Milan & Genoa
22.12.2005 14 °C
5th November 2005
As I sat in the train on my way to Milan from Venice, I realised that there were only 25 days left before the curtain would come down on my European Adventure. It is hard to believe that time has flown so quickly. The radio announcement interrupted my ponderings as I realised Milan was approaching. A city of 1.3 million people, Milan is the financial and fashion capital of Italy. I found it rather disheartening to see Lonely Planet describing it as "surprisingly scruffy city offering the best in Italian clothes, theatre and nightlife - and not a lot else."
Luckilly for me, my visit here had less to do with the sightseeing of the city, and more to do with catching up with one of its inhabitants, my friend Gheri (whom I first met in Bratislava). Gheri, a fellow badminton enthusiasts, had somehow managed to organise a game of competitive badminton for me, playing for a club of Milan vs another club from Genoa. So the plan was to meet up with Gheri and we would then travel to Genoa, south of Milan for the game before making our way south to Cinque Terre (the 5 terraces) and Florence.
After a few frustrating text 'tagging', Gheri and I managed to find one another at the busy train station. We went into the heart of the city to eat lunch and Gheri said he would like to show me around and so I told him how Lonely Planet advised that I shouldn't bother unless I'm going shopping. He must have taken personal offence to his city being described that way as General Gheri rushed us through lunch and then dragged me to see what he described as the best duomo ("cathedral") this side of Europe. I must admit, I didn't take him too seriously with that boast as I was sure Lonely Planet would definitely not leave out such important information. It mentioned a duomo, but simply that it was commissioned in 1386 to a lunatic French Gothic design and finished 600 years later. Didn't seem hardly that interesting. This was...until I came face to face with it..
Never since the Sigrada Familia had a church made me drop my jaw that wide as when I saw this cathedral. This was only one side of the building and it is incredibly gothic in design. The uniquely designed church with its high spires and finely detailed gilding walls were rather impressive. In terms of the size, it would certainly be bigger than Notre Dame or the West Minister Abbey, and in area size, you could easily fit in 2 rugby fields.
Ok, Gheri 1, Lonely Planet 0. As we made our way into the church to have a look around, Gheri pointed to a print of Da Vinci's masterpiece, "The Last Supper" and asking me whether did my Lonely Planet (could have sworn he snorted as he said the name) mention that while this was a print, the original of this amazing painting is also housed in Milan. After a quick flick through the book, I was tempted to use it to swipe that gloating look off his face..*sigh* Gheri 2, Lonely Planet 0.
After the church, we made our way towards this huge indoor shopping centre. Perhaps to illustrate that Lonely Planet wasn't totally wrong, Gheri pointed out that this centre hosts all the famous designer clothing store and sure enough, Gucci, Giorgio Armani and Valentino gold lettered signs appear on both sides as we walked through the busy arcade. McDonalds further confirmed that it does have a store everywhere. It was rather disturbing in order to keep up with the 'chic' style of the shopping centre where the letters forming the outlets' names are gold with the background being black, McDonalds looked so upmarket suddenly with this design. Location, location, location!
The massive and impressive shopping centre!
We walked around the main square too and visited a few more places (thankfully mentioned in LP) before heading home to have dinner with Gheri's parents (whom he was living with). Nothing eventful to report except to point this out to you guys. Everywhere in France, Italy and Spain, it is very common for the bathrooms to also include the toilets. However, the first time I walked into one, I was perplexed to see two toilets in one bathroom. I was like ok...so some people like company while they do their no.2's...I was later advised by my French friend, Ralphy that the "Bede" is not really a toilet, but it's for err..*blush* women to wash themselves (the French's chic-ness knows no boundaries). I couldn't resist but take a picture to show you what they look like:
I wonder if NZ would ever catch on to this..Think of it like a bird bath...
6th November 2005
We started nice and early for our drive to Genoa (or pronounced Genova here by the locals). The ride was uneventful as we were simply on the motorway most of the time. Two hours later, we arrived at the badminton hall and I felt good during the warm up but it was very apparent to me as the games went on that I have lost a lot of my court fitness and leg strength. It didn't take long before my calves scream in pain with each movement and my arms tiring fast. So all in all, I didn't play too particularly well but I did have lots of fun. Gheri was happy to play paparazzi for the day.
Everyone there was really friendly and I learnt a few terms in Italian that we normally use badminton like "Alle!" (Go!), "Bella" (good shot) and Andiarmo!! (equivallent to Leyton Hewitt's COME ON!!!)
Started off really well...
Thanks Gheri for making me look better than how I actually played!
After the games and a much needed shower, Gheri and I headed off for a mini sightseeing of Genova, a port city of Italy. The most interesting feature for me are how there's lots of 'striped' buildings, including churches. Gheri advised that this was common of old buildings in northern Italy.
The main church in the heart of the town in 'striped' design.
The justice building at the main square of Genova.
It was a nice way to unwind and we checked in at the local youth hostel for what I anticipated to be another uneventful evening of resting before making our way to Cinque Terres tomorrow. However, desitiny had other plans for us.
While checking in, there was this crew cut blonde haired guy who looked a bit rough on the edges who was waiting behind us to also check in. I didn't like the way he was looking at me but by now, have learnt to ignore these kinds of attention. Anyhow, after we settled in, we were just hanging out chatting what we're going to do tomorrow when this guy that we saw earlier at the reception knocked on our door and asked us what floor is his room on..of course, he has the key that's something like 204 which of course meant that he was on the 2nd floor so I didn't particularly think his request for help was genuine. Anyhow, he ended up hanging around and chatting to us. He couldn't speak much English but he could speak Italian and pretty much he was chatting to Gheri but he kept looking over at me, as if to size me up..and I felt like a well chopped piece of meat sitting on a scale being measured by worth..that was how it felt like. It became clear very quickly to us that he was on his own and was looking for some 'fun'. He was quick to point out that he was a stripper and I think if we even gave him the slightest encouragement, he would be on his feet right away taking his gear off! It took us a good 2 hours of strongly hinting that we're not keen to go out (and I had to personally say no like 5 times!)before he finally made his departure and left us in peace.
The rest of evening luckilly went by more sedately. From our room, we got this amazing view of the city as you can see from the pictures below. I made sure I took a picture in the morning before we depart for Cinque Terres.b
The cerulean blue sea hugging the coast of Genova. Bella vista! (Beautiful view)
AO Rating: Milan's visit was brief and besides the Cathedral, I think Lonely Planet was quite on the mark about the place and unfortunately Milan wasn't as attractive to me due to not being within the realms of purpose of my visit, i.e historical sightseeing. As for Genova, it was more a brief stop to confirm that I have indeed got my work cut out for me when I go back to NZ in terms of getting back into shape for the next badminton season. The night with the stripper was exactly interesting to say the least. Little did I know then that this was not my last encounter of the stripping kind...So I guess my overall impression of Genova? Stripes and Strips! :-P