The Old Fogies go to the San Siro Stadium in Milan

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When we went racing at the San Siro Ippodromo, Mr Curmudgeon couldn’t resist a visit the San Siro Stadium could he, even though it was over 30 degrees in the sun, we took the relatively short walk to the stadium to have a look see, although as you can imagine I was not too keen.

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The stadium is set in a large concrete area and stands four square and proud in the middle of the concrete plain.  To me the stadium itself looked very industrial, it was originally designed by architect Ulisse Stacchini and engineer Alberto Cugini in the 1920s but has been renovated a few times since. Mr Curmudgeon, guidebook in hand enlightened me by relating that the Chairman of A.C. Milan at the time Piero Pirelli, promoted the construction of the football stadium and the horserace course next to it. Although it is known around the world as the ‘San Siro’, the stadium is actually called the Giuseppe Meazza stadium, it was renamed in the 1980s after Giuseppe Meazza, one of the most famous Milan players.  

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The stadium is rectangular in shape, different from the modern British stadium which tend to be oval and bowl like, the San Siro has four corners and a large number of circular walkways that lead to different levels of seating.  Mr Curmudgeon described these to me as tyres (tyres, Pirelli, there is a connection), I could see his point.

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Mr Curmudgeon wanted to walk all round the stadium, I have already said it was over 30 degrees, he is obviously going a bit senile, but walk it we did and I was extremely pleased that we had.  At gate number 9 you can walk up and pay for a tour, cost of which was only Adults €17, Seniors and children (6-14) €12, Children under 6 are free, which is really reasonable.  We did not have time for the tour because of the horse racing, but the tours run every hour and allows you full access to the dressing rooms, pitch and hospitality.

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The other place it allows access to is the shop, however, at gate 14 you can enter the shop, unlike British stadium the shop is inside the gate, so when we arrive at gate 14 we went in.  The stadium is home for both Milanese teams, AC Milan and Internationale and the shop is split into 2 distinct areas for each of the teams, the black and red of AC and the blue and black for Internationale, but the real joy of the shop is there is a window onto the pitch.  Mr Curmudgeon immediately got his camera out and started taking pictures of the pitch, covered for a concert at the time we visited, and the seating, which goes up an awful long way.  I am not sure you would get a good view of the match at the top unless you were using binoculars though.

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Having exited the shop, we continued around the stadium, finally reaching the point where we started, it had took quite a long time to traverse the stadium but it was worth it in the end.  Mr Curmudgeon forehead, which goes a long way back these days was bright red, I was feeling pretty smug because I had my trusty race day hat on.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Old Fogies ride the Number 1 tram in Milan

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The transport system in Milan is quite extensive, albeit difficult for a visitor to understand as there are no real maps of the entire system.  On the day following our arrival in Milan we purchased a 48-hour travel pass, cost of which is only 8.25 Euro per person, again I had to negotiate the ticket machine, but they are really easy to work.  This ticket allows full access to all Milan’s transport options including, buses, trams and the metro, it is important to note that you must validate your ticket at the start to prevent inspector fines.

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The number 1 tram goes from Piazza Firenze to the centre of Milan and as it’s number indicates was probably the first tram route, although this is guess work, the trams were certainly not as modern as other trams on the network. 

Each tram stop has a map showing where the tram goes and an electronic indicator telling you when the tram is due to arrive, as a side note you need to be careful crossing the roads as the tram line traverse many of the streets, remember they travel on the opposite side of the road than in Britain.

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Waiting for the number 1 tram at Piazza Firenze, Mr Curmudgeon and I see the tram in the distance coming towards us, as it stops I notice that the platform is extremely high, I said to Mr Curmudgeon how am I going to get onto that, he looked at me and obviously he had the same thought, oh well in for a penny in for a pound.  As the tram stopped ingeniously the doors opened and the platforms appeared out of the tram, breathing a sigh of relief we both step up into the tram itself.

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Having validated the tickets previously, we did not have to put them in the machine, the Number 1 tram goes up Via Sempione, which is a broad avenue from Piazza Firenze to the wonderful Parco Sempione, which is really worth a wander through, a special mention must made of the large arch at the front of the Parco.

The tram is slow and makes an amusing noise when stationary, but then appears to cut out and you wonder if the tram has broken down.  Mr Curmudgeon and I smiled at each other every time this happened, as we both thought this was very amusing.  As the tram regally travels up Via Sempione you have a wonderful view of the fine architecture, although like most Italian cities we have been to this is spoilt by the graffiti adorning the walls.  I am not talking graffiti that is wonderful to look at, i.e. a Banksy, but rather scrawls and random words, although they may mean something to the person who did them.  It is such a shame that Italian authorities have not taken the same action of many of our British local governments have, which is zero tolerance and graffiti is removed immediately which deters its production.

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Having reach the top of Via Sempione and wondered at the magnificent arch, well worth more than a quick glance, we traverse a number of streets, all rich in Italian architecture, but it was very hot over 30 degrees in the sun, so we couldn’t do our normal walking.  At the centro end of the Parco is the wonderful Castello Sforzesco, you just catch glimpses of this magnificent 15th century fort.  The tram remorselessly traverses the streets, although to the untutored eye, that would be Mr Curmudgeon and I have to say Mrs Nice as well, they all look very similar. 

