What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: Milan

Another Day in Milan

I’m understanding a lot more Italian. I can even string a sentence together, but it usually takes me about ten minutes, so not great for conversation. Io ascolto ma non parlo. I actually managed to get that one out, I rather expected a round of applause, but let’s face it, every Italian’s English is better than that. What it does mean is that I can at least translate for the benefit of my family. “Why haven’t you put out enough chairs? How many are there? Seven! No, not seven, eight! Eight! I’ll count them, one two three four five six seven eight! See! Where’s another chair? Where should you sit? No, not there, over there, you’re not doing anything!”. There’s a lot of exclamation marks and a lot of hand waving and we get there in the end.

My husbands family have been very kind and escort us around their home town, a beautiful city chockers with churches and sculptures and beautiful apartment buildings. We walked past evidence today of the perils of trying to build anything here.

You can’t dig so much as a hole for a pot plant without turning up some Roman ruins. Apparently this turned out to be part of the Imperial compound back in the day when Milan was a big cheese in the Roman world, between the 200s and the 400s AD. Back in San Ambrogio’s time. Remember him? The dead guy in the glass case? Good times.

We start the day with a coffee. In Giorgio’s case, a fag and a coffee and a fag, everyone smokes here, but not inside, so that’s nicer than Austria.

The coffee shops are tiny and exquisite and just like all the tourist guides say, you stand up for your shot. I need to take a photo with a Travelling David Tennant for comparison. Next time. The kids have been loving the freshly squeezed orange juice that all the caf├ęs knock out. Our apartment even has an orange juicer. Not a toaster or a kettle, though.

And if you ask for a cappuccino after about ten o’clock in the morning, like my dear husband did, aspersions are cast on your sexuality. At least the coffee definitions are similar to Australia, I recognised the macchiato, unlike the giant mug of milk I got in Munich.

Then, as you do, you pop in for a squiz at The Last Supper. Actually, Isabella booked for us, they shuffle you through in groups of about thirty. You’re not supposed to take pictures, it’s famous enough to Google. Take note of the doorway the friars knocked through Jesus’s feet. The masterpiece is sadly faded, but incredibly impressive, especially compared to the picture by the poor sucker who got to paint the other end of the room. I did sneak a pic of that.

The Duke of Milan, who commissioned both works, got himself photo bombed into that painting, so he looks as though he was at The Crucifixion. Lucky he didn’t try to pull that one on Leonardo. The Horror got personally shushed twice, they didn’t want his piercing voice to shake the fragile plaster off the wall. He was making pertinent comments, I should add.

Later in the afternoon we had a demonstration of Italian driving, which apparently by national standards was very cautious. We were actually going to see the lake which, even in the rain, was very picturesque.

“Shouldn’t that guy have given way to you?” asked the husband. “In Italy the rules, they are more like approximations” Giorgio answered, swerving around a pedestrian who was foolishly trying to cross at a pedestrian crossing, as the Moose giggled nervously in the back seat. Later we saw some fine examples of double parking, parking on the median strip, leaving your car wherever you stop, really. Outside our apartment it is normal to park on the pavement, which means you have to get out by driving along the pavement.

Which means you have to look both ways before stepping out of your front door. I’m starting to have second thoughts about the advisability of driving around Tuscany.

Milano New Year’s Eve

There’s a familiarity about Italy that I blame on over twenty years living in Italian neighbourhoods. We went into a local supermarket yesterday, and the kids said it was just like Lamonica’s in our suburb, selling croccanti, crostoli, panettone, chinotto and a ton of Nutella. We’re here to meet my husband’s Italian family and last night we shared New Year’s Eve with them.

I think I’ve finally worked out the relationship. Here’s my husband with the woman who was married to his half-great uncle, Zia Nina.

Which makes her son Giorgio his half second cousin. I think. I’ve discovered that I can understand some of the conversations going on around me, and can sometimes answer a “come si dice?” question. For a brief period in May of 1984 I could actually speak Italian in whole sentences, sometimes even using correct tenses. There are echoes of this ancient skill still lingering and I hope I can drag some of it to the useful part of my brain in the next couple of weeks.

While my husband was discussing the family tree with cousin Giorgio and his fabulous wife Isabella, I was discussing the nature of colonials being obsessed with genealogy with a man who bore a striking resemblance to my father. Here he is with the Muffet.

Luciano is the godfather of Giorgio and Isabella’s daughter. He said that Italians are not interested in such things. The reason is that they know where they belong, and it is here. Giorgio has lived in his apartment for sessanto anni (sixty years). On a walk around Milan today he showed us the church where his parents were married.

It struck me for the first time what a wrench it must have been for all the Italians who live in my area to uproot themselves and travel half way around the world. No wonder they maintain such strong ties with their home village.

Anyway, the night was about the food. Mamma Mia, so much food. First some salumi, some carciofi, some Ligurian olives. Then some homemade lasagne Isabella’s friend Titi had made and brought. “You know lasagne?” she asked. Oh, how we laughed.

It was so good, and much lighter than the Southern version we were familiar with. I was wise to the ways of the Italian feast, so had left some room for the roast chicken that followed, but I was a bit worried my husband was going to burst at the seams. Especially as we must also have the fruit salad that Luciano had brought. It contained twelve fruits for the months of the year that had just been, and the Muffet and I managed to guess them all, though I’d argue that an almond is not really a fruit. I really liked it in the fruit salad, though, made a mental note. Then we had to eat a bunch of grapes naming the months as we ate each one (a good refresher). And then, of course, the panettone which is far nicer fresh than after it has spent months at sea to arrive at Lamonica’s. Also torrone, of which I’m very fond, especially the Venetian version brought by Titi that looked like the Alps. And chocolate. Very lucky. Then more champagne, which wasn’t champagne but a lovely light dry prosecco claimed by our hosts to be far superior to that French rubbish you spend so much money on. And then the fireworks lit by the local lads out on the street which were very entertaining, especially after one lot fell over and started randomly strafing them.

So now I know what it is like to have a food hangover on New Years Day rather than the conventional kind. But Isabella still has a fridge full of food for us to eat that she didn’t manage to serve last night, so we soldier on. I’m going to have to move in to the gym when we get home.