Tuesday 29 September 2009

CathDaq trading statement for Milan

After a slow start the CathDaq took off towards the end of the trading period.

Five monks from three different order (or at least three different types of robes) taking the index higher.

Priest in a sports car in Bergamo took the index lower for a while before a flotilla of Gucci Nuns by the Duomo sent stocks soaring.

Milan trading closed up over 100 points.

If it wasn’t for the internet

As I was leaving Santa Maria delle Grazie having taken in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, it struck me how much of a leveller the internet has been to enable people to see things they otherwise might not have been able to.

To get to see the mural you have to book in advance (the signs out today showed that it was fully booked until November!). Prior to the real take off of the Internet you would have had to have phoned up the booking line to book tickets. This requires two important things

1 – the ability to make (or pay for) a long international call, or make a call whilst in Italy
2 – a firm grasp of the Italian language to make the booking in (making sure you don’t get dates and times muddled up)

Alternatively, you could have booked a guide, or paid one of the tour companies through the nose (€50 I saw being advertised in a lot of places) to get you in on an organised tour.

Now, you can go online in advance, in a choice of languages, and book your ticket in advance for a time and date that you stipulate, not a tour company.

It’s the same with the Hypogeum in Malta, again booked on line in advance (though there the language barrier as an English speaker wouldn’t have existed)

Access to the sites has to be limited to prevent damage (The Last Supper only allows around 850 people a day in, in groups no larger than 25, thought that’s positively heaving compared to The Hypogeum’s maximum of 80 per day), and the internet allows the sites protectors to balance the needs to protect the site with the needs to get the tourists money to pay for its upkeep.

It might only be a small way, but the internet is helping to preserve these sites, and create a level playing field for access.

Monday 28 September 2009

Monday saw two major events taking place in Milan.

The prime minister, gaff-proneSilvio (as I believe his first name is now pronounced) Berlusconi was in town to speak to his followers.

There was also an exhibition on at the fair ground that appeared (by the posters) to have something to do with scantily clad young ladies (though in Italy it could have been an accountants fair and they would still have advertised it with scantily clad young ladies, there not quite there yet with the Gender Equality.)

Now it would be very wrong (and likely to lead to a law writ being issued) to suggest that the timing of the two events, or that Silvios decision to visit Milan this week, was anything other than coincidental, and that Mr Berlusconi is anything other than a thoroughly respectable statesman

See for example BBC News

More thoughts on the police – an update

A minor correction to my comments regarding police vehicles.

Of course the Italian government would never allow their police to drive around in German Audi’s. The police were, of course, in an Italian Alfa Romeo.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Things you wish you hadn’t seen

Milan is a vibrant city, the powerhouse of Italy’s economy; it’s a modern Finance driven city. Perhaps not in the same league as London, Tokyo, New York and Frankfurt. But it’s up there in the next league with the Hong Kong’s, Brussels’ and Shanghai’s.

Which makes it all the more surprising in a city that combines the best of Northern European capitalism with Southern European style and elegance they have decided, in places, to take their queues from the very wrong area.

I would like to bring you attention, as every must do eventually, to the issue of toilets.

Milan, home of style, elegance, and the point where the hole in the floor starts, and in the case of one particularly unpleasant version in a visitor attraction which will remain nameless, last used by someone who was very ill, and didn’t know how to flush (or aim!)

Of course, they also go in the opposite direction.

My hotel room has, as one would expect, a bidet.

Now these are a contraption that I’ve never really been able to get my head around. But the hotel has added a whole extra level of complexity and bewilderment into the mix.

Next to the bidet, is a little, what can only be described as, soap dish. And resting on this soap dish is a small bottle of shampoo.

It’s not that it’s been misplaced, no there is one of those small bottles of shampoo on the vanity unit by the sink, it genuinely appears to be a bottle of shampoo available for use whilst you are making use of the bidet.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the Milanese

Wound Spotting IV

Another edition of the informative guide to what injuries are “in” this season.

Bergamo (and Milan as well) appear to have had a spate of lower arm/wrist injuries, with at least four people seen wandering around sporting slings.

Given the cobble stones everywhere part of me suspects that it’s the leathal combination of marble cobles and rain, but it could just be that everyone wants to show of their Louis Vuitton sling.

Saturday 26 September 2009

More thoughts on the Police

This topic is giving me a rich vein of thought and observation.

Walking through the Piazza Duomo this evening I noticed that there were three separate police cars parked up.

There was a very smart modern 4 by 4 with Carabinieri painted down the side. Inside the officer was preening himself in his rear view mirror. I do have to wander are the Carabinieri actually the fashion police, because all they appear to ever do is strut around in their smart uniforms looking at themselves in windows!

Next to that was a modern Audi painted in a not particularly pleasent shade of blue with Polizia painted in big letters down the side. One officer was sitting on the bonnet talking to his female colleague, whilst they scanned the crowd.

Finally parked up at the end, in a garish Green and White paint scheme with Polizia di Milano painted on it was a pretty elderly looking beaten up fiat.

I think I know where all the money goes...

Oh no, there’s more

Before I had even gotten onto the tram this morning I had already seen my sixth type of police, these were the Polizia di Milano, who were in a completely different uniform to all the other ones I had seen yesterday.

The sublime finally gave way to the ridiculous though when I walked into the main courtyard of the castle.

There, laid out as a family open day, were the tents of at least 20 different “Emergency Services”, there were fire brigade divers, police divers, mountain rescue (probably mountain rescue police divers, but I didn’t spot them).

It did leave me to wonder, how the Italian version of the AA markets itself, “were the 29th emergency service?”

Friday 25 September 2009

Italian Police Bingo

How many different types of police does one country need.

In the space of a couple of minutes this evening, I think I saw the full set, but I could be wrong, there could be more types floating around.

First to be spotted were the Milan Vigilantes, or at least that’s how my very dodgy Italian translated what was painted on their cars.

Then walking in front of me, in full regalia, including massive swords, were two Carabinieri, looking very smart (and preening themselves in a shop window.)

Walking past them were two city police who appeared to be completely Carabinieri blind, neither group acknowledged each other existence, I was starting to get worried that a turf war between police forces was about to break out, so I hurried on.

Just around the corner, having stern words with someone touting “real” D&G bags for €5, were the grey uniformed scare division, the Financial Police.

By now I was starting to think I was walking through some kind of recruitment video – Italy’s police force, a uniform for all tastes – when I walked past the final set of police, dressed in what looked like riot gear.

Except they were congregating around the outside of La Scala opera house – obviously Italian Opera lovers are a more boisterous bunch than their English counterparts (I don’t go past the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden that often, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single policeman outside.)

So that’s five different types of police, can there be any more (probably, but it doesn’t do your brain any good to think about it!)

If it all appears to be going to well

A massive queue at checkin, but through in 10 minutes.
Another big queue for security, but again through quite quickly.
Before you’ve even had time to grab more than the bare essentials your flight is showing a gate number.
You walk to your gate, the closest gate there is to the departures lounge.
The plane is already on stand and has off-loaded all the inbound passengers.
A couple of minutes later you are all boarding, nearly 30 minutes before you are due to leave.

It’s at this point that it all starts to go wrong.

Sadly, four people hadn’t been paying attention to the screens, and as the time ticked down to our scheduled push back moment they were still nowhere to be seen.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if they just had hand luggage, shut the door and send the plane on its way.

It is a problem when they have two bags in the hold that have to be located and off-loaded as well.

It had all been going so smoothly, it’s just a shame we were over 20 minutes late leaving!