Vacation Recap Part II: Milan/Brescia

27 Oct

This is Part II of IV recapping my recent Italian excursion. Read Part I here. You can also read about my tirade against American Airlines here.

We left off on October 4, our final night in Venice. Though we were sad to leave the charming, water-logged city behind, we were also looking forward to the next leg of our adventure, namely Lombardy.

I spent six months in the big, bustling city of Milan as a college junior, doing my best to absorb the language, literature, and culture. My taller half was excited to check out my old stomping grounds, even if the city itself isn’t exactly a great tourist draw. So we hopped on a train and set off:

Milan is Italy’s true economic center, and as a result, it lacks the Italianness of the rest of the country. However, it has plenty of gems of its own. There’s La Scala, world-renowned opera house:

The duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the world:

And, of course, plenty of Mussolini’s fascist architecture, such as the central train station:

Mainly, our goal for Milan was for me to walk my taller half through my life in the city. We walked outside my old apartment building, looked into the grocery stores I used, and after many attempts finally found where I took my classes. (The program has since moved.) I didn’t photograph these things this time around, but I have tons from my semester there.

After a very brief stint in Milan, we boarded another train bound for Brescia, a smaller city about 45 minutes away and, most importantly, home to my former roommate Alice (pronounced a-LEE-chay). Us five years ago:

Us a couple of weeks ago:

She was beautiful then, and she’s beautiful now.

Here are a few shots of Brescia. The old and new duomi:

The Roman ruins:

A lovely bridge:

If you plan a trip to Milan, you must:

  • Eat panzerotto at Luini (more details below)
  • Check out the duomo
  • Take a map and prepare to get lost

If you go to Brescia, you must:

  • Have gelato at Gelateria del Biondo (details below)
  • Climb to the top of the castle
  • Avoid dining out on Tuesday nights

And now, onto the food portion of this food blog.

October 5
The day started off with breakfast identical to the one I posted about in the first update. We needed fuel for the big day.

Upon arrival in Milan, I had one thing on my mind: panzerotto from Luini. Actually, I’ve had it on my mind since approximately June 15, 2005, shortly after my return to America. Somehow I held out until after our trek past my old apartment and school. This, my friends, is panzerotto:

Basically, it’s dough filled with mozzarella and tomato (or other fillings, but those are traditional) and then fried. For my Okie readers, the bread is similar to Indian fry bread. I was very happy:

Our evening was spent in Brescia, since we were houseguests of Alice and her fiancé. We flew mostly solo that evening, since they had a film fest they had to attend (one that they planned — Film Lab Festival). Before they left, we had aperitivo at a local bar. I had Italian Coca-Cola (made with real sugar!) and some potato chips. Then they were off.

My taller half and I were excited to try traditional Brescian food at a place recommended by one of the guidebooks and by Luca himself, a native Brescian. However, it was closed. In fact, many places were closed on that Tuesday night. It was very strange, indeed. After wandering around for what seemed like an eternity, we finally had dinner at a weird place called the Gold Lion, a faux Irish pub serving Italian dishes. There was bread and water:

And there were some definitely microwaved entrees. I had risotto with mushrooms:

It was pretty decent, actually. My love had polenta with cheese and French fries (the latter of which didn’t make the photo):

It wasn’t so good. In fact, it kinda sucked. However, it was food, and at one point, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get any that night. While we dined, we listened to the gentle sounds of Chuck Norris dubbed into Italian.

We decided to have gelato afterward. I forgot to photograph it, but you aren’t missing out on much. I had coffee and hazelnut, and my taller half had the same plus tiramisu. It was probably the blandest gelato of the whole trip, but again, desperation won out.

October 6
I have almost no food pictures from this day – forgive me! Since I’m still a new food blogger, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain to my Italian friends why I was taking pictures of what I was eating. I will still share some details, though.

Alice had to work in the morning, so we were a bit leisurely rising. When she returned, she brought us brioche from a nearby place and made us coffee. Yum! Real Italian coffee.

After a morning stroll, we met Luca for lunch at the same bar where we took aperitivo. It’s one of those charming places that has no menu; they just come out to tell you what they are making that day. All four of us opted for the ravioli with ricotta and herbs in a delicious butter sauce. It was moan-tastic. You know I mean it if I’m using a made-up word. There was also bread, water, and meatless croquette-type-things. The meal made the night before’s taste like dirt.

Luca departed to return to work, and the three of us checked out the sights above, including the castle, which is high up on the hill and where the photo of me and Alice was taken. Here is my taller half and me overlooking the view:

We descended and headed immediately for gelato. I can’t remember the name of this place, but it had artisanal gelato and a friendly staff who knew Alice. Here’s my treat:

I had fior di latte (which is like cream) and mint; my taller half had zuppa inglese (translates roughly to English trifle) and stracciatella (with chocolate chips); and Alice had fior di latte and coconut. It was incredibly good. Shortly thereafter, we took aperitivo at Caffe’ No. 2, another bar across town. Again, I had Coke and potato chips. They offered us polenta squares, too.

We dined in that evening, and I so wish I had felt comfortable taking pictures, because the meal was perfection. The main dish was trofie (screw-shaped pasta made with potato) with zucchini, olive oil, and spices. It was amazing, seriously. Italy is where I learned to like vegetables, zucchini in particular, so the Italian practice of cooking the crap out of summer squash is important to me. Barely steamed zucc is a crime against nature. Anyway, along with the pasta, we had raw fennel, cherry tomatoes topped with salt and olive oil, and bread Alice made in the bread machine earlier. Afterward, there was a lot of cheese: stracciatella (made with cream and mozzarella), mozzarella burrata (a kind of mozzarella with cream — burrata means “buttered”), mozzarella di bufala (with buffalo milk), and caprino (goat cheese). All were tasty, but I loved the bufala, as always, and my love went crazy for the caprino. It was smooth and creamy.

After dinner, we broke into the gelato – yes, more gelato. This was from Gelateria del Biondo, possibly the best gelateria in Brescia. Alice and I bought the flavors on the way home from aperitivo. We ended up with yogurt, hazelnut, and dark chocolate. It was incredible, seriously.

The food was all amazing, and the evening couldn’t have been more wonderful.

October 7

The morning of our departure. ::Sigh:: The day started off with delicious brioche — cream-filled and fruit-filled — and more perfect Italian coffee. After a bit of lounging around, our hosts drove us to the train station to say goodbye.

I felt sad to leave Alice, but we had Tuscany to conquer. Check back soon for Part III: Florence!

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One Response to “Vacation Recap Part II: Milan/Brescia”

  1. Alicia (Vegan Epicurean) October 28, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    What a great trip you had. BTW you are totally talking to my former cheese addiction. I could almost taste the cheese reading this post, LOL.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures. You are definitely making me miss Italy.

    Ali

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