Friday, June 13, 2008

milano on the brain

i've been home a full week now and i'm still thinking of italy. sure, i can communicate more smoothly and quickly here in new york. i know where to get the good ice cream in chinatown (the ice cream factory) and that i can't transfer from the F train to the uptown 6 at broadway/lafayette without going above ground, and even though i was stumbling around like the ignorant newbie that i was in milan, i'm still thinking of it.

ej and i noticed that we never, never saw anyone in italy walking around with a coffee to-go. even in a busy city like milan, there were no suits hurrying down the sidewalk, yammering on their cell phone and carrying a paper cup of hot coffee. it was civilized. more than once, i witnessed people who were in a hurry, park their scooter, go inside and order an espresso, drink it at the counter, and two minutes later they were speeding off into traffic. now that's what i like to see. making time, even if it's just a little, to give the important things in life the attention that they deserve.

and it wasn't just a coffee thing. i noticed that food in general is a priority and is treated that way. when matteo brought back two tubs of gelato from rigoletto, they were carefully wrapped in paper as if they were gifts. the canoncini from the good bakery near the duomo gently placed our order of those baked delicacies on a tray and wrapped it with paper and tied it with a ribbon. the best focaccia bakery in the world is in recco and they wrap their warm-from-the-oven bread the same way, and when laura requested a plastic bag to carry it in, the bakery resisted stating that the plastic would make the focaccia sweat and would ruin the wonderful texture of it.

what a beautiful thing.

there were a few other things i learned about life in milan:
  • the drivers honk much much less than the drivers in manhattan. in nyc, the honking is virtually constant and expected. heck, they put up signs in some neighborhoods prohibiting it. in milan, i think i heard a car horn twice the whole time i was there.
  • many people ride bicycles in milan. business people. in suits. and skirts. we saw one guy all suited up, smoking a big stogie while cruising on his bike.
  • contrary to the stereotype in my head, the trains run on time in italy. at least, the trains that we took. on a couple of occasions, this worked against us.
  • the stop signs all say "stop". in english.
  • "bruschetta" is pronounced broo-sket-ta (not broo-shet-ta) and steve buscemi's last name is properly pronounced boo-sheh-mee and not any other variation that i've tried.
  • it's not unusual to see the honor system in use there. get on the bus and have yourself a seat. you can enter from any of the doors and you don't have to show a ticket. we tested this many times, successfully, until one sunday when javi was trapped on a bus where officials boarded to have a surprise ticket check. he had to pay a 30 euro fine (approx $45). we made sure we had tickets after that. one of my favorite cafes also used the honor system. they had a huge table laden with baskets of fresh pastries from which you could help yourself. when you left, you simply told the cashier how many you ate. and that's how i learned to say "seven" in italian.

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