Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 9: Milano and Montevecchia

Kurt and I finally arrived in Milan around 10am. Claudio, the groom in the upcoming nuptials which spurred our European adventure, was waiting at the train station to retrieve us. When we were getting off our train, I asked Kurt, "What does Claudio look like? How will I spot him?" Kurt responds, "He'll be the most Italian looking guy there." It was a pretty accurate description. Claudio was incredibly sweet but didn't speak much English and I was too embarrassed to unleash my sub-par Italian skills on the world. We could share a few sentiments back and forth, but I mainly just strained my ears to pick up any familiar phrases as Kurt and Claudio chattered away in Italian. However, when we got in his car to leave the train station, Claudio says to me in his Italian accent, "May-liiiiisa, this is for you." He then proceeds to turn on the cd player from which an all too familiar guitar riff begins. He had set up the first song to play Sweet Home Alabama! It was adorable, and I felt welcome.

*In addition to Lynyrd Skynrd, Europeans also automatically connect Alabama with Forrest Gump. They absolutely love it for some reason.

Claudio drove us around the city a little bit. I had never been to Milan and it was nice to get a quick little tour. In comparison to Rome and Florence and definitely Venice, Milan seems to be more honest. People have their own business and lives to attend to and aren't so centered around tourism. They have history and beautiful architecture, but the locals have found a way to keep it a modern city. It was more fast paced than other Italian cities I have visited which makes it seem more real, as opposed to merely a vacation destination.

We visited a huge shopping center called the Galleria.

The floor inside the Duomo

We also walked through the Castello Sforzesco which is very close to the Galleria and the Duomo.

A courtyard within the castle

One Milan thing we missed out on was the Last Supper. It is painted on a wall of a convent in the city. Sadly, we only had a short amount of time to tour around and didn't get to see it. I'm glad we fit so many other spots on our abbreviated tour though.

After driving by Milan's soccer stadium, Claudio drove us to his parent's house in Villasanta for lunch. Well, when I say his parent's house, I also mean his, not only because he still lives with his parents but because he will be moving next door with his new wife after the wedding. Next door is even a stretch because the houses are part of the same building and have connecting balconies. Regardless of how far one chooses to leave the nest, Claudio's family was equally as lovely as he is. We had a delicious lunch and Kurt got to catch up with old friends.

After lunch and a tour of Claudio's soon-to-be new house, Claudio's mom let us borrow her car and Claudio guided us to our hotel. First we stopped in town and dropped Kurt's suit off at a dry cleaner. It had been wadded up in his backpack and was in need of a good ironing. We headed off the hotel where Kurt and I were happy to shower, put some comfortable clothes on our sunburned skin, and take a nap. We hadn't showered since Croatia the day before and were running on fumes from our less than restful train rides. Luckily, Claudio knew the owners of the hotel, so we were able to stay without charge.

That evening, Kurt had arranged to have dinner with his good friend, Davide, and his host brother, Riky. Davide is quite a character. He is an aerospace engineer currently in between jobs and is living at home with his parents. They live on the same street as Riky in Calco, very close to where Kurt lived while doing his exchange.

I can't tell if Kurt is getting better at these kinds of shots or I just like them more.

We drove to a restaurant at the top of Montevecchia. The food was nothing to rave about but the view was amazing. Most of our meal was locally produced. The grapes for the wine were grown on the hill we climbed to get there. We enjoyed our meal of meat, cheese, bread, wine, pickles, coffee, and little bit of grappa at the end. We held off on dessert after the promise of delicious gelato at the bottom of the hill.

Luckily, Davide and Riky both speak excellent English and were able to humor me all night. We talked about Davide's recent trip to Japan and his new love interest. After dinner, we went down the hill to get our ice cream and then visited a bar close to where the boys live. I had to use the restroom at the bar and, after wandering around random hallways, finally had to use some Italian and ask a waitress where the bathroom was. I was so proud of myself but was quickly deflated when I found the bathroom to be only a hole in the ground. Ugh. Gross.

After the bar, Davide was ready to call it a night but Riky invited us over for drinks at his house. We ended up having one drink too many too late and decided to sleep on his couch for the evening instead of driving back to our hotel. I kept forgetting it was a Wednesday night since we were on vacation mode. All these Italians had to go to work the next day! They were troopers to stay up and entertain us.

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