172 – 174: Monumentale Milan Marco, Verdi and Porta Loo

172 – Friday 9th October 2015:  We will call it – Verdi and Portaloo…!!

By James …

Signore Verdi was a huge operatic and political force in Milano – and Signore Portaluppi was an outstanding architect – in Milano !

Walking tour with Marco our sparky Milanese guide – perfecto ambulare – lots of sights – and the world famous La Scala Opera House – Verdi, Rossini, Toscanini all made their debuts here – Nebucco, the chorus of the Hebrew Slaves – my first operatic love………

I (J) will not say how the local coat of arms features 3 testicles… dicky x 3 does not do justice – tricky dicky?

Testes is the translation of part of the family name ... look at the shield on the left.

Testes is the translation of part of the family name … look at the shield on the left.

Milan's coat of arms ... a serpent eating the Muslim that Visconti defatted .. he got the keep the cat of arms

Part of Milan’s coat of arms … a viper eating the man that Visconti defeated .. he got the keep the coat of arms.  Alfa Romeo use it in their logo

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Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa. Every wall of the chapel is lined with bones.

Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa. Every wall of the chapel is lined with bones.

 

Skulls look like childrens, but people so much smaller then. Other bone decorated chapels exist .. should we seek them out?

Skulls look like childrens, but people so much smaller then. Other bone decorated chapels exist .. should we seek them out?

How to get a new mattress delivered to your apartment!

How to get a new mattress delivered to your apartment!

The old market place. It had a fun corner, well two corners, where you could whisper to each other. If a merchant could not repay his debts, his assets were seized and then his trading desk was publicly smashed ... broken bench = banca rotta. This word has been adopted in many languages.

The old market place. It had a fun corner, well two corners, where you could whisper to each other.              If a merchant could not repay his debts, his assets were seized and then his trading desk was publicly smashed … broken bench = banca rotta. This word has been adopted in many languages.

 

Controversial 2010 sculpture by Italy's most famous living artist, Maurizio Cattelan. Interestingly placed just outside the Stock Exchange!!!

Controversial 2010 sculpture by Italy’s most famous living artist, Maurizio Cattelan. Interestingly placed just outside the Stock Exchange!!!

This apse is actually only 90cm deep. The trompe d'ceil from the back of the church is really effective.

This apse is actually only 90cm deep. The trompe d’ceil from the back of the church is really effective. Amazing what you can do when short of space.

Villa Necce is a 1930s Art Deco masterpiece – completed in 1935 under Fascist rule – unlimited budget for the architects – the only other place I have seen such luxurious inlaid wood was the Talitha G (Sarah) super yacht ! Coffee and off to Metro M1 and bus 72 (long wait) back to Chardonnay for a K supper cooked in her new pressure cooker – best invention since sliced testicles – whoops sliced bread ! Sorry Marco !

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The house had lots of innovative firsts: the pool was heated, so it was placed ostentatiously outdide the dining room window. The dining room walls were cream goat skin panels … I kid you not!

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Walnut burr veneer comes from the burrs and is usually very thin … this was the most expensive part of the house … real burr panels

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173 -Saturday 10th October 2015:  Monumentale Milan

By K

Bus and Metro in .. we have become adept at the Public Transport now and purchase our all day ticket for EUR4.5 the day before.

At the bus stop …. mossie itch cream applications:

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First stop the Duomo Piazza where they were raising funds for feeding Africa.

Then onto the Poldo-Pezzoli Gallery.  A private collector whose collections should still be intact fully were it not for the building’s near obliteration in 1943.  We are sure what we saw was special.  Old pictures up showing how the rooms looked in P-P’s day … these were actually more interesting than most of the exhibits … are we Philistine?  Perhaps little was to our taste?

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Before 1943 …

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… now. Think we are entitled to be disappointed.

K did like this a lot ... the widow commissioned this when P-P died to depict grief.

K did like this a lot … the widow commissioned this when P-P died to depict grief.

