Beautiful Italy

Italy - Beautiful Italy

I was freezing, wet and at most had slept for a couple of hours on the trim trail, I hadn’t shaved in three days, my arse ached from the cycling and now I was setting off in the dark just to get warm. I followed an early morning jogger towards the exit of the shopping centre and as I passed the hotel I was angry with myself for not checking in the night before, how I longed for a comfortable bed and a good nights sleep. I followed the signs to Monza, I was next to a wide road on a fairly decent cycle path so made headway quickly. Daylight started to break and the sky was a wonderful dark blue, I had warmed up and although tired was starting to enjoy the journey. I saw a sign for the famous Monza race track and one for the town centre, I followed the road for the town centre.

Cycling along at the side of an amazing dual carriageway, not like back home, this one was grand almost like it would lead to a palace. It had trees along the meridian and a row of trees on each side, the buildings were really old, big and grand. I came across a neoclassical hotel at a large T junction and across the road was The Royal Villa of Monza, Villa Reale. So it did lead to a palace, at 06:00 I had reached Monza. I propped my bike on the wall surrounding the villa and as dawn broke I took some photos. I cycled towards the Piazza Trento e Trieste, I arrived in the Piazza just before 07:00, there were street cleaners, a few dog walkers and students heading to school. I filmed on the square but had to do three takes as a little dog called Jennifer was running around me and jumping up at the camera. I was getting chilly again so went to the cafe bar at the edge of the piazza. It was a traditional Italian bar, a curved wooden counter with spirits along the back and of course a huge coffee machine. I ordered a coffee and pastry and then headed to pay the owners mother who was sat at a little counter by the door. I bet no one gets past her, I paid and sat outside watching the piazza come to life on this clear but chilly day.

Monza

The piazza was getting busy and when I had finished my coffee I walked around Monza taking in the early morning sights. The town had a wonderful church and a really old square. School was starting,
the streets were full of kids and the traffic was building. I cycle towards the edge of town but as the roads were busy I stopped for another coffee. The sign on the door read free WiFi, so I locked my bike to the bike rack close to the little cafe and went on. It wasn’t busy, only one other person who was just leaving. The walls were covered in memorabilia, lots of photos of famous guitarist’s and in every photo was an image of the guy who was stood behind the counter. There were guitars hanging on the walls and some other pop art, a small stage was in the corner of this cafe, now when I say small it was as if someone had taken the legs off one of the cafes tables and left the table top on the floor, then put a chair on it and a mic stand in front of it. I ordered the pancakes and coffee, 09:00am and on to breakfast number two. I sat outside which was becoming the norm for eating and drinking, mainly so I could watch my bike and the world gostir, This place was crazy, the pavements were packed with people some of them dressed up like they were on a walk of shame but as I was close to Milan it was just Italian fashion. The road was also busy and I wondered how safe I would be cycling into Milan centre. The breakfast was good but the internet connection wasn’t working so I got the GoPro out and filmed.

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Apparently Italy is not statistically the worst for cyclists getting squashed on the road. The journey from Monza to the outskirts of Milan was easy, some of it by road, a little by pavement and only a tiny fraction on cycle paths. It was a busy main arterial road heading to Milan. I came across a park and decided to sit in the sun and write my journal. The park wasn’t busy at first but after half an hour it was full of mums and toddlers playing, at the back of the park was a grand building with the name Fanny embossed in big letters at the apex of the entrance. I couldn’t help thinking it would be a good name for a gynaecological clinic. I pushed on, heading to the centre of Milan, I was feeling a bit grubby, I hadn’t shaved in three days and had been sleeping rough, I felt like a tramp. I came to a three way junction and had to wait at a red light, whilst I said I noticed a public swimming pool in front of me. I got off my bike and pushed it to the bike rack outside. I took my gear off the bike and carried it into the building, there was a women arguing at the desk, half a dozen people waiting to pay and this tramp like creature wearing a cycle helmet holding 2 panniers and a tent. I wasn’t the average customer and created quite a stir, the women behind the desk finished her argument, ignored everyone else in the queue and asked me what I wanted. I told her I wanted to freshen up and maybe swim, she didn’t understand me but luckily someone on front of me spoke English and translated. Once I had explained my journey everyone became extremely helpful. The queue parted, the woman at the desk gave me a key to a small safe for my valuables a swimming hat and a big friendly smile. I paid 4 Euros and when I had my change I headed for the changing room. I had doors held open for me, everyone was helpful, pleasant and I felt like a bit of a celebrity, they probably just thought, he smells let’s get him in a shower quickly.

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I left that public swimming pool clean, smelling fresh and happy. All of a sudden I was energised and ready to enjoy Milan. It took a while to get into the heart of Milan but the architecture was magnificent, the roads weren’t, it was incredibly busy and there were times I nearly became a statistic. I made it to the epicentre of one of the most beautiful cities I had ever been to and what they say about Milan being the fashion and designer capital was true people were walking around in some horrendous outfits. There were shops as far as the eye could see, every designer outlet you could imagine. I walked around Milan for hours the main day square was breathtaking, a magnificent cathedral, museums and monuments. I filmed in the main square which attracted no attention what so ever! I even photo bombed a few people for a laugh. Milan is defiantly a place I’ll return to.

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About John Holt

John Holt has worked in the travel industry for over 14 years and comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor for his practical and candid talks on travel destinations. Spending 18 months as a "Local Interest Specialist" for a leading tour operator John has become known as having more practical information than Google.

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