For four days in Italy, we ate nothing but cheese, salami, parma ham, and gelato.
Ok, so we ate pizza one night. But that was pretty much it.
So much so that by the last day, we were feeling, uh, constipated, and then I ate nothing but salad for the entire week after we got back.
I realised that I’ve essentially forgotten how hot (a real) summer can get until I got to Milan. The sun bared down on us in the streets and the apartment baked like an oven.
Perhaps because of the scorching hot weather, Milan had a third-world feel to it. In the streets in central Milan, everything is brown. With all the architecture a faded orange-brown, the streets cobbled-stone brown, and the dark-featured locals hanging about in flip-flops seeking shelter from the sun…I mean, look at the photo above and tell me it doesn’t look like India?!
Visually, it made me feel like I was in a dusty old town, except for the fact that it has grand architecture and the city is exceptionally clean – in direct contrast to its hot third-world feel. Besides from China, London is probably one of the dirtiest cities I’ve been in.
Although we stayed in Milan, we didn’t spend much time there. I was very lucky to know Nat and Danny there and they basically put us up and drove us around for our entire stay.
We drove to Lake Como, where George Clooney famously lives, and we swam in the refreshingly crisp icy water, surrounded by fish, ducks, mountains and villages.
We dropped by Bellagio, where Mr. Clooney apparently likes to hangout, and everything was just a bright sun-kissed orange, peach and pale pink.
Up over the border in Switzerland, we drove up to Lake Lugano and watched as a ferry blew up!
Aha! Turned out it was Switzerland’s national day and besides from parades, fairs, food, and performances on shore, there was also a big fireworks performance on the lake.
We got on a boat that sailed around for about 2 hours, half an hour of which was spend standing mouth agape at the amazing fireworks. They shot up from about 5 floating barges, and we were so close, the noise so deafening. It made our hearts pound and your entire field of vision is filled with these amazing lights. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
We later wandered around the town, finding obscure entrances to “secret” Swiss banks and watching performaces like this. It was wonderful how casual and relaxed yet beautiful and elegant everything was. I don’t think I ever saw a police officer around.
On a different day, we set off to Bergamo, a town the medieval walled half of which is perched on a hill top overlooking the more modern half below.
We travelled up on a tram and strolled the narrow ancient streets.
Both sides of the narrow streets were lined with little shops and restaurants.
It was a magical place to be. We came to a beautiful square in which some sort of a free old-fashioned games fair was going on, with strange, wierd big old toys littered around the square with anyone and everyone free to pick one up and have a go for as long as they want.
Here, Nasty lives up to his name.
Surrounded by absolutely beautiful buildings, as children and adults laughed and played (no queues, no fighting, no shouting, no parents hollering after rowdy kids), a puppet show was going on at the side and a beautiful church was nearby, which unlike the many churches I’ve been to in Europe, this one is actually still in use, with nuns going about and an old lady confessing to a priest. I felt like an undeserved intruder into this innocent world.
Bergamo was a magical place to be, like stepping back in time into a place where a real honest belief in God is still relevant, where public squares are open, intimate and fun, and people are just friendly and kind.
I find it very hard to capture the ambience there with just a few photos.
This is the view from Bergamo, looking over the town below.
Back in Milan, being a fashion capital, I was surprised at how laid back everyone was in the way they dress. Stepping off the tube and walking home when I got back to London, the first thing that striked me was how style-conscious everyone is here, compared to Milan. People there dressed in surprisingly casual clothes, and I’m not saying that in a bad way. I feel like, comparatively, London focuses a lot more on how you look, what you’re wearing, whether it’s in fashion or not, and brand names. Somehow, in Milan, it felt like, inspite of the Gucci and Prada shops, no one really cared.
The Duomo di Milano never ceases to amaze me. I’ve been there before, but everytime I look at it, it’s just as breathtaking. When we were there, it’s just been cleaned and it was like this gleaming white delicate monstrosity smack right in the middle of all things brown.
We went up to the roof and it is still beyond me how every itty bit of the cathedral is etched with mind-numbing detail. Gees, those people really had a lot of time! (or skillful slaves?)
Yes, yet more parma ham and cheese…
Before we went, I thought that Nasty and I could cook our hosts a meal as a thank-you for accomodating us. But after experiencing their version of home-cooked food (which to us was like a posh 5-star culinary affair), we didn’t even bother mentioning we thought of doing it. We would just embarass and make great fools of ourselves.
I teared up hugging Nat goodbye on our last day. A school friend from when we were 14 and have kept in touch with throughout all these years, it was the letting go of that friendly warmth of familiarity and trust, and the thought of returning to the strangers of London that really got to me.
I’ve been back a week and a half now, and I am missing my daily dose of gelato…