Metro up to the main train station.  We particularly wanted to see this as it is another Fascist era build … very imposing height, columns and huge entrance … all designed to make people feel like ants.

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Pirelli Tower: a law had to be reminded so that it could be built higher than the Cathedral. A model of the cathedrals Madonna is on top, but not visible.

Pirelli Tower: a law had to be rescinded so that it could be built higher than the Cathedral. A model of the cathedral’s Madonna is on top, but not visible.

New M5 tube line onto Monumentale Cemetery.  Marco the guide of yesterday had recommended it.  We often walk in cemeteries, but had never seen anything on the scale of this one – vast and so opulent.    Officially opened in 1866 to replace many smaller cemeteries, it has since then been filled with a wide range of contemporary and classical Italian sculptures, such well as Greek Temples and elaborate obelisks designed by renowned Italian artists.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

The Disciples faces were all different and so real

The Disciples faces were all different and so real

Several massive long corridors of grave filing cabinets.

Several massive long corridors of grave filing cabinets.

the effect of the monuments is like mini sky scrapers

the effect of the monuments is like mini sky scrapers

A montage of some of the headstones. The money that has been spent here ...

A montage of some of the headstones. The money that has been spent here …

The main entrance is through the large Famedio, a massive Hall of Fame-like Neo-Medieval style building that contains the tombs of some of the city’s and the country’s most honored citizens, including that of novelist Alessandro Manzoni – on all school reading lists as he wrote the first novel in what is now Italian back in 1820 and then spent the rest of his life revising it.

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174 – Sunday 11th October 2015:  Milan … Leonardo, La Scala and Duomo

By K

We both wanted to see the Cathedral, K’s choice was the Science and technology Museum and J’s was La Scala.  Huge crowds in the main Piazza and La Scala shut for a long lunch, so we headed for the Science Museum.  En route we were battling against the flow of the crowds and K had to stand still and shut her eyes … Maddy – I so know where you are coming from!

Science and Technology Museum:  Largest in Italy, housed in an old monastery so the building is interesting and opened in 1953 to showcase Leonardo da Vinci.  The main section is about his drawings which have been recreated as models.

The museum also has sections about metals, jewellery, solar system, trains, planes and boats etc.  A really excellent museum … except NO CAFE!  Just some vending machines and poor signage .. it took us about 15 mins to find bag lockers.

Tour Guide for the day ... museum route planning!

Tour Guide for the day … museum route planning!

Gas pipelines across Italy ... fairly clear where the industrial wealth is situated!

Gas pipelines across Italy … fairly clear where the industrial wealth is situated!

A HUGE train. check out the size of the wheels alone!

A HUGE train. check out the size of the wheels alone!

My own stoker!!!!

My own stoker!!!!

Quirky shape

Quirky shape

A train put onto ships!

A train put onto ships!

Did you know Eros is made from an old tin can?

Did you know Eros is made from an old aluminium tin can?

We got through museum and Duomo security with this whopper ... the KNIFE. Still munching our way through the 6 kg of apples we bought.

We got through museum and Duomo security with this whopper … the KNIFE. Still munching our way through the 6 kg of apples we bought.

We did not pre-book to see da Vinci's Last Supper and it would have been expensive for a timed 15 min viewing .. and as he did not paint onto wet plater fresco style, it degraded in his lifetime. It has been much restored and purists argue there is little left of HIM. This is a fan's copy - next best thing!

We did not pre-book to see da Vinci’s Last Supper and it would have been expensive for a timed 15 min viewing .. and as he did not paint onto wet plater fresco style, it degraded in his lifetime. It has been much restored and purists argue there is little left of HIM. This is a fan’s copy – next best thing!

Da Vinci drawing and model to show how man could self propel to fly.

Da Vinci drawing and model to show how man could self propel to fly.

He had a very curious mind. As well as pulling apart every existing technology already existing, he directed a lot of animals (and humans - dead) to work out how the body operated.

