Nov. 18 (Sunday)

by Jonah

Nov. 18 (Sunday)

Getting to Milano

Our night apart sleeping dorm style in Bergamo at the “Nazi, communist” HI hostel (as Berck calls it) was terrible. A couple of Italian women chattered loudly as the rest of us girls in the room tried to relax. When enough of us had turned over in our bunks to sleep, they started chattering in stage whispers. I drifted in and out of consciousness until at some point I awoke a little and realized it was both dark and quiet in the room. I was going to charge the laptop in the bathroom, the location of the only wall socket, but when I went to put there before I went to sleep, one of the other women had already put her phone to charge. We only had one alarm clock between Berck and me, so Berck took it with the promise to knock on my dorm’s door if I overslept. I figured that would be an impossibility with the number of people in my room. Indeed, I awoke around 7:30, surprised to find one of the full bunks the night before now empty. It was light outside, but the room was completely quiet. I was loathe to move around lest I start the noise again, but I figured the cell phone in the bathroom had to be completely charged, and my laptop could take its place while I slept a little longer. I got off my creaky metal bunk and unzipped my bag to get the computer, and that was enough to start the rustling. I plugged it up, but by then there was no more sleeping. All but one of my roommates stirred and performed their morning ablutions. The other let her alarm go off a couple of times and hit snooze.

So I got up too and took the laptop down to the breakfast area to plug up there while I consumed my fake cappuccino, orange colored water (till I got to the bottom and started drinking something like too strong Tang), a bun, a package of something like Melba toast, a packet of butter, and a little tub of jelly. I’d agreed to meet Berck at 9, so I had quite a while to wait. But then the laptop had plenty of time to charge as well. Berck was paranoid that there wouldn’t be enough power to navigate to the hotel using a PDF of a Google Maps page. Finally, Berck showed up and grabbed a bun while I grabbed my luggage. We extricated the car from Berck’s creative parking job and thought we’d head into the center of Bergamo again and maybe take a funicular up to Bergamo Alto. But every time we tried to turn into the city, our way was blocked by parked police cars and cones. Apparently, they had closed off the center for some event.

So on to Milan it was. We got on the Autostrata (at least those are easy to find; just follow the green signs at every roundabout) and headed west. Berck refused to drive into Milan (wisely), so I figured out a town where we could probably park and easily take the metro into the city. We made the exit off the Autostrata and paid our toll, but Berck spotted a sign for Monza. “I want to go to Monza,” Berck declared. And he was serious. Apparently, there’s a Formula One track there that you’d know about if you played driving video games. We tried following the signs to the autodromo, then tried going to the centro, but neither worked very well.

By then we were far away from the little town where I was sure we could find a metro stop, but we drove to Cologna where there were three. Miraculously, we actually found signs to Cologna Nord Metro where there was ample “parking” on the other side of white lines surrounding the bus station. After fiddling with the metro ticket machines that invited you to pick a language and then wouldn’t proceed any further, a metro official told us we had to use the dingy machine out of immediate sight in the corner. Berck inserted Euros until it spat out two tickets and some change. Then we had to wait on the platform for an eternity for a Sunday train to arrive, then again for it to depart.

Milano

With one transfer, we came out at the duomo piazza. The cathedral in Milan is the largest Gothic one in the world. Unfortunately, half of it is covered in scaffolding because they’re restoring the outside. The piazza is huge and covered in tourists, even in November. There are also lots of Africans trying to sell little string bracelets, or give them away, as they kept trying to do to me. “Free!” a thin, tall, very black man said, trying to hand me one. I declined, but he dropped it into my jacket collar saying, “Ahfrreekah!. I know from experience that accepting “free” string bracelets from refugees ends off badly, so I picked it off my collar and threw it down. We had to wait to go inside the duomo for all the folks who were attending the service inside to stream out. Then the police glanced in my backpack and determined that I wasn’t going to try to blow it up. We could only wander around a small portion of it since it was a Sunday morning.

Outside Berck introduced me to Spizico, Italian fast food. A #1 meal deal included a huge slice of pizza, fries, and a drink. Ketchup was 10 cents a pack. We found some free bathrooms and then went back outside. Berck made the mistake of kissing me on the cheek. “Amore,” announced another African with string bracelets, “Free.” I told him no, but he was insistent. Finally, I yelled, “Basta!” and that seemed to work. We wondered around the pedestrian streets filled with mainly Italians in their black poofy coats and stretchy jeans, the women with their pant legs tucked into boots. The most fashionable folks were sporting white poofy coats. We made our way to the contemporary art museum and paid to go in. It was a fairly decent collection of mostly Italian artists. I like the humorous angle stuff today is taking. There were some portraits of saints in modern garb and one of Francesco and Paulo looking like any young amorous couple on the subway. There was also a still life that wasn’t, a painting of a vase of flowers violently falling over on fire. It was titled Sacrifico.

Next we went to the MUSEO D’ARTE MODERNA, but the most recent item it had in it was dated, I think, 1928. Most of it was from the 1800’s, but compared to most of the art in Rome, it was certainly Modern.

Berck had bought us extra Metro tickets, so we had to make another trip somewhere to make use of them. I picked the castle. You can go inside the courtyards but have to pay to enter the museums in the walls.

castle in Milan

It was going to be dark soon, so we took the Metro back to the town where we’d parked the car. Apparently, we were supposed to buy a more expensive ticket because we were going so far out, but we decided to risk it for the three stops we’d be traveling through illegally. Then we tried to navigate the Autostrata to a little town north of the airport but ended up going around Milano the wrong way. Fortunately, our hotel had little signs at all the roundabouts so we could follow them right to it.

Lap of Luxury

We’ve arrived in the lap of luxury. Berck reserved us a room at a “four star” hotel near the airport when we had a wireless connection in Lugano, Switzerland. We’re paying 69 Euro, but the regular minimum cost is 118 (max 180), this being November. The bathroom has a bidet and little packets of everything you might need, including toothbrushes. There’s a flatscreen TV, a HUGE bed (queen sized), a closet you can lock and take the key with you, a safe you can program, and a minibar that includes old fashioneds and martini glasses. After sleeping in dorm beds that didn’t even come with sheets (and in Switzerland, for more money!), it all feels very extravagant. Unfortunately, no free wifi, it’s only available at 3 Euro per hour or 10 Euro for unlimited access.

Supper

We asked the desk clerk if there were a restaurant nearby, and it wasn’t exactly close, but it was the closest one. This was probably the least tasty meal we ate, and it was still a great experience. It was very cheap, so Berck ordered us an antipasto to begin with and two plates of pasta, which all came at once. Berck got some mediocre basil gnocchi. He asked me what I wanted, and I answered spaghetti. So he ordered me spaghetti scoglio. The waitress brought me a plate of noodles with what appeared to be a beach washed up onto it. There were mussels in their shells, whole unpeeled shrimp, various bits of seafood I could eat without extracting them from their exoskeletons, and a wholecrustacean on top of the whole mess, the king of his own little tide pool. He looked like a crawfish, but I don’t know what they call them in Italy. His tail was tasty in any case. I didn’t have the tools to get at the rest of him. None of it was fresh, but I enjoyed it immensely. It turns out scoglio means “reef”. After the pasta we were stuffed, so we ordered some frozen dolce. It wasn’t terribly good, but there weren’t any gelaterias to go to.

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