Day 7: Milano e Saronno

I can’t believe we have been here a week already. In some ways, it feels like almost home. We know a surprising number of people here, thanks to DH’s work. We are finding our way around without maps now and ordering lunch without pulling out the Italian phrase book just to get some water. But it is still very foreign. We don’t speak enough of the language to be useful to ourselves- just enough to get frustrated. But it’s getting easier each day.

Today, the girls and I did our usual breakfast with DH before he left for work, then we did some laundry in the hotel room while S8 took a little nap. Around 11:30 we headed out to catch a train for Milano, intending to take in the Parco Sempione and the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci. (Say that three times fast!)

I keep meaning to post pictures of breakfast, because it is so dainty and cute. It’s the same as a moderate American hotel’s breakfast: donuts, single serving boxes of cereal, yogurts, etc; but they lay everything on cloth napkins and serve it up so darn European. And I am absolutely in love with the coffee.

Look at the white tablecloths and the real china.


Anyway, we headed out and caught the train into Milano. We ran into a little trouble figuring out the bineri (platform) this time, though. Until now, our trains have come on one of the six main tracks through Saronno. Today, however, the board read “Tr 2” instead of just “2”. We went to platform 2, but no train came; after about 15 minutes, the overhead sign changed to read Como Lago, which is the opposite direction. So we went back down into the sottopassegietto (underground passage) and looked at the monitor. Somehow we did not find this extra track, which must be elsewehere in the station. But another train was coming along shortly, so we opted for that one instead.

At Cadorna, we got out of the station and headed west on Carducci. We walked about a half mile, looking for a place to get pranzo (lunch) along the way. We spotted several places that were open, but they all seemed quite fancy (and very crowded). I think we were in a business area of town. By the time we got to the museum, we spotted a grocery store and figured it would be just as easy to pop in there and grab some food as it would be to try to negotiate lunch in a trattoria.

Grocery store

In the store we bought macedonia tropica (tropical mixed fruit), two mini pizzas, a bag of Italian potato chips, and a chocolate bar for DH. We stood outside the grocery and ate our snack before crossing over to the museum.


This, by the way, is not the entrance:’

Tourist shot

It is the uscita (exit). A very nice lady who spoke English told us this, and gave us a map so we could go around two blocks to the entrance side of the museum.

This is the entrance:

Courtyard of the museum

Museum entrance

O6 at the museum

We went in and bought a family ticket (21 €) and proceeded to explore the first two of six buildings. It’s a big, interesting place.

We saw an exhibit on precious stones and metals, and another on the histories of clockmaking and jewellry working.

Clockmaker's workshop

Jeweller's workshop

Clockwork lab

Working the clock hands

Clock works

Time hall

Here is O6 taking a little break before we move on to the second building.

Taking a break

We saw an exhibit on violin making and a huge music room, which contained a collection that once belonged to a famous French opera singer who was renowned in Milanese opera in the early 1900s. She bequeathed her enormous collection to the museum and they made a really neat exhibit with it.

More violins

Violin workshop

Violin anatomy

Violin anatomy

Music room

Violin/ music room

From here we entered a hall that contained many of da Vinci’s engineering drawings, along with scale models of them.

da Vinci schematic

Flying machine

Post driver schematic

Post driver

And then I got tired of lugging the camera, so it went into the backpack and I didn’t take any more pictures the rest of the day. We saw a lot of really neat exhibits on transport, oil production, energy, communications, etc. The kids got to dial a real rotary phone and send a morse code message via telegraph. It was very cool.

By 16:30 we decided it was time to head home. We were planning to meet DH around 6 at the hotel and I didn’t know how long it would take us to get back. We walked Carducci back to the train station, where we were met with a bit of a nasty surprise. There was an interruption in service between Garbanieri Milanese and Saronno, our station. Apparently there was a gas leak near the tracks, so no trains were going until the fire department had a chance to fix things up. We could take the train until Garbanieri Milanese only, then catch an autobus (“pullman”, as the locals called it) to Saronno. I was a little worried because I could only get the gist of the signs… I knew there was a disruption, but wasn’t sure what we were supposed to do. Also, the validation machines were not working, so I wasn’t sure if we needed to validate our tickets or not. Then I figured, when in Roma… We followed a crush of commuters on to the platform for our train, which was sitting there but with lights off and door closed. Finally, a half hour late, the lights came on and they allowed passengers on. But it was a mob of people. I was terrified of losing the kids, or having them get crushed if there was a mad press for the doors. We managed to stay to gether and not get trampled, though. We rode the sausage-stuffed train all the way to Garbanieri and then joined the throng in waiting for a pullman to take us the rest of the way to Saronno.

This must not be a normal occurrence, because people driving by saw the mob of commuters in front of the train station and started taking pictures and filming us. Look on YouTube, you just might see something. Fortunately, the crowd stayed calm and cooperative. We got on the third bus and haltingly made our way through the brutal traffic to Saronno. In town, the traffic was so bad that the bus opened its doors three blocks early to let us off. It was faster walking than waiting for the bus to crawl to the station. But, we made it. And headed straight for the gelateria, where O6 got straciatella, S8 ordered a kind of cherry, and I got dark ciocolatte. And– I ordered it all in Italian. 😉

Three hours later, we were back in our hotel room. DH showed up a little after 8, having gone out to meet a few contacts in the afternoon. We went for a late dinner at a hotel up the street that has a very nice restaurant, La Principe. There, DH had a peppercorn steak, I enjoyed rabbit ragout, and the kids had… wait for it… pasta pomodoro. It was an excellent meal. We were going to go back to La Perla, but it is closed on Tuesdays.

Tomorrow is our last day in Italy before we head to Montenegro. Well, technically we will be in Italy the entire day we travel to Montenegro, but it will be stuck on the train and doing mostly nothing, so tomorrow’s it. DH is going to return the car in the evening and we’ll take the train in to Milano Centrale in the morning.