He had a very curious mind. As well as pulling apart every existing technology, he dissected a lot of animals (and humans – dead) to work out how the body operated.

He moved around Italy a bit and seemed to be an expert on war mechanisms. This is a speed ramming boat.

He moved around Italy a bit and seemed to be an expert on war mechanisms. This is a speed ramming boat.

La Scala:  there is museum attached, but we whizzed through – just wanted to see the auditorium really.

The bar area, but no drinks served at present.

The bar area, but no drinks served at present.

Many boxes. Originally used for meals and gambling ... pretty small.

Many boxes. Originally used for meals and gambling … pretty small.

The auditorium. It was pretty mush destroyed during WW2, but well documented, so was restored as it had been. Acoustics are apparently phenomenal.

The auditorium. It was destroyed during WW2, but well documented, so was restored as it had been. Acoustics are apparently phenomenal.

Pizza and Wine Break on the Duomo Piazza:  People watching whilst listening to a busker who had brought his own piano :).

As we sat the light changed the colour of the stone

As we sat the light changed the colour of the stone

The Duomo

Quick tour of the museum – lots of statues … not sure if these are the originals or copies.  Fortunately the cathedral owns the quarry so can replace and repair.

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No architectural drawings and it took about 400 years to build. They followed the plan of this wooden model: no glue or nails.

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Then up onto the roof.  I had been up a long time ago and remembered this as the high light of that short trip.  But this time, we paid extra and caught the lift!

Such detailing up so high - the architect must have intended people to view from the rooftops.

Such detailing up so high – the architect must have intended people to view from the rooftops.

 

looking down to what was the royal palace and now houses the Duomo Mueum 121159 60

Looking down to what was the royal palace and now houses the Duomo Museum.

Some odd modern sculptures right up top! The Duomo has been described as 'Dripping Up' .. so many spires. Something like 3,600 statues!

Some odd modern sculptures right up top! The Duomo has been described as ‘Dripping Up’ .. so many spires. Something like 3,600 statues!  The gold on the right is the main spire with the Madonna.

A closer Madonna

A closer Madonna.  Apparently a lot of Milanese, both boys and girls, are called Marie.

A view down towards the entrance of the posh mall.

A view down towards the entrance of the posh mall.

The main entrance

The main entrance

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Hope he does not stay still too long ... he may become a statue!

Hope he does not stay still too long … he may become a statue!

The attention to detail was just amazing!

The attention to detail was just amazing!

Back on the ground ... the main entrance door.

Back on the ground … the main entrance door.  Two small marks on the door from war shrapnel … amazingly spared.

Stroke the leg for luck ... both in J's case!

Stroke the leg for luck … both in J’s case!

We were too late to go inside … but hey, it will have to be another place we come back to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

166 – 171: Lakes Good and Bad, Milan and 6 Month Milestone

166 – Saturday 3rd October 2015 -K to Brescia

K ran the furthest yet … 5 km… felt good.  More laundry and then an early lunch.  Cycled to the train station and travelled the 24 mins to Brescia.  Very uninspiring near the station: drunks and druggies!  However, the main part of the city is inspiring.  I had seen that there were two museums up at the castle … quite a steep walk up and I should have counted the steps!  Unfortunately the museum I wanted about the unification of Italy was closed and the armaments museum had little interest for me.  The photographic temporary exhibition about the 1904 was quite interesting, given that Milan is hosting the world fair 2015.

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A proper cobbler - he glued and stitched my walking shoe .... EUR2!!!

A proper cobbler – he glued and stitched my walking shoe …. EUR2!!!

Back down the hill, I bumbled around the squares, which all became alive about 3 p.m. … lots of exhibitions about sustainability, selling books, cookery demos and giving away seedings.  Buzzing.  Attractive architecture.  Highlight was the Basilica as it was also a church with a crypt and mosaics – a spiritual place.  Not too touristy and worth a visit.

