Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Milan: Princi Pizza for the Principessa

Milan, Italy (Milano, Italia)
October 2015
As soon as we entered the general vicinity of Milano, we quickly learned of a mysterious event dubbed "The Expo". Signs exalting it were everywhere, leading us to research it online to determine if we wanted in on such a thing. What we discovered was an odd light sculpture (the tree of life I believe it was called) and some speeches involving women, agriculture, and Africa. We may have been even more confused than we were previously.
At our Milanese campsite we were intrigued to be surrounded by a number of French people who were visiting for "The Expo". We were also disgusted to be surrounded by the smell of campervan shithole and barnyard manure (several donkeys and geese were our neighborly campdwellers).
Bright and early the next morning, we purchased bus tickets from the camp store which looked suspiciously like they had been made using shiny paper and some guy's printer. We weren't sure if they were legit bus tickets, and also suspected that they were somehow for "The Expo" as that's what it seemed everyone else wanted.
Luckily we were delivered to the centre safe and sound, and certainly not at "The Expo".
The metro was incredibly easy to use and we popped out right next to the duomo! Oddly enough, we got the immediate impression that Milan was much more Viennese in flavour compared to the rest of Italy - grandiose buildings, stately squares and much sculpture. I liked the duomo in all its sharpness - if cathedrals were shoes this would be a pointy stiletto heel, which happens to suit Milan perfectly.

While acquiring an elevated photo of the cathedral, we hung out with a lion that was popular among the pigeons. I respect that he retains his dignified king-of-the-jungle pose even while being shat on.
Walking through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was a claustrophobe's nightmare, as hundreds of tourists pressed in from all sides and street hawkers threw around inflatable squeaking tomatoes. One of the oldest shopping malls in the world, it was opened in 1877 and houses four stories of shops. It was amazing to gaze up at the exquisite architecture and detailed decoration - a marvel of light and stone.
Looking down we found some impressive examples of mosaic work, including the she-wolf representation of Rome. Apparently it's good luck to stomp the balls of Turin's bull under your heel, but we rejected that for several reasons (the main reason being that we are skeptics and will happily walk under ladders or bring bananas on boats, but also because it seemed cruel and unusual to squash anyone's balls, even if they are a mosaic).
A-hungered from all the crowd-dodging, we attempted to eat lunch at Princi, a popular bakery with a queue extending into the southern hemisphere. Instead of torturing ourselves with hours of wait time, we walked a while to reach an acclaimed cheese bar, but they were foolishly overpriced so we visited the second Princi bakery (it's all we could afford in this city of Michelin stars and ridiculous mozzarella brunches). 
Success! Still having to wait in a (shorter) line, we did manage to secure both a table and two slices of soft and delectable margherita pizza. The base was thick, but well cooked and the toppings were generous. We finished lunch off with a couple of desserts and then set about on the nigh impossible task of finding a decent cafe in the city (coz wifi and iPhone charging yo).
Bizarrely in a country with such a good coffee scene, I deem Milan's cafe culture to be certifiably shite. There must be homely cafes somewhere, but all we could find were huge establishments three stories high which sold Starbucks-like options. The only other "alternatives" were hugely posh gold-plated places with waiters dressed in white, which had been around since the mid 1700's and where we would have had to dole out hundreds of euros on fancy pastries just to have them consider letting bejandalled travelers consume anything on the premises. 
We exploredly wandered some more and briefly checked out Sforza Castle, a rather ugly brick fortress with a more modern but still unattractive fountain in front. In the mid 1400's Ludovico Sforza decided he wanted a bit more coour on the walls and brought in several famous artsits (including Leonardo da Vinci) to be interior decorators. Good choice, bro. 
After more wandering, during which time we felt like underdressed peasants due to the elevated chicness of the Milanese, we eventually returned to the duomo which was aglow in the warm afternoon light. Next stop - Torino!

Today's post was almost called: Scandalous Jandalous - I Are Befeet Vandal