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Parma and Milan Italy

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Parma

Our sole reason for visiting Parma was the food tour.  ‘The Three Kings Tour’ of an authentic and authorised Parmigiana Reggiano factory, a Parma ham factory and a Balsamic Vinegar factory.  This tour, that lasted all day, was too exciting, fascinating and interesting to combine with any of my other travel stories.  I need to give it it’s own special post, so will publish these at a later stage. Perhaps once I finish our 42 days in the motorhome.

Following the completion of the tour, we drove to Milan, to be in place to visit the city the next day.

We stayed at the only campground in all of Milan, Citta Di Milano.  It is enormous, and the demand placed upon it due to the Expo has seen it add another area for ‘motorhome parking’ immediately outside it’s perimeter.  Those who stay here can still access all facilities but it is a further distance to find them.

We wanted to stay inside the campground as it looked a little rough on the outskirts.

With demand comes the ability to charge whatever they like and provide a lower level of service.  Everyone was packed in like sardines in a really confusing site layout.  Once we were settled all of this was forgotton and we knew we were safe for the night.  With such a big campground, it amazes me how quiet everything is.  It’s one of the codes of camping at play again.  Everyone keeps their noise to a minimum so as to not disturb.  Once the window shutters go up, the rest of the world is completely blocked out.

Review of campground

Citta Di Milano Via G. Airaghi, 61 20153 Milan

  • Rated as a four star campsite
  • Located a few kilometres from Milan city centre and the Milan Expo site
  • May be reached by car or bus from the major highways
  • Campsite has 50 bungalows and 244 sites for tents, motorhomes and caravans
  • Very good facilities
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Shuttle service currently running to Expo
  • Strange campsite setup makes it a little difficult to drive motorhomes into place
  • Wifi must be purchased at bar and is not high quality
  • €38 for two people, motorhome and electricity
Milan
Milan campsite

What’s not to love about Milan ?

We had always seemed to miss Milan on our previous trips to Italy.  Quite often we had been close by, but our plans had never allowed us to stop here.  It’s probably also because it’s never been high on our priority list (for whatever reason), but today, we were determined to get into the city.

Parking would be no doubt tricky, being a big city.  Milan also has a congestion zone which gave us something else to be mindful about.

We found a park on the outskirts of town, and after some ordinary Italian exchanges on my behalf with a local car driver, we were happy that our park was both safe and legal.

A few minutes later we were on a bus, without a ticket, but with a very nice bus conductor who told us not to worry.  Buses in Milan do not sell tickets on board!

Milan is extremely welcoming at the moment.  Perhaps it always is?  The reason for their special hospitality is that they are the hosts of World Expo 2015, running from May to the end of October.  It seems everyone in the area knew about Expo except for us.  I will admit to not being aware of where the World Expos are being held each year, since we had one in our own home city in 1988.  But it appears it’s still a big deal, with everything in Milan centred around it in some way.

After a change of public transport from bus to metro,  we arrived in the heart of Milan.  Walking up the stairs into the Piazza Del Duomo, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of the cathedral.  Each time I see a cathedral or church, I think about how many I’ve seen and surely I can’t possibly be impressed any more.  But I continue to re-write my thoughts as each city puts yet another stunning example of architecture in front of me.  This Gothic cathedral is one of the most important pieces of architecture in the world. I am mesmerised by it’s beauty.  It’s all marble, white and twinkling in the sunshine.  It’s chaotic in the piazza around it.

Milan
Milan Cathedral
Milan
The door of the Milan Cathedral

Innovation has come to these Milanese parts.  No longer are the foldout postcards or keyring replicas of the local attraction the item of choice for the entrepreneurial sellers in the square.  Today, the selfie stick, is the latest cheap offering being thrust into the faces of tourists who have flocked here to see this magnificent church.