James returned from Dublin via taxi, which the campsite manager had kindly booked … it would not have been possible to get the van back into the campsite after about 9.30 and it saved K trying to park up at the airport when airport carparks are not designed for 8m vans.

167 – Sunday 4th October 2015:  Rest and Cycling in the Rain

A late start.  After lunch, the rain seemed to have cleared so we cycled past Iseo town and onto the peat bogs …. fine until we lost the route.  We decided to cycle onto the next largish town for ice creams and coffee, but the heavens opened –  a serious deluge.  We watched the stair rods and lightening from the shelter of a tree for about an hour.  Once it eased off we about faced and headed back to Iseo.  By this time the sun was out, so we stopped off and ate the planned ice cream.

Watery view from our Iseo ice cream stop

Watery view from our Iseo ice cream stop in Iseo

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And then check out the most amazing sun set from the campsite

Received a pic message from our Bristol neighbours, Kay and Stephen … they had a super duper caravan and the pic is of an amazing motorhome.  Apparently the caravan ‘morphed’!!!!  They claim our ability to move on easily is partly to blame for the transition.  We are so delighted to see the birth of Phoebe.  Sort out the dog passports and please join us, very latest, end March / early April in N France.  Grinning from ear to ear for you.

Phoebe - can't wait to see her.

Phoebe – can’t wait to see her.

J sporting his Ireland cap. Could not mange to watch the game as all fee paying channels. TY Stephen for text updates. A wonderful win... K will now HAVE to support Ireland, although so long as an European team wins...

J sporting his Ireland cap. Could not mange to watch the game as all fee paying channels. TY Stephen for text updates. A wonderful win… K will now HAVE to support Ireland, although so long as an European team wins…

Our pitch - could not be any closer to the water.

Our pitch – could not be any closer to the water.

View from the campsite over the lake

View from the campsite over the lake

168 – Monday 5th October 2015:  Boat to Monte d’Iseo and Circular Cycle Wine Tour

We cycled to Iseo port and caught the ferry to the 1) European 2) largest 3) inhabited 4) lake island … quite a lot of criteria here to reduce the competition in this category.  We helped out some fellow Brits who knew they were catching a ferry but not where to and how to get back again! We are just so organised … some of the time!

Once on the island we turned right on the 9.5 km bike route around the island perimeter.  No cars, just the odd moped and three wheeler car and paths good.  Until, K suggested we detour from the shore path inland a bit to see a Medieval village …. the path became cobbles and it was VERY steep uphill.  For a loooong way.  At one point we considered turning back to the nice level shore path …but that would have been defeatist and surely we must be at the top soon….. NOT!

As soon as we passed though the Medieval village … more of a cluster of houses all on top of each other, we finally descended and found a cafe for a couple of glasses of wine and a snack.  Did I omit to mention, we’d had several glasses already … seemed wise the break the trip up and contribute to the local economy!

Another stop for the mandatory gelato.  Phone call from Maddy about why she may like to read History at Uni … Horrible Histories seems a good starting point, but what do I know about personal statements?!?

Time for another glass before we caught the return ferry.

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Part of the long push up

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Glass Number 1

Glass Number 2 - forgot glass 3 pic

Glass Number 2 – forgot glass 3 pic

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We ate at the campsite restaurant.  The lake is known for its Perch, which I had with a lemon sauce …. yummy.  J went for his usual – Wiener Schnitzel and chips (seems to have replaced scampi and chips in Euroland) and could not manage a Tiramasu after … shock / horror!  I managed cheese … all of it and there was a lot!  But cheese and ice-cream go into that other stomach.  And the campsite manger sent through a complimentary Limoncello – had to buy a bottle the next day – developed a taste for it!  He was also roasting chestnuts over a fire pit for the campers … a really excellent site.  The washrooms seemed to be constantly being cleaned.

I managed the lot! May have been some dairy induced snoring that night!

I managed the lot! May have been some dairy induced snoring that night!

