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Milan -- A Local Woman's Point-of-View


Fun in every direction...

Anyone who has lived in Milan for any length of time will confirm what I say. Where else in the world would you have such a mind-boggingly difficult time deciding where to get away for a break? North, south, east and west, there is fun in every direction from this city.

If you want sea, then you have the Liguria coast about two hours away. Just jump on a train and it's all laid out for you. Following the train line, you have all the resorts you could care to visit, all of which are written up in the guidebooks. One example: take the train to Santa Margherita, then a boat to Portofino, another boat to Camogli where you can pick up the train to return to Milan.

Lake Como is just twenty minutes on the train, with departures every hour. Como itself is a pretty little town. Check out the "fun" street market on Saturdays. From there, take the cable-car to Brunate which affords a fabulous view of the area. Boat-rides galore too. Even the commuter-boat offers some lovely options. Check out Moltrasio, for example. Como is not the only lake, though. Other include Maggiore, Iseo, and Lecco which is in fact the second-leg of Lake Como the other side of Bellagio. Now that is a truly lovely little town!

Past Lecco you get to mountains. This area is known as the Valtellina which has more mountain scenery than you can shake a stick at. Plus, of course just over these Alps you are in Switzerland. Indeed, the "little red" train that leaves from Tirano takes you to Saint Moritz over the Bernina Pass which is 2400 metres high and pretty impressive I can tell you.

Skiing of course is an important winter option. Just one hour by car and you can be on the piste. Piano di Bobbio at Lecco is one option but there are plenty more.

For when one wants countryside, Piacenza and Pavia is the direction to head for. Visiting vineyards, picking mushrooms, or just savoring the sights are there for the offering in this area. Watch out, though. You might just decide that a country-house in this area is just what is needed.

Then again, if a weekend in the country is not what you fancy but a bit of culture is, then think Vigevano, Cremona, Crema, Piacenza, Novara, to name but a few. All an easy day-trip. Slightly further afield, you have Verona, Vicenza, and even Venice which is about a four-hour drive.

However you decide to spend the weekend, great food and wine are always to be had. Don't be in too much of a hurry to see things that you neglect to try the local specialties. In our part of the country, this is an extremely pleasant way to spend time and get to know the country.

Happy exploring, everybody!

Taxi Talk...

Don't try hailing a cab in Milan -- or any other city in Italy for that matter. You can stand on the curb and wave your arms as much as you like, but they probably won't see you because they are not looking. The fact is that, while in New York and other places, cabs cruise and you hail them, in Italy they are always busy -- either delivering a passenger and thus out of commission, or heading for a taxi rank, and ditto.

So what to do? The Italian taxi trick is that you meet up with them at the above-mentioned taxi ranks. And where are they? Well, outside stations and airports of course, in most main squares, and intersections.

Alternatively, you can call a taxi. Or you get your hotel, a restaurant, or bar to call one for you. In the latter case, I think they get a cut from the cab-company, so they are more than glad to do it. I have even stepped into a hotel I was passing and asked them to call a cab for me. Which they did.

There is a fixed charge for the call-out, and then the ride is metered. There are extra charges for luggage over a certain amount, as well as after 11pm. In Milan, as in most Italian cities, tipping is not compulsory.

Not feeling well...

Perish the thought that you should need such a thing but, just in case a doctor's assistance is required while you are in Milan -- or a dentist, gynaecologist, chiropractor for that matter -- feel free to call upon the Milan Clinic. Not only English-speaking but -- more importantly British - or US-trained medics are available by appointment from Monday to Friday 9:00 am - 7:00 pm.

Take a note of the number: 02 76016047. The address is 25 Via Cerva, which is round the corner from Via Durini, one of the city's most elegant shopping streets. Metro stop: San Babila, buses 73, 60, 84, trams: 27, 12, 4.




More about Italian restaurant etiquette and train travel......



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