Nearby, my breath is taken away once more.  I’ve entered the exquisitely beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II.  Such a stunning building is worthy of such a fancy name.  Four internal laneways lie undercover in  this four story arcade, with a central cupola bringing them all together in the centre, and frescos adorning the upper floors.  There are no half measures here.  If you come to this gallery to shop, you are here to spend up big in stores such as Prada, Versace and Louis Vuitton.  You can also sleep here in the resident 7 star hotel.

Milan
Main entrance to Galleria
Milan
Dome of the Galleria

Milan

Milan
Tiles on floor of Vittoria Emmanuelle

There is so much more to Milan than fashion, but of course, you will find plenty of that here.  Row after row, street after street, of mainstream and high end fashion can be found here. I don’t feel the pressure to be dressed like a super model but I am quite sure that there would be many who would.  If so, there’s plenty of amazing fashion to be found.  And boots.  OMG !  I could spend all day just going from shoe shop to shoe shop looking at boots to walk these ancient cobbled streets.

We stop for a stand up coffee at the bar, like the locals do, at Bar Della Scala.  There is something distinctly Italian about coming in to a cafe to order your coffee, standing at the bar, and throwing it down in a matter of seconds.  At the same time, you eat your pastry, wrapped in white paper.  The whole experience takes about a minute and costs you less than two euro.  If you sit down you get to draw the whole thing out, but you will also pay more for the privilege. As a non coffee drinker, I don’t see the fascination is drinking something so quickly, but the thousands of people who do this each day in their own city would vehemently disagree with me.

Milan
Drinking at the bar, Italian style
Milan
Drinking at the bar with good company

Now, as is the case with most towns we visit, we go on the search for the local market.  This trail will take us on the tram down to the area known as Navigli.  It is comprised of the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese.  This takes us out of the centre of Milan and down onto a network of canals, lined by restaurants, cafes and shops.

The canals were constructed between 1179 and the 16th century as a means of opening up access to Milan.  Leonardo Da Vinci was involved in the conception of the canal framework.

Milan
Naviglio Grande

I’m also happy to say that there are gelato shops.  Was there ever any doubt?  We are in Italy after all.

Today we eat blood orange and lemon sorbet, and caramello and L’Inimitibile (a fancy dark chocolate with chocolate pieces).

Milan
Eating gelati once more

After a bit of to’ing and fro’ing and a few stops for directions we finally find the object of today’s mission – the Mercato Metropolitano.  A trendy market located at the end of the Grande Naviglio.  This market opens until 2am on weekends.  I would love to have a permanent market open in my home town during normal business hours.  Here, this one is open until the early hours of the morning !

Milan
Mercato Metropolitano

It’s incredible inside.  Very trendy.  Very modern.  Very gastro.  You can find all manner of Italian cuisine in here and wine to match it, from a vending machine of course.  Machines here allow you to choose the type of wine and the size of your glass.

Milan
Wine vending machine offering a great range of wine and three different sizes
Milan
Fresh pasta cooked to order at Mercato Metropolitano
Milan
The bakery inside Mercato Metropolitano
Pizza made to order
Pizza made to order
Milan
Gourmet providores area in the market

All of this food has made us very hungry and whilst I could easily eat here at the market, I am always a sucker for eating anywhere by the water.  So, back to the canals we go and to a restaurant that is in a location that is very, very old.

Milan
Restaurant and pizzeria at Fabricca Naviglio Grande

Today, we couldn’t go past the Proscuitto Crudo pizza following our amazing journey into the history of Parma ham making yesterday.  The pizza arrives on the authentic Italian thin and crispy base and layered with Parma DOP ham.  This is where pizza really comes into it’s own.  No layering of cheese, or overdoing the toppings with tomato pastes and a variety of other ingredients that don’t belong.  Just a simple napoli base, with Parma and a little mozzarella.  It’s perfect.  All I can taste is the base and the Parma.  when you are eating aged Parma, that’s all you really want to be able to taste.  The Italians definitely get 10/10 for making the best pizzas in the world.