169 – Tuesday 6th October 2015:  Come on Como

We left our lovely lakeside pitch and headed towards lake Como.  The lake is actually in 3 parts, like a person with two running legs.  Imagine and upside down Y.  Lecco is at the bottom of the right hand leg and Como off the tip of the one on the left.  Bellagio is in the crotch where these two legs of the lakes meet.  The guide book says that Bellagio is the prettiest town on Lago di Como, so this was our via point with the intention of driving after down the other leg to Como.  However, by the time we had shopped … twice (K looking for a pressure cooker … Lyn, who we met in Idryia and then Piran in Slovenia, cooked lots in one … so I wanted one!) … time had marched on.

By the time we arrived in Bellagio it was knocking on the door of 4pm.  All the car parks, again like Lake Garda, are not motorhome friendly.  We managed to find a free parking by the cemetery which was a bit of a walk into the town, but not suitable for overnighting in.  We asked in the TIC and the young girl said it was OK to overnight in the main carparks after 8.00 pm until 8.00 am.  Our plan was to stay up at the cemetery and then move at 8.00.  Does anyone know the French for cemetery … we were with 4 French motorhomes at one point, in a non friendly motorhome car park, and I could only describe a cemetery as a ‘champs des morts’ … but they understood!   We relaxed and watched the world go by over a coffee and an ice-cream.  We then relaxed some more and did the 1 hour walking tour around the town and managed (just) not to buy a very expensive, but beautiful green Italian handbag that I need like a hole in the head.

Best laid plans awry again … we had the collywobbles (what a wonderful old word that is) about staying in a non friendly motorhome carpark with no other vans.  It was a long drive the Plan A, Plan B and Plan C that K had identified in Como and it was now starting to get dark!  Oops!  One of the Italian apps described a motorhome parking up the hill between the legs and only 30 mins.  Bollocks on two counts.  It was a frigging mountain with the tightest hairpins we have done on this trip and it was now dark!  And it took the best part of 45 mins.  And we could not find it in the pitch black.  So we parked off the road and made sure all the blinds were shut fast so we did not alert people to our whereabouts by sending out light sabres.  Being now 9.00, we dined only on the leek, potato and blue cheese soup that had been in the slow cooker all day – lunch planned for tomorrow!

We also agreed, again, that not having a Plan A -C within reach is not on and that we need to possibly get up earlier!!!  Gulp.

170 – Wednesday 7th October:  Narrow Misses, Ferry and onto Milan

K woken in the night to the sound of Alpine cow bells … VERY close.  I stuck my head out of the bathroom window to be greeted by a very relaxed flock of sheep only about 1.5 metres from me … it was so still and quiet I could even hear them ripping at the grass.  Don’t they sleep?

We set the alarm … our new found and probably short lived new early rising discipline!  Discovered that we were next to a helipad … yep, so remote up this mountain it would be a necessity.  J took on the challenge of the hairpin descent … at least I had had the benefit of on-coming headlights going up last night.  In theory, I should have been able to enjoy the lake views … but it was seriously steep and the hairpins were very tight.  Not relaxing.

The next stage of the trip back along the lake to Bellagio was, if anything, even less relaxing!  Narrow roads with on-coming traffic and a resurfacing vehicle that decided to reverse suddenly – missing us by millimetres.  J managed a polite ‘Oh No’ … my reaction was unprintable.

We arrived at Bellagio and J queued in Chard whilst I went to buy the ticket, having read about a supplement if you buy on the ferry.  J was been ushered on board whilst I was still waiting for the card machine to connect with the UK via Mars, Venus and Pluto .. thought I was going to have to do an Indiana Jones style leap across gaping water to catch up!

The west shore of the lake is supposed to be the more attractive …. the plan (can you tell this one went awry too!) was to leisurely meander down to Como, and spend the night there.  HOWEVER, the roads around Como are NOT designed for traffic … of any kind.  And again, we could not find anywhere to park.  So we kept going to Como … drove in and drove out!  Large and not inviting.

