Trip Start May 07, 2012
Trip End Jun 06, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Venice continued………and the mosquito bites back. John woke in the night to discover he had been bitten on the head so covered himself with his sheet for the rest of the night. In the morning his eye felt strange and when he looked in the mirror he saw why. A quick visit to the pharmacy provided a diagnosis of a bite on the eyelid which should go down in 24 hours and no treatment required – let’s wait and see (through one eye!).

So finish the packing (again…) and walk from the hotel to the station in time for the 10:50 from Venice to Milan – just a 2 hour journey across Italy. On the next platform was the Orient Express preparing for departure – very impressive and passengers substantially better heeled than ourselves. Onto the train and although we (and most other people on board) have reserved seats, there is no method of indicating which seats are reserved or not (this applies to all trains in Italy). Therefore a continual game of musical chairs persists until everyone thinks they might be in the correct seat. Without wishing to sound racist this is typically Italian!

We settled in next to Bob and Olive, a couple in their 60’s who come from the Nappa Valley, California, USA and spent so much time talking to them we only saw the last 10 yards of Lake as we went past it but we’re sure the previous 15 miles were great! Now they say it’s a small world but believe this if you can. We eventually got round to taking about retirement and asked Bob what he had done for a living and he said he was……an eye doctor! Off came the shades in an instant and time for a second opinion on John’s eye, which confirmed the bite diagnosis but suggested that probably some antihistamines would speed up the process.

Into Milan station around 2pm for a brief stay before heading to Switzerland tomorrow morning. 10 minute walk to a decent hotel and get ready to visit a City that Janet hasn’t seen before. Now we have an advantage here as John’s niece Lucy is dating Daniele who comes from Milan so we have lots of free advice. The key piece of information is that the best pizza in the City is found at a restaurant called Maruzzella. First of all we visit the Cathedral i.e. La Duomo (aka the ‘wedding cake’) which is an amazing sight. Looked around inside and out but access limited due to the Pope coming to Milan on 1-3 June.

Next to La Duomo is a wonderful old shopping arcade which puts any modern mall to shame. It is glass domed, huge and oozes class. Inside we saw three police officers having a chat in the centre. With typical italian style the policewoman was well turned out with a pair of shiny high heels.

Then a look at La Scala which is an extremely unimpressive building from the outside (not inside we’re sure) compared to a wide variety of Theatres and Opera houses we have seen elsewhere.

Then off for the highlight of the night our pizza. Stopped a couple of blocks from Maruzzella for an aperitif and then made our approach. Big problem; Shutters down which on peeking through and looking at the menu indicated in Italian ‘Closed on Wednesday’. Oops! It didn’t help that when we arrived there we found an American couple banging on the metal shutters (why? It was obviously closed!). They explained that their enthusiasm for gaining entry tonight was because they were there last night and it was fantastic. We didn’t really want to know that! Anyway plan B was to have a wander and find something else and Janet came up trumps taking a punt on a green awning in a side street which proved to be an excellent restaurant called Sabatini (full of Italian families and only a few tourists) where we had our Milanese pizza.

To round off the day we headed for a last drink to a microbrewery bar, again recommended by Daniele, named ‘Birrificio Lambrate’. John misjudged the walking distance and an expected 15 minutes turned into half an hour as we walked through some untouristy areas with ‘ladies of the night’ (or to be more accurate ‘grannies of the night’) on street corners. We were not feeling positive about this however as we approached the turning into the street we were looking for we heard the sound of voices and when we turned the corner we were faced with a street full of people (200+) all drinking and socialising outside the small bar we were looking for. It is truly an amazing place. Basically a pub which brews (we counted) 14 of it’s own beers and caters for a huge amount of customers in a manic but seemingly effective manner. The queue at the bar was several deep however the two identikit barmen (tall, dressed in black, pony-tails, beards, tattoos, earrings, leather waistcoats) were unbelievably working their way through the customers at amazing speed whilst seemingly talking to everyone in the queue at the same time. Not for the fainthearted but we quickly found ourselves served and surprisingly were able to sit at the bar itself and admire the theatre behind it.

The inside was full and with a couple of hundred outside it is incredible how the two of them cope with it. And in the same small bar area there was another person preparing and dishing out meals. An unbelievable place and well worth a visit if you are in town. I had a really good 5% dark stout named ‘Ghisa’ (not dodgy) whilst Janet unfortunately chose a 4% ‘Drago Verde’ which easily pushed the Innsbruck Edelweiss into second place in the worst beer of the holiday competition. It had an extremely whiffy niff. But a big ‘THANK YOU’ to Daniele and Lucy for steering us in the direction of the magnificent ‘Bierrificio Lambrate’! What a great place to end the night and a quick metro trip back to the hotel.

Quick summary of our Italy experience is that Venice is a unique venue and not far short of one of the wonders of the world. It should be on everyone’s must visit list. We had heard so much about prices and rip-offs but if you do your homework it is no more expensive than London and in some cases even cheaper. Drop your guard and it can cost you a lot though. A coffee and croissant for two can vary from 5 to 16 Euros depending where you buy it so venue selection is key. Can’t say too much about Milan except it really isn’t a big tourist destination but we enjoyed our brief visit to the City. The standard of train travel in Italy is certainly down towards the bottom of our preference list so far.

Looking forward to our trip up to the Swiss Alps tomorrow. Quite literally onwards and upwards.
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Abi Townley on

Owwwwww, hope you are ok Uncle John! Lucy was in Milan a month ago the same time I was in Rome xxx

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