An hour from Milan

When lockdown was lifted, it all felt like someone’s idea of a joke as it rained for what felt like an eternity.

Then it stopped, and the heat arrived.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Italy, and in this case northern Italy, there is heat and there is northern Italian heat. It’s the muggy, relentless kind where the air stands still, and the mountains play hide and seek under the haze of a lost memory. It’s heat that induces lakeside aperitivos in settings that have appeared in Hollywood films (the lake being Lake Como) and dinners in squares in places that someone knows. It’s that all-Italian summer with a heavy dose of dolce vita, home to the beautiful adorned in beautiful clothes and sunglasses.

Today though, I’m the one who’s in a haze, mainly because I was up gardening until the early hours on my balcony. There was a breeze, and besides it was nice just to chill with my son and make trips to the garage at midnight to find things we really needed. Gardening on my balcony is one of my joys in life that goes with planning trips around what I’m going to eat and driving 300 kilometres to see what’s round the corner.

Today I have a brand new baby tomato which is almost as exciting as the baby guinea pigs which were born during lockdown. We never even realised she was pregnant, just walked in one evening and there was another little guinea pig. We called him Luce, or light, because that’s what we needed at the time. Another two arrived about a month later. And there you have it, the miracle of guinea pig birth or what happens when you thought you bought two girls and mother nature shows you that you didn’t.

I shall be launching a new series here called An hour from Milano. Milano because for those of us who live here Milan can never be anything but Milano. It’s a bit like Rome can only be Roma, and always with attitude.

I’ll be exploring places that you can get to that are – you guessed it – an hour (or so) from Milan. I’ll be giving the local lowdown on those places I’ve got to know during the twenty and more years I’ve lived here, and others I’ve always wanted to visit but never quite got round to.

I began my travels around Italy, getting on and off trains. Shortly afterwards, I met an Italian boyfriend (now husband) who introduced me to mountains, food in mountain refuges and flying up and down mountain passes in an Opel Corsa in the early hours of the morning. The Opel Corsa is long gone but the love of it all remains.

Photo: View of Milan from the Brianza countryside, Rachael Martin

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