Top tip:  if you want to visit Lake Como – arrive at a main town and go everywhere by boat.  Max two days, as although pretty, all the villages look the same!  What was good to see was some of the fantastic waterside villas that I remember from my childhood – all pink and yellow.

We found a huge supermarket complex which delivered:

  1. K bought a pressure cooker
  2. J had a MacDonalds …. even if a slight comms issue and he needed up with a Happy Meal 🙂
  3. We managed to ring Camping Milano to see if they had a space to take us … no need to book – just turn up.

We arrived at Camping Milano mid afternoon and got ourselves set up.  We then caught the bus and Metro into the centre.  Coming up from the Metro to the Duomo Piazza is quite something.  The architecture of the cathedral alone is special, but then add in the Vittorio Emmanulle mall … wow factor.  We eventually found the Expo ticket office and bought our consecutive day 2 day tickets…. so pleased J is a senior again …. EUR57 versus EUR42!  Then found the TIC and picked up info for when we come to the do the city properly.

Vittorio Emanuelle Mall

Vittorio Emanuelle Mall – after the First King after Unification in 1861 and this was completed in 1867.

And inside it.

And inside it – largest glass work after Crystal Place World Expo.  Glass lit originally and had little wind up ‘mouse’ that trundled on a track around the top … the first ear knocked the top off the gas pipes and the second ear was the incendiary.  Must have been quite a sight.

Old trams everywhere - we will have a ride.

Old trams everywhere:  some had wooden panelling  – we will have a ride.

Expo Gate: where we purchased the tickets ... statue and church behind

Expo Gate: where we purchased the tickets … statue and church behind

The cathedral - mellow evening light making it look golden. The quarry belongs to the Duomo so no other building has this stone. It is rippled with blue, grey and pink, so takes on a different colour in different lights.

The cathedral – mellow evening light making it look golden. The quarry belongs to the Duomo so no other building has this stone. It is rippled with blue, grey and pink, so takes on a different colour in different lights.

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Rounded off our quick visit with a glass before the return  … and home cooked perch with a compot made in the new pressure cooker 🙂

171 – Thursday 8th October 2015:  Expo Exposed

We caught the campsite shuttle to the Milan Expo – theme of food sustainability and feeding the world.  A LOT, and I mean seriously a lot of people, and so many school groups, all arriving at the same time.  

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Herded.

We had googled the best bits and had a shortlist of country stands that we really wanted to visit.  

So we started with UK – they do this kind of thing well – a bee hive with a live feed to a bee hive.  Given we visited an amazing bee museum in Slovenia and K listened to a  Farming Today broadcast about the importance of bees and pollination … this exhibit gave very little info, but it was sensory with a wild flower meadow and the bee sounds.

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Ireland was next … best bits … a thunderstorm audio and giving kids a soft cuddly toy of a cow.  If you knew nothing about Ireland you would think it rained all the time and all the landscape is covered with cows!

So it rains all the time?!

So it rains all the time?!

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We don’t do well in queues, so the only other country we visited was Czech republic – no queue and it was evident why!  UAE had a 3 hour queue.  Korea 2 hour etc etc. One spends this long at the airport to fly to these countries, not to spend 5-10 mins seeing a stand!    We got into some of the smaller countries, such as some of the African nations who were part of the Legumes section, but that was it.  We still managed to spend 5 hours walking it … It is truly vast!  And so busy!  People kept pouring in.  

Wine to help us with the crowds!

Wine to help us with the crowds!

We have decided not to use our day 2 tickets … our time will be better spent exploring Milan for an extra day.

Milestone – 6 months

We have reached the 6 month travelling mark …

3rd April:  Vacated our house in Bristol

4th April:  Flew to Jordan for a 11 days driving trip

We cannot tell you how pleased we are to still be loving this.  The time has just flown by.  We do not miss TV (even the rugby or Strictly, which has just started), washing machines etc.  Just people.

We are just so incredibly lucky and we know it.