverages. No egg McMuffins to be spotted anywhere). We did eventually have coffee somewhere a bit more impressive.

We explored the beautiful, museum-like outdoor shopping arcades that were home to all the famous fashion houses. It seemed a bit surreal. The fashion in Milan was quite different than in Paris - much flashier, Versace-ish style looks, and many more high-heeled women.

Too cute. How much is it?

Plenty of cute little Smart cars, this one with a flower motif

Large groups of expensively-dressed tourists roamed the shops, buying up tons of Vuitton and Armani. How people afford to cloth themselves in fully designer fashion, I'll never quite understand. That said, we did have fun window shopping, marveling at the outrageously expensive items.

At 5pm, most bars begin serving complimentary tapas with drinks. Some places even go so far as setting up a whole buffet of crostini, pastas, pizzas, brushetta, grilled vegetables, sliced meat and cheeses and more. An inexpensive way to eat if you're traveling on a budget. We greedily fit in another meal though, late in the evening. We gobbled up some excellent spaghetti carbonara (the real thing with eggs, parma and cheese, no cream), gnocchi in a rose sauce, simply grilled fish with lemon, and Milanese cutlet (pretty much wienerschnitzel). Strangely, a group of tourists from Cleveland also happened to be eating in the restaurant, complaining a little too loudly, 'This isn't like any carbonara I've ever had at home!' Good grief, you're not at home, you're in Italy. Whose dish do you think is more authentic? I felt embarassed. We pretended not to speak English.

Next stop: Venice

I should mention that it rained pretty much the entire time we were in Milan, which put a bit of a damper on the tourist mood and resulted in far less pictures (we stayed in Venice only one day but it looks like we were there for far longer than that). People seemed surprised when we told them we chose Milan, I guess because it is quite industrial and not as romantic as Rome or Florence. But it made the most sense for us, as it connected easily to Venice and then Croatia. Annoying tourists aside, Milan was fun - I wish we'd had another few more days there. Next city, Venice!

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