Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Here kitty kitty kitty (part B)

So presumably you have all had sleepless nights also?  Tossing and turning, mind buzzing, unable to get various scenarios out of your mind.  I am finally able to bring to conclusion the mystery of the firefighters.  You may remember my post Here kitty kitty kitty, (Sunday March 13th), when I had firemen float past my window one night.  No not a dream or too much wine, it actually happened. I hate not knowing things and when we went to investigate the next morning we discovered that our door man was on holidays for 2 weeks and the replacement was there.  I had 2 weeks for my imagination and exaggerated thinking to bother me; and with suggestions from others, I was finally certain that it was a romantic wedding proposal that air lifted that fireman to the apartment above ours, in a Mills and Boons fashion.

Apparently not.  Turns out that the old lady in the apartment had lost her keys in the morning.  She collected the door mans keys for the time being and then managed to lock them inside her apartment that night.  Supposedly, it can cost between 500€ and 700€ to get a locksmith to visit you at night time, (important information for an absentminded person such as myself).  So whats the next best option?  Call the fire brigade of course.  It seems that the chief of the local fire station owed the door man a favour, which was collected on this particular evening.  So why 2 fire trucks?  They had to make it look legitimite.  So why so many firemen?  For my pure amusement and viewing pleasure...

We have now been advised, that if you lock your keys in the apartment, instead of calling a locksmith and donating towards his families next summer vacation in the Bahamas, call the fire brigade.  Because they will always come to the rescue if 'you may of left the gas on'.... 

"Excuse me, I think I may of left the gas on, will you come rescue me?"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"She is just not running fast enough!"

The Stramilano is an annual athletics event which takes place in Milan, Italy in spring. "Yahoo, it is Spring!" The event accomodates for 3 types of people; the insanely fit, the wish I was fit and the child too young to realise what they are doing. The 3 events include; Stramilano International Half Marathon (a professional road running competition over 21.0975 km), Stramilano of the 50,000 (a 10 km non-competitive run/walk open to the general public) and the Stramilanina (a 5 km event for younger people).  Even though it was a Sunday and the world had robbed me of an hours sleep by reintroducing daylight saving, I decided we should all get out of our pyjamas and make the trek downstairs to watch others run past our apartment in this annual event.  We shall participate in the sport of cheering.

Leading male runner

Wheeled event
Leading female runner

The first Stramilano took place on 14 March 1972, as a nocturnal walk which ran along the entire outer ring road (about 22 km) and saw over 4,000 participants. Since then participation has risen steadily until it settled at an average of 50,000 participants: for this reason the non-competitive race is called "Stramilano of the 50,000".  There were so many runners to cheer on that my hands were sore from clapping, the runners just kept on coming, and with it came my guilt of my prior gym free week.  So after an hour of community spirit service, we cheered from our apartment with a full belly after lunch and wine, (probably not very appropriate).

Son cheering and trying to join the race

While we were downstairs, it was however an opportunity for the kids and I to use some Italian; we cheered "Bravo" for the men, "Brava" for the ladies, and "Bravi" for grouped runners.  Even our 18month old clapped and yelled "Bravo" as he tried to join the race on several occassions, his curious mind probably wondering where everyone was going, 'so many people heading that way, so it must be pretty good'.  Our daughter also cheered, although she did not hold back volume with the numerous comments that so easily flow off a 3 year olds tongue. "Hurry up" yelled at men in the leading pack, "She is just not running fast enough" to a tired lady that had adapted the 'nanna-shuffle' running style, oh, and my favourite, "There is a lady, brava!" to the man with the pony tail!  This is one of the few times I am hopeful that the english language is NOT understood, (but admittedly, I do giggle at her innocence).

