A week ago last Tuesday (February 5) I headed up to Milan for the day; its a quick jaunt by Eurostar - 4 hours 30 minutes. However I can't mention train travel without bitching about the horror that is the TrenItalia website - talk about user unfriendly, make one mistake you're told the system isn't available, you're kicked out and have to start all over again. And why or why does the seat assignment programme feel it has to play matchmaker: why, when there are plenty of single seats available, does it always put me with three other people? Its not that I'm unsociable but sometimes you just want to read quietly or look out the window or even take an afternoon nap. Bitching over! The dining car was pleasant, the food respectable - spaghetti with tomato and basil, roast pork with grilled vegetables, a slice of apple torte and coffee - and the young lady I sat with, a Turkish architect who lives in Milan, a charming luncheon companion. Okay one more bitch - you can't get a single glass of wine and a half-litre is sleep-inducing on a train that time of day.
Weather in Milan was cool but with that winter's-almost-over freshness in the air that you normally find in Ottawa at the end of April - or being Ottawa May or even sometimes June. Being near the Alps even the light has a different colour from here in Rome - a more northern quality. A quick subway ride down to the hotel, and I unpacked to discover that I had forgotten a belt and there's a dress code at La Scala (more about that later) of jacket and tie and I just can't wear suit pants without a belt. Now to be honest I don't really need another black belt but I suppose if you're going to go shopping in Milan you should get something good so - add one E35.00 belt to the collection.
I've made the walk through the Galleria to La Scala on four or five other occasions but it still gives me a little thrill when I see it across the Piazza.
The Box Office opens at 1800 and when I went to pick up my ticket I found a crowd of people waiting. Two hours before the performance 140 numbered tickets for seats in the Gallery are sold for around E12.00 (CAD18.00)on a first come first served basis. Looks like a bit of a mess doesn't it? But the whole thing is very organized - yes I know Italy!!! Organized??? - a woman from a group called Association l'Accordo had assigned each person a number as they arrive and the numbers were called out two at a time. No shoving, no pushing around the box office. With true Italian logic they were processed before those of us who have confirmed reservations - and why not we know we have our tickets and in some cases they've been waiting since early morning. Many of these people are the (in)famous loggione who have been known to drive a singer off the stage but just as many are dedicated opera lovers who will stick around to keep a well-deserved ovation going as the platea and palchi patrons head out for the good tables at Biffi or the last Metro home.
Ticket and programme in hand I walked back into the Galleria and headed past the floral arrangements at, the Opera Chic recommended - see her photos and post here, Savini for a a pre-opera snack - one of their "opera" panini, a glass of a respectable Veneto white and a coffee. I wish I had noticed their cocktail nibbly display before I ordered. As you stand at the bar with your mimosa in hand you can snack on savory toasts, meat-filled rolls, home-made potato chips and various cocktail goodies. A great idea if you know you're not going to be having dinner until sometime well after 2200. I'll keep that in mind for next time. And I'll be posting a few pictures of some of their sweeter goodies later.
13 febbraio - Santa Fosca