Milan
Parma pizza

Eventually it’s time to head back to our motorhome and continue on our journey.

Lake Como bound

Back on board, we are now headed for Lake Como.  We’re not sure yet where we are going to stop for the night, but let’s at least find our way to the city of Como.

A stop first at an Italian supermarket to stock up and to see if we can buy our weight in salami and other Italian goodies.  We’re like kids in a lolly shop with all this cheese, salami and fresh produce.  Oh, and wine.  There’s always plenty of that stuff here and we continue to lament how inexpensive the wines, cheeses and other foods are here, compared to where we live.  If only, if only, I could take some of this cheese, wine, bubbles and meat home.

We make our way to Como very easily.  It is only about 40 minutes from Milan.  How wonderful to live in Milan and have the beautiful Como lake district as your weekend destination.

Tough driving day

The driving today is tricky.  Tight passes, small roads, hills and rampaging tractors of all things come racing at us.  I’m normally ok with the tight passes.  You get used to it travelling in a motorhome in Europe.  It’s a daily, almost constant occurrence in some towns.  But today, when this enormous tractor which had wheels higher than our driving cabin came at us on an extremely narrow bend on the road at full throttle, even I had to close my eyes.

We drive past the most expensive looking houses with wrought iron fences, security systems and ferocious looking dogs,  to keep the riff raff out.   It all looks incredible and I can’t wait to get in amongst it all tomorrow.  For now though, we have to find somewhere to stay for the night.  If the drive from Como along the gorgeous Lake Como is any hint, we need to find somewhere to park up and get off these small roads.

The campground is open….just

We pull into  La’Vedo campground at Lenno.  This is awesome as Lenno is fairly central to all the happenings at Lake Como.

Then our campground host advises us that today is our lucky day!  Today is the last day of the campgrounds season and we can stay.  Whoo hoo.  What do we do tomorrow?  The next campground up the road is also closing.  A cloud descends over us for a minute.  Uh oh, have we got ourselves a problem?   In any case, we can’t do much about it tonight.  It’s late in the day and my poor husband needs a break from driving these difficult roads.

We get ourselves settled and leave the worry about where to camp tomorrow, till tomorrow.

I need to get some internet time but it won’t work in the motorhome, which seems to be fairly standard in a lot of these Italian campgrounds.  So, off I go, with my newly acquired bottle of Lambrusco and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and my Macbook to sit right at the front door of reception to get some work done.

I sat there for hours, the bottle of Lambrusco disappearing and my cheese needing to be replaced, whilst the permanent residents of the park worried about the glowing “Apple” from the back of my Macbook.

Meanwhile, my husband started up a conversation with our Spanish motorhome neighbours, who had come home on their moped.  Full of great intelligence about Como, and equally full of great spirit, he came away with a camping book, a heap of suggestions for campgrounds and a bottle of their finest Spanish red.

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A lovely gesture from a fellow motorhomer

Another example of the amazing hospitality, friendliness and general camaraderie of the motorhome community.  It’s yet another tick tonight for travelling this way.

Highlights

  • Milan Cathedral
  • Naviglio Grande area
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II
  • Turning a corner and seeing Lake Como

Review of campground

Camping La’Veda Via degli Artigiani, 22016 Lenno CO, Italy

    • Not a large site but reasonably easy to access and right in the heart of Lenno
    • In peak season, it is highly likely that this campground would be extremely packed
    • Open until 30 September
    • Facilities are very basic.  Showers are by token costing 1 euro each
    • Campground is shared with permanent onsite residents.  They do not cause any problem for motorhomes
    • Internet is free but it really only works directly in front of reception
    • 22 for two people, motorhome and electricity
    • Whilst we were glad that we had somewhere to stay on our first night, we were equally pleased that we were forced to find somewhere else for the remainder of our stay in Lake Como
Milan
Time for some blogging

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