Only in Italy would it be appropriate for someone to offer a cigarette to those running past while taking a swig of his beer.  It did however not overly offend as he was present for the start of the race as we were, and had clapped and cheered for the entire hour we had been there.  It was such a lovely atmosphere, with all walks of life surfacing to encourage those running.  Our children lost interest, but were happy to ride their scooters in the background and pick some really pretty weeds out of the local garden.  As we cheered for the runners, most waved, clapped there hands in the air, thanked us, and cheered on others also.  A great community spirit.

So with vision of matching sweat bands and colour co-odinated streamers off the pram, I asked our daughter if we could all go in the race next year, (perhaps just the 10km).  She seemed very excited and instructed me to make shirts for the whole family to wear straight away, (good to see she was also obviously considering the colour co-ordination).  I tried to explain it was a year away, children do not exactly have the best concept of time, so the easiest solution was "It will be after Christmas and your Birthday", the 2 most important things to a 3 year old.  So now my goal over the next year, is not only to train to run 10km pushing a pram, (which will prove awkward on the treadmill at the gym), but also to tame my child's competitive nature so she does not turn hulk on all those fellow participants that finish before her! I was given the silent treatment last night because I beat her in a race to the toilet!  No idea where she gets these personality traits from?
Picking some pretty weeds

Offering support by offering cigarettes and beer

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"It's not butter"

This is this how the streets are cleaned?
We have been here for 9 months and only one fine; pretty good I think?!?  The fine was given because mercoldi (Wednesday) is street cleaning at an un-godly hour, (I tell you this because the "wererererererer" usually wakes me before the children do).  If your car is parked in the street, then you are fined, 30€ something in fact, (that I am stil currently in debt to the Milano Commune for), as those street sweepers can not get by the cars; those kerbs must be clean.  Even though not done by hand, this is obviosly a job that is taken seriouisly.
Anyhow, if you did not know, parking here is like bucks night in a strip joint, absolute mayhem, and no sense of control.  You park on the kerb, double park, footpath, why not park on top of another car like Inspector Gadget if mechanics allow?  All I am saying, is it is like a comuunal amusement park.  We left the house for an outing today and as fast as you can say "It's not butter" the carpark is gone.  Literally speaking, it is still there, a vespa has parked in my single car space on the side walk, (if I was a true Italian, I could squeeze in there, or on top!)  Not yet a true Italian, (I wax too much), the car is now parked on the kerb, and not a 'Rockstar' car park, (our reference to the closest car park to our gate entrance).

Ha ha my car is bigger than yours!!!
Anyhow, I go to move the car at night time to safe ground, (mercoldi tomorrow and do not want to justify dirty streets and another fine),  to find that I have been parked in by the LAW!!!!  Would you believe it???  So now not only is double parking 'a-ok' by hard working citizens, but the LAW (not yelling, just trying to empahsise my point), can do it too.  So I casually return to the apartment, (it is "witching hour"/ bed time, I am in no rush to be present), I retrieve my camera, and by the time I return, cars infront and behind me are gone.  So now I move my car off the street.  Who looks the fool now?  There is a police car parked in the middle of the road un-necessarrily, just screaming "I am enjoying a good happy hour, come get me later!"

Oh sorry, am I in you way???
So my endeavour to find an off-road park is not ABC.  The driveway that enters me to the land of heavenly parks is blocked by another patron thinking "I am too cool to park properly", "I am probably wearing my sunglasses at night", and "Yes, I am enjoying happy hour with my fellow police officer!"   So after a lot of driving and reversing, I manage a, shall we call "Roadie carpark", (not quite rockstar, but I still have a back stage pass).  Close, but not too far away that I plan to sell a child from the walk from the car to the apartment.

