17 Jun 2015

Spring weekend in Italy

Day 1

I set off with Zev for a short weekend away to visit my best friend Fed (of Panda 4x4 review fame) who lives near Milan, Italy. Catching the 5:09 train (by the skin of our teeth) we went to Gatwick Airport, and less than four hours later we emerged from Malpensa Airport into the golden glow of Italian sun and 30° humid weather, welcomed by Fed.

We spent the day touring northern Piedmont at the foothills of the Alps—one of the first stops was the beautiful town of Varallo, with its narrow, winding roads and nearly devoid of tourists.

That evening we had a delicious dinner with Fed’s family and an early night.

Day 2

The next morning we took Fed’s Land Rover Defender through the rice fields of Novara province, where most of the world’s risotto rice is grown before heading along some tracks into the forest.

Rice field

Zev observes the river

Zev finds a stick

Back on the main road we drove to Lake Orta and had a look around Orta San Giulio and Omegna with a last stop at Santuario della Madonna del Sasso, a beautiful church overlooking Lake Orta.

Orta San Giulio

Isola San Giulio

Dock on Lake Orta

Fed contemplates the next move

Zev offers a drink

View of Lake Orta from Santuario della Madonna del Sasso

That evening we had a look around the jazz festival in Novara and went for drinks and a bite to eat.

Day 3

We drove to Milan to have a look around Corso Como and Piazza del Duomo—and of course a wander around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, reportedly the oldest shopping wall in the world. For lunch we went to Eataly, a high end Italian market and restaurant. The trip was cut a little short when the skies opened, monsoon style.

Piazza Gae Aulenti

10 Corso Como—a high end boutique department store

Inside courtyard of 10 Corso Como

Rooftop terrace at 10 Corso Como looking toward the controversial UniCredit building 

On the rooftop terrace at 10 Corso Como

Fed and Zev tuck into lunch

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Day 4

For the final day we went to the Milan Expo, a universal exposition focussing on food and energy. While it was worth the visit, it was at the same time something of a disappointment as we were expecting a bit more from the pavilions. It seemed a somewhat missed opportunity for various countries to showcase their cuisine and technology—instead many of the pavilions had looping videos and minimal displays.

A few pavilions of note—the China pavilion had an elaborate display of lights and dioramas of ancient Chinese technology. The UK pavilion featured a wire beehive reconstruction with actual hive sounds piped and amplified in from the University of Leicester. The Netherlands pavilion was designed as a street carnival. And the Qatar pavilion was perhaps the most beautiful. Honourable mention goes to the Alitalia pavilion which featured the most bizarre foodporn style video of an in-flight chef suggestively making a latte...

China pavilion

Lighting display in the China pavilion

Fed presents the Birra Baladin Fiat 500 truck

Zev and Fed at the UK pavilion

Selfie in the France pavilion

Oman pavilion

Citroën H-Van at the Netherlands pavilion

Reflections at the Russia pavilion

From the Expo it was straight to Malpensa to fly back home. The weekend was over far too quickly, seeing new places non-stop with never a dull moment. It’s worth mentioning how lucky we are in London, as a flight hub, to be able to jet off for a weekend for only £50 return—or, to give some perspective, less than the cost of taking a train to Manchester and back.