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As you get into the centro district you notice the streets get narrower and more difficult for the tram to travel, but eventually you get to La Scala, more later on this venue, Mr Curmudgeon and I get off the tram to start our walk around the Piazza Scala, the Galleria and the marvellous Duomo. 

Part of travelling is to have interesting experiences and often transport can be boring, the number 1 tram is a slow but fascinating ride through this wonderful city.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies take a walk around the Navigli district in Milan

Modern Milan is known for many things, but few visitors would know that for centuries that landlocked Milan was an important port. To understand more, we made our way to the Navigli district which is now famous for its bars and restaurants.

The Navigli district seems a world away from the crowds around the Duomo and has a bit of a ‘Venice’ feeling to it.

The district has been one of the main hubs of Milan since the 12th century when work began on a series of canals that allowed Milan to become one of the country’s largest inland ports. The Navigli are a system of canals and waterways  that connected the Lake Maggiore, the Lake Como, the Ticino river and the Po river and connecting Milan with Switzerland and beyond. Many of the canals connected to the Porta Ticinese dock, also known as the Darsena, in Milan.

The Naviglio Grande was considered the most important of the Milan “navigli”. Construction began in the 12th century and in the 13th century reached Milan. Although intended to be used for irrigation, soon lots of goods were transported including stone and marble for the Duomo. Traffic along the canal peaked in the 19th century but it was used extensively during the Second World War.

The Naviglio Pavese once connected Milan to Pavia, Naviglio Martesana does not come all the way to Milan but is a popular place to walk or cycle along the towpaths. The Naviglio di Paderno is famous because it is the canal where Leonardo da Vinci experimented with gates for the locks. Naviglio di Bereguardo closed in the 19th century.

The Navigli district usually refers to the Naviglio Pavese and Naviglio Grande which are lined by bars, restaurant, shops and live music venues. The area is a very popular place for Milanese citizens and visitors who enjoy a stroll before having a drink and a bite to eat.

It is a wonderful place to take a walk alongside the canal with plenty to keep you entertained, some of the restaurants had a strange line in life-size models including a mad chef and gladiator.

The picturesque Restaurant El Brellìn is near to the Vicolo Lavandai, a corner where washerwomen used to wash clothes.

Further along we crossed the concrete bridge to look at the local market, we were taken aback by the rather scary mannequins on one stall but the rest of the market was full of interesting bits and pieces and is obviously popular with locals.

If you want to explore the canals a bit more, you can join one of the canal cruises. We were just happy to wander around and stop for coffee and watch the world go by.

It is quite easy to walk to the Navigli district from the city centre or you can use the metro. It can be reached by using the M2 (green line), getting off at the Porta Genova stop.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

Spinning on a Bull’s Testicles in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

Most visitors to Milan gravitate to the Doumo and why not, it is very impressive and the fifth largest cathedral in the world.  Standing nearby is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is considered one of the world’s first shopping malls and now populated by some of the most luxurious brands and restaurants.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy and was built by architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1867.

Unfortunately Giuseppe Mengoni fell to his death from the heights of the glass dome, just days before it was to be officially opened.

The Galleria is often nicknamed ‘Milan’s drawing room’ due to its importance as a Milanese meeting and dining place. The popular Biffi Caffè, the Motta restaurant and the Camparino are just some of the old traditional meeting places.

The building is a remarkable structure and is considered the prototype for large shopping arcades or Galleria all over Europe. The central octagonal space is topped with a glass dome which lights up the ground below which has four mosaics portraying the coat of arms of the three capitals of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin, Florence and Rome) plus Milan’s.

Tradition says that if a person spins around three times with a heel on the testicles of the bull from Turin coat of arms this will bring good luck.

We watched a married couple and entourage including photographer crowding around one of the mosaics in the centre of the Galleria. The groom and bride then spun around to the applause of the wedding party and watching tourists.

Of course, Mrs Nice had to have a go and managed a couple of turns before nearly falling over. I began to laugh until she came over and said ‘be careful or I will be stamping on your testicles’.

The Galleria is generally very busy because it connects Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala and is great for people watching. Just before we moved on, a demonstration with flags and brass band marched through the Galleria to the bemusement of thousands of tourists.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

Old Fogies go Racing at the Ippodromo racecourse in Milan

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One of the reasons we came to Milan was to visit the Ippodromo, the Milan racecourse.  Situated to the north west of the city, we travel by M2 metro (otherwise known as the purple line) to the San Siro Ippodromo station.  This station is one down from the San Siro stadium stop, as you can imagine the San Siro Stadium is a place, Mr Curmudgeon really wants to go, anyway less about football, more about the Ippodromo and the racing.

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A part of Ippodromo race course is open all the time, because of the wonderful statue of a horse on display there.  No normal horse statue this, designed by Leonardo Di Vinci back in the day, but made in America to his design, the horse stands some 20 feet tall and is absolutely huge, really huge in parts you wouldn’t want it to be!