Long story short, (more like I made a short story long), I park where I want.  Not because I am arrogant, but because I have a funny feeling that if I parked my car in the middle of the road, and not on the kerb, the street cleaners would not give me a fine.  Another reason why I love Milan. Sensibility is soooo overated!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bergamo, not just a Turkish rug

Bergamo is a nice town about 40 mins drive from Milan. It is divided between Città Alta (High town), the oldest part, and Città Bassa (Low town), the newer part. Città alta is a typical medieval town, with nice middle age churches, a fantastic square and little shops selling chocolates, oils, clothes, post cards and Italia soccer shirts, (providing for most tourist everyday needs). The old and new town are linked by a funicular that was built in 1887, it was one of the first of its kind built in Italy.  Squished in like sardines, we made our way to the top with out too many squeals of complaint and personal space issues being voiced, (cheated a little as I threw a lolly in little ones mouth).

Call me 'snappy happy' but Bergamo Old Town seemed to provide a post card moment every corner I turned.  Protected by more than 5km of heavy duty walls, the town boasts medieval streets and alleyways that are shadowed by the numerous looming towers and belltowers.

Exiting from the funicular we headed up the main street to locate the information point and collect a map.  We were sidetracked by churches, frescos, fountains, chocolate shops and crazy eyed men shaving ham off pig hooves.

Daughter making a chocolate wish list
Would you buy ham from this man?

Before we knew it, we had arrived in the Piazza Vecchia.  Here we admired the beautiful surroundings and giggled at our daughter, (dressed like a princess, but holding her crutch with the inside of her elbow and ankles crossed), "I need to pee pee, I need to pee pee".  We found a free table in the piazza and set up camp; preparing for food, wine, an instant play centre and some serious people watching.  Strange how displaying 3 mini barbies, a london bus, a wind up Santa and tinkerbells friend in the ashtray and serviette holder can diminish the urge to pee??  "I don't need to pee, I just need to play!"  (She obviously does not have the bladder control of a mum who has given birth to 2 baby hippos...) Our prince slept in the pram coinciding with the initial half hour of poor table service we received, but true to form, woke when the delicious meal arrived.

casonsèi, ravioli stuffed with meat, local specialty

eggplant parmigiana

grilled vegetables and brie cheese

"I am queen of the world!"

Get that bell!

View of the Duomo
 Our daughter kept fleeing our table to climb the stairs of the Torre Civia, (Civic Tower), also known as Big Bell, (pretty self explanatory), so this was auto matically next on our adgenda.  Like 'Charlie and the Glass Elevator', we sped to the top of the 52 metre tower at high speed and were greeted by splendid views, down upon Piazza Vecchia, over the roofs of the historical centre, and towards the Alps.  On a really clear day you are supposed to be able to see the high rises in Milan.  We had the viewing platform to ourselves, so we took plenty of photos, played in a hanging Italian flag, and I chanted "I'm the queen of the world" to myself, (like Leonardo Decaprio in Titantic, it was just one of those moments).  The old bell of the tower sounds 100 times at 10pm everynight to symbolise the curfew time when the gates to the old town used to close.  How sentimental, I am sure the local residents with young children would love that!

After hovering over the duomo, we went 'down and out' to enter the masterpiece.  Twice in a week I have found myself sitting in a church looking like I am praying intently for the health of others, but really thinking "wow, cool art".  Beautiful frescos illuminated by the natural light of the windows on the dome, crisp fresco all with gold tips, appeared 3 dimensional.  It was so pretty and we remained inside until our children remembered the 'power of the echo'.  There was a crypt right next door, (advice, never underestimate the powerful beauty of a good crypt), so we quickly entered.  Its beauty was forbidden to be captured on film; please feel free however to purchase a fridge magnet, keyring or postcard from the makeshift tourist stand set up in the corner of the crypt...what the???


I wanted to lay down a mattress and take in the view!

Next stop Rocca (Fortress), we were off to slay some dragons and rescue a princess, but our princess fell asleep in the pram so there was no need to play out the theatrics when we arrived.  The Fortress was erected into an arsenal and housed into the first gun powder factory; turned into a barrack; turned into a prison; turned into a Bombardies School; turned into an antique relics house; turned into a historcal museum.  That's a lot of turning! This was a good chance for our prince to strech his little legs; soul mate to take in the cheers from a football game held over 2 kms away; princess to snore; and for me to catch a nunn pinching flowers and to reflect in the beauty so close to our home.

