After a couple of pleasant, if wet, days at the chalet in the Alps, we drove down through the mountains to northern Italy. Destination: the Milano area, specifically Sesto Calende, near Lago Maggiore.
More marvelous scenery as went up and down the steep slopes, through tunnels, across snow-fed streams.
We had Sunday afternoon free before the AgustaWestland-CAE Rotorsim media event kicked off in the evening with a fabulous dinner at a local pub. So we got directions from Antonio in hotel reception and drove into central Milan in quest of the Castello Sforzesco, a restored castle complete with moat (dry now) and drawbridge. The castle houses multiple museums, a good option in case it rained again. Cost for a day pass - 3 Euros each.
After checking out intricately carved coffin stones and other ancient Roman statues, then some of the knights' armor, we wandered into the enormous open courtyard - perhaps four football/futbol fields in size, maybe more. Along the centre spine of the courtyard there were tents; they were having a farmers' market with cheese, sausages, wine, confections, and the like.
One tent at the end was selling sandwiches, so I got prosciutto on a huge roll and Donna-Lane got the salami. Think it was my first prosciutto, and it tasted great. Ended up sharing some of D-L's salami as well. Cost us 7 euros (for both), which was better than wandering the streets of downtown Milan to try to find a restaurant open on a Sunday afternoon.
We sat on a stone bench in front of several ancient gravestones and people-watched. About halfway through the sandwich, D-L tore off some bread crumbs and tossed them toward a nearby pigeon. Within seconds, a flock of pigeons was swarming right in front of us -- it looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie. We managed to divert them by throwing more breadcrumbs, but further away. A little boy, about 3, and a couple of pre-teen girls were chasing the pigeons, trying to catch one of them by hand but never coming close. The girls, winded, ended up sitting next to D-L at one point.
Later, as we drifted in search of the musical instruments museum, we came across another open courtyard, this one considerably smaller, maybe 100 feet square, but filled with children and adults flying kites!
On the way back to the car, we strolled through a huge park, where they were cleaning up from a women's 10K run that was in the final stages when we first arrived. Then I spotted something I'd been wanting all day - gelatto! I got a chocolate cone and D-L took a chance on a flavor she'd not had before, hazelnut. Delicioso! Only 2 Euros each.
Oh, the video. On the far side of the castle, we could see a massive fountain through the archway. Outside the castle gate there were street vendors, a traveling truck selling drinks and italian ices, and a living statue dressed in a period costume. Maybe 18th century?
When Donna-Lane tossed a coin in the statue's tip box, the young man beckoned D-L to join him on the podium. He gracefully kissed her hand, and posed for pictures.
Tough way to make a living.
After finding our way back to the hotel, we drove around for about an hour exploring the lake district. Decided we want to go back to Milano some day, maybe more than once. And maybe with more than about 20 Euros in change in our pockets.
(Realized as we left the city that all we had to do was hit an ATM machine for plenty of Euros. But it was fun nonetheless, sightseeing on the cheap.)