Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Italian Experience

SQ738 was sort of a relief for me. I tried hard to sleep and I finally did at 2am Malaysian time. I made it a point to at least sleep until 8.30am Malaysia time, by then; there are only 4 more hours to Milan.

I took the aisle seat, with only one more Spanish woman sharing my row and she took the window seat.

The leg space was a good change from those Air Asia or Firefly experience. My legs could breath. Only irritating portion is one American man behind me which has the bad habit of shaking his legs and it shook me up every time he does that. Then I have this other Spanish couple in front which the husband loves to jump on the seat.

I finally reached Milan at 0530. Milan airport reminds me of Subang Airport. Malpensa looked really run down, but nevertheless interesting.

I went to the train station and the automatic dispenser did not want to accept notes, only coins. I went back to the terminal and nothing was open until 0630.

I then walked back to the train ticketing station and noticed some notes in English…

How am I to know when everything is basically in Italiano?

I no speako italiano, si?

Anyway, my first encounter with Milan wasn’t really pleasant. I spoke to a few travelers and they sort of told me I don’t need to buy a ticket to take the train and I can pay onboard – just pay extra Euro2 (from now onwards, Euro will be denoted with E).

The thing is, I can wait, but the train won’t go. The bus is also on strike and those expensive looking Taxi won’t move either.

Somehow, at 7.30 am, the ticket counter open and I bought my tix.

“mumble mumble E1.00?”, the ticketing fella asked.

“Sorry, I not speako italiano, si?”, I answered.

I do not have small change, smallest was E10. That fella said something or should I say some phrases that I no comprehendo and threw (yes, threw) the change in front of me.

How rude.

But that’s how Italians are, si?

The train ride took 40 minutes and I reach Cardona Station (which is basically the middle of the town). I came out and managed to stop one taxi (VW Golf) and again…the Italians take it that everyone “understando englishi”.

“Atahotel Fieramilano”, I try to say it as best as I could.

It was the most expensive 6 minutes ride that I ever had – E6.60

Walked into the hotel and request that I check in. To my horror, I can’t do so until…1400 hours!

It was about 0830 that time and I was thinking what I am supposed to do for the next 6 hours. So, I asked for a map and used the GPS to mark where I am (so, I could find my way back), set the NORTH on the map and went exploring. The GPS is only as good as the Map installed, and I do not have any Italy Map installed, let alone those POIs (Point Of Interests). But having a digital compass and a map should suffice.

Well, that is until I got all confused with the Italian road names.

Via Cardona. Via Dante. Via Matteo Bandello. Corso Magenta. Piazza S. Ambrogio. I can go on and it won’t make any sense.

And the building all looked the same after some time.

My Milan Adventure took me (imagine the map as a clock) from the hotel at 11 o’clock to 6 o’clock (and only realized that I was lost!) and to 5 o’clock. I walked a total of 20 odd KM yesterday – with my laptop with me (hoping to find Starbucks or Coffee Bean to surf for free)…

And no one told me there is no Starbucks or Coffee Bean in Milan.

I think I’m just stupid. I’m in the country of Cappuccino. Country where they drink coffee in small little cup (which will angers any Chinamen for ripping them E1.50/cup/shot) and i am looking for overpriced designer coffee??? I got to be joking, si?

Anyhow, by stroke of luck, I found Santo Marie D.Grazie Church…or Church of St. Mary the Great – the very same place that Last Supper painting sits.

Of course I am excited!

Look, I’m no Christian to start with, nor am I even a Catholic, but I felt the connection as my wife and kids are Catholics. So, it’s only natural for me to go into the church and seek blessing.

And was I bowled over.

The church was beautiful. Those paintings on the WALL. Those architectures, those Renaissance feel in the air. I was humbled.

I went to the shop and managed to get some Rosaries for wifey and family. I thought the spiritual gifts would be more relevant compared to say…overpriced tourist T-shirt or Quirky magnets. And those Rosaries aren’t cheap either…but they have the authenticity by having the word ITALY embossed behind the cross. I just hope those aren’t Made in China. :P

To make it even better, i managed to get the Father to bless the Italian!

I hope when i bring it back to KL, language won't be an issue... (LOL!)

I then walked towards Cardona station and came across a bakery or café. They sell pizza by the weight. Check it out.

As you would have guessed it, it’s my lunch. The dough is not "jelak" like those Pizza Huts or Dominos or Shakeys. It was perfecto. The cheese gave it more flavour and the whole package, though bought from some cafe, was delicious. It is true that there is no such thing as bad food in Italy!

After that, I walked to a Castello (or Castle) in the middle of the city. I tell you, it is totally different to be seeing a real life castle in front of you. The sheer size of it. The imposing structure. Your mind immediately goes back to those knights day and you could almost imagine the soldiers firing their arrows and slinging those catapults into the enemy, pulverizing them. I could almost imagine the draw bridge and the water surrounding the castles. And then, right at the front gate, there were blacks, plying their trade selling fake Prada’s and Gucci bags, damn kaw spoil the scenery man!

I entered the castle and I was felt so small compared the sheer size of the castle. Unbelievable.

Here are some pics of the castle.

I exited the castello and I saw two Chinese couple (and I guess they are from China as they looked every bit and spoke every bit and dress every bit of them). They must be some really effluent Chinese from mainland that could afford to fly to Milan to have their wedding pics taken, and they have a Bentley limo taking them around! WTF!

I cross the street across the castle and came across this café selling gelato. They are everywhere in Milan, but I am yet to taste any of them. It was also then when I saw something that turned me instantly into some teenagers in heat.

Sports Shop.

I almost went crazy inside.

Luckily, I am limited by my own budget, else, trust that I will be checking in 2 luggages on my return journey.

I think the control must have come from going to the church.

From there, I headed to Via Dante. That is like the most fashionable street in Milan. Some of you are probably right. No one dresses badly in Milan. But I guess that is because they only know one shade – dark.

The women wear knee high boots, which is totally relevant with the weather (high of 14 and low of 7). The men are usually in their leather coats or overcoats. At the end of the street was the Post Office. I went in there and headed to the counter to buy stamps. FYI, stamps collecting isn’t the hobby of the young. In the post office special counter/shop, old people are collecting them like trading cards. I bought about E14 of stamps for a colleague that collects them.

Exiting the GPO, I turned left and saw the most imposing Cathedral I’ve ever seen.

The Duomo.

This must be the equivalent of Trafalgar Square in UK. Time Square in New York (?) and Dataran Merdeka in KL (NOT!)

Inside the Cathedral was even more impressive than the Santo Marie church I went to.


I reckon at least two 747 plane could fit inside with no problem.

Here are some pics of the Cathedral.

I then headed to Galleria Vit Em II. Which is basically where all the branded stuffs are sold. Even McD has to ditch their Red color scheme and settle for GOLD.

From Incoherent Ramblings

Gaya eh?

I then bought myself some food for dinner. It was some bread with loads of meat slices in between.

After that, I headed back to the hotel, I reckon a good 5km walk from Duomo to Fieramilano.

It was almost a recovery “walk” for me after PowerMan.

I was back in the room by 1900 and it was already very dark. Because of the weather, I did not break a single drop of sweat. It was unbelievable.

I took a shower and headed straight to bed. Technically, at 1900 hours…it is 1am in Malaysia!

That summed up my Day (and maybe the ONLY day) i get to know Milan!

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