I am presuming it was the nunns garden?

Special steps for a prince!

Bergamo is more than just a name for a Turkish rug or the name of the town where you catch an aeroplane; it is a great day visit.

IF Interesting Fact
Bergamo endured extremely much less damage through World War II, than the surrounding areas, so there is still 'heaps of old stuff'.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Around the streets, Italian flags are slowly emerging creating a sense of patriotism. Italy may be a country that’s full of history, but as a country, is quite young. 1861 is the year recognized as the beginning of an independent and unified Italy, when the first Italian Parliament was assembled and the first King of Italy was declared. Around the streets, Italian flags are slowly emerging to represent Milans sense of patriotism and to celebrate 150 years since Italy was first unified as 'Italy'; and, more importantly, this year they have declared the day a ‘bank’ holiday on Thursday.  Friday is also a holiday for us because of this thing called a ‘bridge day’,  (so that the company doesn’t open for just 1 day), creating a long weekend: fare il ponte.

So what does one do to celebrate this day of unification?  Maybe we can go to France where everything is open still?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Permission to stay...AGAIN!

Since my handbag and personal belongings were permanently borrowed by an Italian, I have been slowly starting to replace all those missing items.  A new purse has been purchased, Italian bank card received, some loyalty cards replaced, and I evem managed to persuade my Australian Bank to send my new credit card to my parents address, (after a long heated discussion as to why I can not just collect it at my local Australian branch next time I am 'in the area').  Now it was time to get the ball rolling in regards to my permit to stay paperwork... AGAIN.

I would rather swim in a pool of freshly squeezed lemon juice while being covered from head to toe in paper cuts, then to negotiate the rocky path that is "Italian Paperwork".  I had my appointment at the post office last month, money was paid, paperwork signed and then I received my appointment for the police station one month following, again  This is when you get all your fingerprints done, again, provide photos, again, then wait another month or so before making another appointment to collect an ID permission to stay card, again.  Still perplexed as to why this type of thing is not on record, I have accepted that it is just 'the way things are done here'.  I also accept the fact that an appointment time is about as truthful as a second hand car sales man.  We arrive for our appointment at 8.25, (we are not the first appointment, I think they start them from 8 or 8.15), which is a little bizarre to me considering that the Police Station does not actually open until 8.30...

Finally called into the office, we are told that there appears to be a bit of a problem, again.  Our original permit to stay cards have not been cancelled.  We can not issue another permit to stay card until the originals are cancelled.  It takes one month to cancel the original cards.  So, I have a permit to stay, that I do not physically have, so I need to cancel it to get another one... comprehend?  Guess what?  I need to come back again.  Next month.  To get my fingerprints done then, again.  I should receive my permit to stay, again, a month or so after that, depending on the mood of the 'Italian Paperwork Mafia'.  Oh by the way, legally, you can not leave the country.  Is the EU just one big country?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Here kitty kitty kitty (part A)

So I am sitting on the couch with glass of wine in hand watching a movie.  I really should be ironing, but I am trying to make the most of my justified holiday (weekend).  Without our shutters closed, outside can be be a little noisy at night and I presume the motor sound I am hearing is a street cleaner outside. Hello there Mr Firemen.  Casually two firemen levitate past my window in a cherry picker.  I rub my eyes, check the wine bottle next to me to see how much I have drunk, then look at my husband to see if he saw it too, or perhaps I am napping and doing one of those 'man in uniform' type fantasies?

"Um, firemen just went past our window" soul mate tells me.  Phew, sanity in check.  Being the nosey, I mean concerned neighbour, that I am, we rush out onto the balcony.  There are two firetrucks in the drive way, and the cherry picker has stopped one level above our apartment.  A few minutes later, the firemen return down to the ground.  There are no extra bodies in their cage, nor is a basket of picked cherries visible.  I count 8 firemen that walk out of the foyer of our building and hop into the firetruck.  They drive away.

