The weather the next day was lovely, as we took the short walk from our apartment, downhill towards the ferry station, in order to catch the boat to Lecco. There were not many passengers on the ferry and we enjoyed spectacular views as we headed south. There didn't appear to be many people around and we headed towards a number of ferry stops where people neither joined or departed the boat.
On arrival in Lecco, we left the boat, saying goodbye to the waters of Lake Como for the last time. Oddly the Ferry Station apparently doubled up as the terrace of a restaurant, meaning that we had to be careful as we slalomed our way through the people partaking of brunch, with our suitcases. Whilst in Bellagio we had noticed that there was an exhibition of the brilliant French photographer Robert Doisneau being held at Palazzo Delle Paure in Lecco and had decided we would head to that before getting some food and then,, onto Milan.
After some initial hesitation, the staff agreed that we could leave our suitcases with them, whilst we visited the gallery. As well as temporary exhibitions, like the Doisneau one, their is also a permanent modern art collection on display and a sort of Alpine museum, which is where the lift took us first. It was good to see pictures of mountain climbers from last century, wearing virtually a good pair of Brogues and a Harris Tweed jacket as they ventured up the mountains. What the modern climber has gained from modern fibres and and innovations around the weight of clothing they have surely lost when it comes to sartorial elegance.
The Doisneau exhibition was beautiful, so many gorgeous images of France captured in crisp black and white. It was funny to see how many of these iconic pictures had cropped up on the covers of records that I have bought over the years.
From the gallery, we decided to head towards the Railway Station. It was a short but rather confusing walk as there appeared to be no signs to give us any clues. Of course our smartphones guided us in the right direction but even allowing for that, we were virtually next to the station before we realised that we had found it. We had grabbed some food in a bar opposite the station, then realised the train to Milan was due very soon.
We dashed in to the station and on to the concourse which runs below platform level, having worked out which platform we needed, I purchased the tickets, then dashed to the platform in search of the all important little machine that will validate your ticket before you travel. Of course there was no sign of one, so I had to run back downstairs, managing to locate one and then hurtle back up the stairs, making the train with a minute or two to spare! The train was busy, yet we were able to find seats and find room for our luggage in the overhead racks.
We were on our way to Milan for the first time since March 1995, when we had ventured over on a football weekend. At the time Britain was very taken with Italian football, this was due to the success of the Italia ’90 World Cup and that in 1992 Channel 4 had started showing a live Italian game each week. Maybe even more importantly, they also had a brilliant Saturday morning magazine show called Gazzetta Football Italia hosted by our man in Italy, James Richardson. As well as being well informed and witty when it came to football, he also provided us with an insight to wider aspects of Italian culture, lifestyle and even politics that made you desperate to find out more about the country and it’s people.
Our trip then was a whistle stop affair, providing an introduction to the city and a visit to the iconic San Siro stadium to see Inter take on Juventus. These two giants of the the Italian game featured some legendary attacking players that day. We saw Bergkamp, Vialli, Ravanelli and Del Piero and still the teams managed to produce a classic Italian 0-0 draw but we were thrilled to be there. Our return visit was long overdue.
We arrived at Milano Centrale, the main station in Milan and one that is huge in scale. We had some time to kill before meeting the owner of the apartment which would be our home for the next week. This station is a good place to kill time as simply walking from our platform to the exit at the front of the building would take some time. We thought that as we had arrived mid afternoon on a Saturday, we may as well have something to eat here, as a way to use up some time. Eventually we opted for a Japanese style noodle place (when in Rome and all that!) and had a rudimentary meal. Then we ventured outside to walk towards the Brera district where we would be staying for the next week. We still had plenty of time to play with, so decided to take the journey on foot.
Via Vittor Pisani is a long, wide, dead straight road in the middle of the business district. During the week it’s a hive of activity as workers move around. On this Saturday afternoon though, the place was eerily quiet, just the occasion groups of homeless people or street hawkers sheltering from the hot sun, as we dragged our case’s along the deserted street. We had decided to make for the Montanelli Park, in the hope that we could enjoy a drink whilst sitting on a park bench. We were in luck, Il Chiosco Di Pippo, is a little cafeteria, that met our needs whist we awaited final instruction that our host was ready for us.
Text messages were exchanged and soon, we were being cheerily greeted and waved into a lovely apartment which oozed Italian class and sophistication. There was even an area for a doorman stationed behind a desk in the lobby area, although he didn’t do weekends or evenings, so sadly we weren’t ever to get on first name terms with him. That evening we had a brief walk around the local area and its fair to say that Brera is not short on places to eat. Being a Saturday evening, a large number of people who were out and about, looking for fun and food on this a perfect summer evening.
As ever, where to have the first meal in a holiday destination is a ridiculously difficult decision. We wonderd around for some time, trying to look nonchantly at menu’s, hoping that people wouldn’t try to tempt us in their place. A few tried, including a rather elderly waiter who, on discovering we were English, was very keen to tell us that saw Jimi Hendrix play at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 and then rattle off a list of place names from around the country. We smiled and moved on. Eventually we did decide on a place, only to be told that they were just about to close! Finally we settled for a simple Aperitivo snack outside a small bar, then went back to our apartment for an early night. There was a lot of Milan to see and tomorrow would be a busy day.