|I just returned from a changed City of Milan. I had been
there on business many times and ranked it very low on my list of favorite
Milan is a very large city spread out over vast distances. The
city was mainly destroyed in 1944-5 and what grew out of the rubble was
tasteless and hastily rebuilt. I didn’t see one truly fashionable area
with villas of old and landscaping to be proud of.
The newest, most functional set of buildings is about 50 KM out to the
northwest. Here, Malpensa airport greets and dispenses vast numbers of
The airport replaces linate, which cannot take the volume of traffic
and jumbo jets. Linate to the southeast is only 10 KM from the city
center. These statistics bring me to the story that made front-page news
in countries around the world. In mid April, a small plane, carrying only
a Swiss pilot, crashed into the side of the city’s tallest building, the
The incident was frightening enough considering the building is only
yards from the bustling main railway station and facing a huge square and
convergence of streets, always teeming with people.
What made it more frightening to the locals was the instant recall of
9-11 when the world turned a page and faced a new form of terrorism.
My conversation with the staff at my Una Century Hotel proved that the
happenings in New York last September are on the minds of people daily,
the world over.
Lucia, the desk manager said her knees buckled. The fear among those
close by was monumental. The Una Century hotel in only yards from the
ill-fated Pirelli building. And even though it was only a single engine
plane, the noise, the shattered glass, the ripped out window frames and
the screaming sirens that followed, created a panic in the normally
peaceful city. For the ten days that I was there I saw gawkers arriving at
the train station with their families, pointing out the destruction of a
once proud building.
Luckily there were few deaths. But the television cameras rolled and
interviews were conducted for days with the bruised building in the
I was amazed to walk around the building and see where parts of the
plane went right through to the other side. Debris was everywhere. Glass
and metal falling twenty-seven stories became a hazard and the police
quickly cordoned off the streets.
But the people soon learned to take alternative ways home. The city
survived. The building was under repair and life went on. But that was
mainly because the people accepted the fact that the Swiss airman had
acted alone and weather the accident was caused by technical malfunction
or the pilot’s wish to commit suicide became academic.
The fact is that the Milanese accept it as an accident. Life continues
but there is a new sense of fear that 9-11 could happen anywhere. Yes,
I continued my work in Milan and visited the
major venues filled with tourists and merchants selling their wares. The
product changes with every visit. Now in the Duomo Square, hawkers sold
duck hand puppets.
Business was brisk at 3 Euros each. I revisited
that famous Gothic Cathedral and had a wonderful view of the city center
from the roof. I walked through the Victor Emmanuel Gallaria with the
fashionable eateries and shops.
I watched people placing their heels on a mosaic of a bull and twirling
with glee. I discovered that this tradition of placing your heel on the
spot where the bull’s testicles would normally be meant that you would
one day return to Milan. The tile has been worn through. All that remains
is the circular indentation.
I walked through to the square where Leanardo Da Vinci’s statue faces
the neoclassical Teatro alla Scala. Unfortunately the great opera house is
closed for repairs for two years. Perhaps that is why Leonardo looked so
sad. The operas go on, but in another, more modern theatre
I then headed for the rather stark looking ‘Castello Sforzesco’
built centuries ago by the Sforza family that ruled much of Lombardy. The
tour buses were lined up as visitors entered and left. It is a testimony
to a lost generation but average at best. The exception is the museum that
contains one of Michaelangelo’s last sculptures, the Rondanini Pieta.
The visit to the monestary near Santa Maria della Grazie, where the Da
Vinci’s mural of the Last Supper is on view was a personal
disappointment. Not because of the great work of art but because one can
only enter by appointment. Luckily, I had seen it before. Even though it
is in a questionable state of repair, when you consider the age and the
wartime destruction, it’s a wonder that the great work of art remains at
all. When you go, make a reservation.
The best experience I had was on the tiny passageway streets off the
fashionable Monte Napoleone. This is the area Milan is famous for.
Especially on the via della Spiga.Here the great designers of fashion have
their main outlets. I was Feragamo, Gucci, Gianfranco Ferre, Krizia, Prada
and even Tod’s Hogan where the shoes cost a king’s ransom. But it was
fun looking and watching the other shoppers. After all one has to be in
fashion and the abundance of beautiful women in the area made it all
Of course, there are ways to shop without paying those prices. Milan
has an abundance of markets. Ask at your hotel which ones operate on each
day. But remember, they will probably be outside the main city center.
My last night in Milan was spent with friends at what I think is the
city’s best restaurant. The Mediterranea grill Restaurant di Mare is
located within walking distance of the station at Piazza Cincinnato, 4
(angle Via S. Gregario). Here you can enjoy the freshest sea food served
with special care. The owners, Valerio and Maurizio Stumpo are proud of
their establishment and rightly so.
The warm and modern atmosphere offers authentic cooking based mainly on
fresh fish, shellfish and lobsters from their own aquarium. Their menu
includes fresh vegetables such as truffles, asparagus and artichokes. The
house sauces make the meals memorable and the wine cellar contains over
200 Italian and French vintages.
The service was impeccable and the personnel friendly to a fault.
Don’t worry about the language. Their staff has a working knowledge of
The restaurant is quite sophisticated and their philosophy makes them
ready to serve your needs. My sweet tooth was more than satisfied with the
ample portion of Tiramissu served with excellent coffee.
I suggest you make a reservation. Call 29 522 076 Credit cards
I walked back to my hotel via the Central Station. People were
still looking up at their wounded building. One could feel their loss.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)