  • There was a kitty cat caught on the verandah
  • A fellow fireman had locked himself out of the apartment
  • There was a gas leak or fire that they did not need to tell other residents about
  • New way to deliver a singing telegram
  • Perhaps a medical emergency inside but no body recovered
  • I think we will stick with the kitty kitty kitty kitty!
I hate not knowing things and when we went to investigate this morning we discovered that our door man is on holidays for 2 weeks and the replacement was there.  Coincidence?  I think not... very suspicious. Now I have 2 weeks for my imagination and exaggerated thinking to bother me!  (I think I need to get out a bit more!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

It is ok in the face

Saturday saw the close of the week long celebration of Carnevale in Milano.  For anybody that is unaware, Carnevale is an opportunity for children to dress up in costume, (and adults also), and open permission is granted to litter the streets and throw confetti and streamers at random fellow community members.  You are not allowed to frown upon paper thrown directly in your face, nor are you to presume that this is actually some sort of assault. Also screaming "It burns, it burns!" while covering your face, will not deter others from continuing to throw objects at you.  Just smile. 

The commune of Milano organised a forcast of rain for the next week, so the community need not worry about the copious amounts of confetti littering the streets as I am sure it will all decompose quickly enough in the mud piles.  Similar to finding sand in bizarre places after a beach holiday, I think I will be cleaning up pieces of random confetti in the weeks to come.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Doing Duomo

I’ve never been a very religious person. I went to Sunday school under protest with my brother and sister for a few years, then I think my parents gave up with trying to direct us up that particular path. Christmas services were done for a while, Easter service dropped off pretty quickly, but we all attended a religious school; that was pretty much the extent of my religious encounters. (Apart from screaming for help from a higher power during child birth, but I am sure I am not the first female looking for a miracle at that particular white knuckled time!) 

I have spent nine months admiring Duomo di Milano, it can not be ignored.  When I surface from the bat cave that is the metro, my heart always flutters from the visual impact it punches.  It is not only the magnitiude of its size, but the beauty of statues that accompany it.

Dumo Cathedral is a major tourist attraction of Milan. It is one of the biggest Gothic Cathedrals in the world and it is the third largest church in the world, (after St. Peter's and Seville Cathedral). Construction started in 1386 and was completed in 1965. With over 500 years of construction, you'd think they would of put in a couple of public toilets and a coffee shop.

The hollow and large interior is full of history and there are roof terraces, with magnificent panoramic views of Milan. From a height of about 70 meters, you can admire a breathtaking view, framed by oodles of statues, pinnacles, designs and gothic columns. The roofs are covered in slabs of Candoglia marble, in a total area of 8,000 square meters.

The visit to the rooftop offers a closer look at the detailed spires and the gargoyles which beautify this area. There is an elevator which carried us right to the top to avoid the 201 stair climb, (smart move with 2 little ones). There was no where to leave the pram so this had to be folded and taken with us, and then we found a corner of the roof top to 'store it', (was a bit worried it would look like an abandoned back pack at Heathrow airport, but it was still there when we returned).  There were still some stairs to be climbed at the top and the surface was rather uneven; the children enjoyed the slopes and treated it as a playground.  Which was not ideal as hubby had the security guard blow his whistle at him and point to our wandering son.  There was a picture sign of adults holding children hands, no excuse for dilect confusion here.  My daughter did make a good point, "but that is not me mama, I do not have my hair up".  I can tell she will be queen of excuses as a teenager!

After taking in the beautiful views we entered the cathedral.  I have been inside before, but it is one of those places that seems to show you something new each time. I can’t say I had a religious moment, but I did have a spiritual one; I am so taken by this building, to me it is pure art.

IF Interesting Fact
A souvenir model of the cathedral was thrown at the nose of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi during an attack on December 13, 2009