Friday, October 14, 2022

Milano October 2022

Milan, Italy. Saturday 08-October-2022.

Following on from our parkrun tourism to Lucca this time it was the turn of Milan. The motivation wasn't just to do parkrun tourism but visit my nephew, Lorenzo, his mother, Francesca, and his nonna, Carla. Also my cyber-friend Roberta who I originally met online through our mutual liking for Marc Bolan and T.Rex but since met several times in real life.

We flew up on Friday to discover that Carla had graciously moved in with Francesca for the weekend so we could stay in Carla's apartment and have it all to ourselves. That evening, following a recommendation from Roberta, we went for a pizza at Pizzeria Maruzzella where I had the best pizza I think I've ever had. The dough used to make the base was soft and deliciously tasty.

Saturday morning it was a short Metro ride north to the Parco Nord Milano where we picked up a couple of lost English parkrun tourists and guided them in thanks to CityMapper which now includes a number of important cities as well as London.

There were a fair number of visitors from various parts of the globe.

A very flat course through a lovely wooded park.

Risultati di Milano Nord parkrun per l'evento n.235. Il tuo tempo รจ stato 00:29:07.

Congratulazioni per aver completato il tuo 147° parkrun e il tuo 1° a Milano Nord parkrun oggi. Hai finito in 65° posizione su un totale di 100 parkrunner. Sei stato 53° Maschio e 2° nella categoria VM70-74.

Under 30 minutes so I was happy.

Back to the flat for a shower then out for normal tourism. First lunch. The restaurant we wanted to try described itself as Italian, contemporary, healthy but was closed, despite Google telling us otherwise. We walked on down the street and found ourselves a seafood pasta lunch at Ristorante Napoletano, huge portions but so tasty we had to eat it all. So much for eating "healthy"!

After lunch and full of food, we took the tram as a thing in its own right. The number 10 tram was a traditional design, it reminded us of the streetcars in New Orleans. We admired the neo-classical architecture all along the route and went as far as Bosco Verticale.

Then it was time to head back to the apartment for a siesta. 

Saturday evening was supper with Roberta and her husband Marino in their apartment which turned out to be only 5 minutes walk from Francesca and Carla. An extravagant multi-course meal, wonderful flavours and a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday it was raining so we went down to the Cathedral square for a quick circuit of the Leonardo3 exhibition. A small but fascinating exhibition of around fifty models made to his designs, each with a copy of the original design for reference. There was a high quality digital image of The Last Supper and we benefitted greatly from being there whilst a teacher was explaining it to a group of small children - the language level was about right for us!

After that we met up with the family for delicious Sunday lunch at Fish Dancer. Courtesy of The Fork we got a 50% discount on the food and wine! Back at the apartment it was photo opportunity time.

The massive door had a postern gate so you didn't have to open the whole thing.

After a late siesta following all the eating over the weekend we only needed a light snack for supper and got toasted panini from a jolly lady who ran a local cafe, Bar Oasi, served with a generous measure of wine. While we were there we were introduced to a music student who it turned out came from one of our local towns and knows our friend Mino - un piccolo mondo!

Monday was time pack up, fly back to Brindisi, drive home to recover and go on a diet!

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

70th Birthday meal - Il Cucco

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Tuesday 20-September-2022.

I have a habit of celebrating the decades with a big birthday party. Previous birthdays:

  • 30th birthday - a restaurant somewhere in central London, almost certainly jointly with Denise, a friend whose birthday was close to mine.
  • 40th birthday - black tie do in a function room above a pub in South Wimbledon, black tie gave ladies the opportunity to wear their posh frocks. Catering by our friend Sue.
  • 50th birthday - meal for 40 guests in Somerley House, a stately home close to where we lived.
  • 60th birthday - multiple parties including a large gathering in Puglia, hosted Carole and Mino, and London.

This year I decided I would hold it in Puglia as that is where we normally are on my birthday. We investigated various possible venues but ended up with Il Cucco, one of our favourite restaurants in Cisternino. It is normally closed on a Tuesday but when we had a chat with the owner he agreed to open up just for us so we could have the party on the day itself.

It is one of the best restaurants in town but for years it was very small with no outside space. Then the house next door came up for sale with a large garden. They bought it, went through the wall and restructured turning it into a brilliant venue.

I gave everybody a heads up earlier in the year as they might want to plan their holidays around the date. It turned out that many did indeed seize the opportunity. I was very flattered at how many people made the effort to come over from the UK for the occasion. It does help that it is a lovely part of the world to visit for a holiday.

Normally at a party the host doesn’t get to spend much time with individual guests as there are so many of them. Here we were fortunate enough to be able to meet up with people beforehand and have a decent long chat: Bron and Maggie on the Tuesday before, Siobhan and Paul on the Saturday before, Mary's family and the Penrith Four on the Sunday when they arrived.

Mary then organised for pizza on the Monday night before which turned into a mass booking for 37 people at Doppio Zero. We also went to Birrorosteria 72014, a Fornello Pronto aka Meat Feast, on the Wednesday after. That way I had ample opportunity to get to chat to everyone. On the day itself there were 59 guests, 35 from the UK and the rest a mixture of people who are semi-resident like us and Italians.

We held the party in the garden with the back-up plan of retreating indoors if the weather was poor. Thanks to Mary’s sister, Sandra, and family for the poster and hand drawn lettering on the bunting (and especially to Sandra for the colouring in).

A selection of photos of the garden and guests. Photo credit and thanks to Will Carpenter. 

A glass of local fizz beforehand.

Not wanting to number the tables, possibly suggesting a hierarchy, Mary came up with the idea of using local town names linked to someone on each table.

Looks I’m getting or giving advice with my brother Ian.

We had some thoughts about the menu and when we went to chat to the owner he basically proposed the same as what we had in mind: 

  • Assorted antipasti
  • Two primi
    • strascinate with rabbit (one of our favourite dishes) 
    • risotto with porcini (suitable for vegetarians)
  • Two secondi
    • beef 
    • lamb
  • Fruit
  • Cake

The plan had been to have antipasti and primi served and then a buffet to encourage people to move and mingle. As it turned out it started raining halfway through the primi and we had to retreat indoors so the restaurant served everything at the table.

Many ended up on different tables so weather did the mingling for us which meant people got to talk to strangers. Several people commented what nice friends I had and of course they are, they wouldn't be my friends if they weren't!

Some ended up on a table in the enoteca (wine shop) which is part of the restaurant.

Back outside for cake cutting as the weather had eased.

A speech was requested...

...but I kept it short.

The thankful audience.

Cutting the cake.

Cheers! Now to start thinking about my 80th!