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Monday, October 19, 2015

GAWA Day#34: Milan to Venice

Milan was founded around 400 BC, and has been in the middle of wars most of its history, beginning with the Romans in 222 BC, Napoleon in 1796 and bombed out in the Second World War.  Mussolini first organized his Blackshirts here, but towards the end of the war was killed by the resistance 60 miles away from Milan.  Since then, the city has become the economy and fashion capital of the country, with a population of 1.3 million, similar to Hawaii, but a polycentric metropolitan area of up to 10 million.

The fine arts are well represented and La Scala is where many of the famous operas premiered.  There is a Chinatown, but most of the immigrants have come from the Philippines.  The tallest building in Italy, the Porto Nuova Skyscraper, at 758 feet, is here.


Milan is now at its peak, with the World Expo ending in twelve days.  The streets were filled yesterday (Sunday), and the guide remarked that this is the most active the city has ever been because of all the tourists.  I suspect that the authorities let it be known that pickpocketing and low-level crimes against tourists will not be tolerated during this period.  Thus the walk back to the train station today should be fine, I hope.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but Milan, like Barcelona in Spain, is wonderful.


Well, my seven minute walk to Milano Centrale was uneventful.  I eventually boarded my train, but a conductor came rushing in asking us to confirm that you had all your luggage, for a criminal band came into some trains and just rolled away suitcases.  So, I guess, the Milan train station remains a danger zone.

It takes about two and a half hours to get to Venice.  I sat in front of Sonna and Fred Whiteley:


He owns a development construction consulting firm, and they are from Manhattan Beach.  Interestingly enough, remember the three Americans I mentioned who got lost in the Milan castle?  Well, they sat a couple rows away.  Penelope Dralle, a consulting psychologist, who got her PhD at LSU, and Bart Reilly, who taught at Tulane and is an organization development consultant, came by for a chat, for I noticed their luggage tag said LSU.  We had a long discussion of Tiger sports, and he mentioned that LSU beat Florida yesterday in Death Valley, which is the name of LSU's football stadium.  They live in New Orleans.

Everything went well.  Caught the water bus (vaporetto) to near my Westin Europa and Regina.  I had previously purchased a two day pass for $35.  Turns out that all three San Marco stops work, for the distances from one to the other are short.  However, the problem is getting to the hotel from the drop off, for there are bridges and steps.  Still, tolerable.

Called Venezia in Italy, Venice is a city of 118 islands, and the whole place is a United National World Heritage Site.  Only 60,000 people live here, but the total metropolitan area has a population of 2.6 million.

The ancient Veneti people inhabited this region in the 10th century BC, and the New York Times called this City of Canals as undoubtedly, the most beautiful city built by man.   Others have said it is the most romantic.  The Fourth Crusade plundered Constantinople, and deposited much of the artworks in Venice...and they are still here.   Around this time, the 13th century, Venice was the most prosperous city in all of Europe.  However, by the 15th century, it began to decline, for it could not compete with other cities for new routes discovered by Columbus and other explorers.  Various Black Death Plagues decimated the area, the final one being in 1630.

In the 1200's, Venice was known as the glassmaking center of the Western world.  Operations were moved to the island of Murano to eliminate major city fires. Here, transparent glass was invented and color was added.Venice began to regain some elegance in the 18th century, and was spared World War II.  It is the birthplace of Vivaldi, and here is the full 42 minutes of his Four Seasons.

There are 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals.  Gondola's were developed in Venice a millennium ago.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, there might have been 10,000.  Today, only 400.


The city suffers from land subsidence, sea level rise and high tides.  Called Acqua Alta, the problem begins this month.  The Modulo Sperimentale Elettromecanico Project should be in place by 2016 to see if floatable gates can stem the tide.


So, anyway, I checked into the Westin, and am already unhappy, for no Club Lounge, being too expensive, and giving me a room with essentially no view.  However, right outside is the Grand Canal, and just a couple of minutes into my walk, here is what I saw:


Piazza San Marco, or in English, St. Mark's Square.  It is said that this is the world's most famous square.  That's the Church of St. Mark.


You've seen this scene in many a movie.  Below the only fine dining restaurant in the square, Caffe Quadri, with one Michelin star, where I'll have lunch tomorrow:


There is, of course music, perhaps four bands playing at the same time within the square.  However, the piazza is so large that you can't hear the next one.

I also saw a lot of Murano and Venetian glassware:


Not sure what this was:


My walk ended with gloves:


After a long bath, I decided to have dinner here.  My view was the St. Mary of Health Catholic church located across the Grand Canal, and yes that's the quarter moon:


I only ordered a pasta fagioli (bean soup), green/red salad and a bottle of Moretti:


I thought the bill was outrageous.  I'll never come back here.

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Wow, Hurricane Olaf is at 115 MPH, and will attain Category 4 strength.  However, all models show him missing Hawaii be a wide margin:


After dumping a lot of rain over the Philippines, now Tropical Storm Koppu heads for Okinawa:


At least a dozen were killed.

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