Monday, July 11, 2011

Forza Italia!!

So many factors determine what makes a successful country but sometimes its pretty easy to see at once what problems exist.  My Roman friend, Angelo, said in the past that when Italy got into troubles, it simply devalued the Lire again and immediately they were competitive again and became (temporarily) more successful.  Now its part of the Eurozone it has zero ability to do something similar again so its economy continues to slumber and drift but that isn't why I think Italy will never rise above where it is right now.  I think its down to road signs.

How can anywhere seriously look to grow if at no point in time does anyone not from the locale know where they are?  (Brussels is just as bad by the way but they have the excuse of trying to tell people where they are on their tunnel ring road ... which is gibberish to anyone not from Brussels).  I'd chosen a hotel in a business district -- on the subway but a couple of kms away from the centre.  However the road signs wherever they existed were pitiful.  I'd written down instructions given by the hotel themselves which were simply useless.  They may as well have been written by a 4-year old.  Ali called the hotel and tried to tell them where we were -- a tough thing in itself -- but the hotel said if he gave instructions, they'd be useless so refused to provide any.  So Ali asked a guy getting cigarettes from a shop who said "follow me" which we did which was how we found the hotel.

I cannot hammer Milan and Italy too much as all cities have traffic issues and have instituted mazy one way systems all around their city centres making driving a miserable task for any that do not have a GPS.  Next time I will get a GPS!

8 stops on the metro later and we walked out into the Piazza del Duomo and boy what a duomo it is.  My chum in York Minster had told me that the Minster was #2 in the duomo size rankings in the northern hemisphere after Milan and where York is all business (courtesy of the Reformation), Milan is all ostentation.  But what magnificent ostentation!

We took it in a bit and then bimbled on and around the inner part of the city centre finally settling on a restaurant for some risotto milanese and the result of Ali's internet research regarding the cotolette.

Both wiener schnitzel and the cotolette have only been around since the mid-1800's when Milan had fallen into the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire -- this was fairly recent as Boney (again) had rolled up all of Italy by 1803 and had himself crowned King of Italy.  Before this the Duchy of Milan was an independent city state, a position it had held under the Sforza family since medieval times.  Whether the cotolette beat the schnitzel into existence depends on your perspective -- whether you are Italian or Austrian.  The Italians of course believe that their Cotolette Milanese is pre-eminent while Austrians believe the wiener schnitzel came first.  The important thing is that Ali was able to chow down on both in order to make a definitive conclusion as to which was best.

He said they were both as nice as one another.

Next day we headed out on the hop on hop off bus tour which was good (they'd all been good, the only dodgy one being the tourist train in Ljubljana) and enabled us to have an early dinner before heading out to the Roger Waters' show.  More risotto milanese but this time no cotolette.

The show was held at Mediolanum Forum in an outskirt called Assago.  Mediolanum is the old Roman name for Milan.  But we'd had some interesting debate on its whereabouts with the receptionist at the hotel which went something like this:

"Can you let me know where the Mediolanum Forum is?  We are going to a show there tomorrow and would like to know how to get there."


"Mediolanum Forum.  Its in a place called Assago."

"For-Uma-Sago.  Never heard of it."

Ah, so it DOES exist!
"You don't know where the stadium is?"

"What?  San Siro??"

"No, not San Siro.  Its another stadium where they have shows and that sort of thing."

"You want to buy some shoes?"

"No, no.  Shows.  Things like concerts, basketball games.  That sort of thing."

"You cannot get shoes there."

"No, I know.  Its the stadium at Assago."

"Aah, you mean Foro Assago?  Its not very close.  Very difficult to get to from here."

"OK, but you do know it then?"

"Of course.  Who doesn't know the Foro Assago?  Concerts and basketball matches happen there."

"Yes, yes and that is where we are going tomorrow."

"You want to go there tomorrow?"

"Yes, tomorrow evening.  We'd like to know how to get there."

"Its very difficult."

"Yes, so you said.  So how would we get there?"

"You could take the Metro to this stop and then get a bus."

"Great, so that's how.  How long will it take?"

"Ooh, long time.  Depends on traffic.  Maybe one hour."

"What if we got a taxi?  How long would that take and what would it cost?"

"You want a taxi now?"

"No, maybe for tomorrow.  To get to Foro Assago, how long would it take?"

"Depends on traffic.  Maybe 20, 25 minutes."

"OK and how much would it cost?  Just an estimate."

"Maybe 20 Euros".

Ali was having trouble not laughing out loud at this exchange but at least we had a plan.  We'd take a taxi there and wing it coming back by following the crowd.

And this is what we did and remarkably easy it was for to nobody's knowledge the Metro line had in fact been extended out to Foro Assago so getting back after was a breeze.

The show itself was great of course and I think RW had made a couple of small changes (for the better) since I last saw it in Antwerp.  The solo on 'Comfortably Numb' for example was extended, better and more showcased.  Our seats were good too, right next to the wall on the right hand side.  The stadium was full and audience enthusiastic.  Shame RW didn't do an encore.

Big come down tomorrow though as we were about to turn north and head for home.

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