A weekend in Milan

I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, I am not a rich jerk sugar daddy. Even though spending a weekend in Italy sounds like something only millionaires do, even though I of all people invest a ridiculous amount of money my travels. Even by my standards going for just 2 days to a 6-hour away timezone was not just a ridiculous idea. It was not even a conceivable one. Hell, it was not even my idea! Especially via 3 connecting flights! But when a girl buys you a ticket for your birthday, you don’t argue.

I had 2 days to rent a car. And then I was in the plane! Toronto – Montreal – Zurich – Milan. A coffee at each airport. A beer in each plane. Okay maybe the beer was too much… It was early morning when I landed in Milan. I walked over to the Sixt car rental desk, got my keys and left a note for Her. Then I went back upstairs and ordered a true Italian espresso. As I sipped it, the lyrics from Ornella Vanoni’s L’appuntamento reeled through my mind. Accettare questo strano appuntamento è stata una pazzia! Pazzia! PAZZIA! But when a girl buys you a ticket for your birthday, you don’t argue.

I returned downstairs and asked if anyone has collected my note. The answer was yes. Frantically I looked around in search of Her but to no avail. I retraced my steps and saw Her. I ran up behind her and covered her eyes with my hands.

“Guess who!”

As she hung on my neck I was overwhelmed by two feelings and one of them was sadness. Sadness that we would only be together 2 days. It didn’t seem right. I should have told her something, I should have asked to buy new tickets right there. But when a girl buys you a plane ticket for your birthday you don’t negotiate.

We spent the whole day driving around Italy. Destination was the village of Trivero. We took the most direct route to Trivero with detours to Varese, Lugano, Lago Maggiore, Biella, and frankly I don’t remember a dozen other towns but the number of u-turns I made on those narrow Italian roads exceeded all those combined. Overall it was more than 20 u-turns we made, especially when we reached a dead end in the mountains near Biella.

“See what happens when I don’t study the route ahead of time?” I told her.

As we drove through Valle Mosso I was shocked at the desolation of this land and the number of abandoned factories with shattered windows. These factories were no longer needed, it seemed. Even Italy with its once prominent economic power was no match for the heavily industrialized countries such as Germany or China. And this was north Italy. Not even south. South, I hear, is much worse. The truth stared us in the face, truth of the recession in Italy and other Mediterranean worlds, truth of the collapse of the European Union. Its roots start here, where once simple and peaceful life suddenly became obsolete in face of such aggressive globalization as the world sees today. It is nobody’s fault. The money simply does not flow to these old pockets of time, frozen, about to become fossil. And the further we went up into the mountains the more fossilized everything was. Fossilized, derelict, dead.

And suddenly it happened… WOOF! That magical moment when the world we thought we knew and took for granted, the world we counted on, where we had mortgages, jobs, silly weekends and pretended to like each other, that world was swept from underneath our feet. We crossed an invisible border and drove into a fairy land, another dimension, a world detached from the outside. There is something you should know about the land of Italy, dear reader, and it is the reason why perhaps I love this land more than any other in the world. There will always be places untouched by tourists. And of all lands, Italy makes you feel it the strongest when you suddenly find one. Trivero was one of them.

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