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Getting into the racecourse is free (yes free), we arrive, early as usual, but the course is open, having taken the requisite number of photos of the horse, Mr Curmudgeon decides to move into the actual course.  Well ½ an hour is not too long to take a couple of snaps is it (sigh).

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The course itself is in the Italianate style,  built in the early 20th Century and is very beautiful, there is a wonderful dancing fountain at the front of the building, and some wonderful lawns and flower displays to wander through, well I would if on my own.

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There is only a small part of the course that you cannot go into, which is the members stand, but this is so small that it does not impinge on the ordinary racegoers view at all, even the winning post is available and some wonderful stands to rest our weary bones.  The course is relatively flat but looked lush and green in the brilliant sunshine, there is a jump track as well as flat racing at the racecourse so there is probably racing all year round here.

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We had lunch at the only restaurant on the course and it is wonderful, with white linen and even proper napkins, what a joy! I have got to say the racegoers are not the usual racegoers you would find in Britain, they arrived wearing a variety of dress, cut off shorts, low slung jeans, open neck shirts, and in some cases no shirts at all, and that was just the men!

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Racing finally underway, Mr Curmudgeon and I make our selections.  When we go racing we both have a selection in every race, like a little competition, like most of the racecourses in Europe the main betting bit is the Tote, but you can take the price if you wish.  As usual I pick the favourite and Mr Curmudgeon picks a bit of an outsider, he is good though and does get a winner or two.  The first race starts, there is the normal excitement of a race anywhere in the world, the eager wish for your horse to win is still alive and singing.  The first race goes to me, although short price at least I made a bit of a profit, Mr Curmudgeon loses. 

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Racing the world over is hard work, the viewing the horses in the paddock making your personal selection and placing a bet, going to the stands to watch and hope then returning to the unsaddling enclosure to view the winner and with a bit of luck go to collect your winnings.

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We had a wonderful time at the race course and had 3 winners between us (2 to me and 1 to Mr Curmudgeon, Ha).  But it was time to make our weary way back to the hotel for a well-earned rest before dinner.

The racecourse is not on the usual tourist trail and offers something different with a chance to mix with the locals and enjoy some sport in pleasant surroundings. 

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

The Old Fogies go to Milan

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Mr Curmudgeon and I decided to go for a weekend break to Milan, Italy.  We have been Italy several times, but never to the famous northern city, so we were quite excited.

Travelling to London City Airport, by the DLR we arrive in plenty of time as usual, what a joy this airport is, small, friendly, conveniently located for the Old Fogies, having checked in we wait for the gate number and then we boarded.

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Travelling by British Airways, we arrive in Linate Airport, Milan just after lunch.  Linate airport is only 6 kilometres away from the centre of Milan, but it is not the easiest in transport options.  Mr Curmudgeon does not like to spend money on taxis, “I’m not paying £50 to travel for 15 minutes in a taxi”, I can hear him saying, so we must negotiate the local transport network.  First therefore we had to get our ticket, it is always my job to work the ticket machines on our little jaunts so with some Euro’s clutched in my hands, I work the machines.  I must say that the price of transport tickets is extremely cheap.  I put my 3 Euro in the machine and out pops 2 tickets, these will last 1½ hours on all local transport, including buses, trams and metro.

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I have got to say Mr Curmudgeon really excelled. Our hotel was situated the other side of Milan from the airport, we travelled on the 73 from the airport to the centre of Milan, catching glimpses of the local architecture on the way.  Arriving in the centre of Milan we caught site of the wonderful Duomo, see other posts for information about this wonderful cathedral, we now had to locate the correct tram stop.  This is where Mr Curmudgeon really got into his stride, having looked on Google Earth, he directed us to the tram stop really well, although having spent a few days in Milan, we realise that as usual he had gone the long way around (sigh, oh well).

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Milan tram network is extensive; but not easy to work out, however, Mr Curmudgeon knew we had to catch the number 14 tram to take us to the hotel.  What wonderful inventions trams are, very little pollution and very efficient, albeit a bit slow.  We arrive at Piazza Firenze and look for the right road for our hotel.  Having located the tennis club, yellow/orange walls, we find our hotel and check in.

The Mercure Regency Hotel, Milan, the building appears to be an old convent or abbey; but I am not sure. Although now part of a chain, the hotel has its own character with a lovely courtyard and the keys are old fashioned with large tassels, so you need to hand them in when you go out, as they are rather large and heavy. Our room is situated on the 3rd floor of 5 and the room is a delight, with traditional blinds.  The design is early 1920’s with arch mirrors and matching head board, and what joy a fridge that allows you to put your own items in.  We are always a bit wary of Italian plumbing, here it is noisy but it seemed to work OK, we will know a bit better when we shower later this evening.

Having got here safe and sound, mainly thanks to Mr Curmudgeon, we quickly freshen up as we want to go out and enjoy the local neighbourhood, even if it is in the middle of the afternoon, but as the saying goes only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun (oh well here we go again).

Read some of other blogs about Milan for some insights into a fascinating city. 

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.