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2019 - The good , the bad, the ugly. Year End Review


Each year on New Years Day I take time to reflect on the past year. Some years are wonderful. Some are uneventful. And some I am just glad to see be over. 2019 was one of those years. There were good moments. And then there were some bad ones. Nothing unusual about that. But the bad ones seemed to be overwhelming this year.

Mark changed jobs twice this year. The bank where he was employed was sold and he had to find a new job. This was a bad situation that worked for the best. He found a new job well before the bank finally closed so he was never really unemployed. He phoned me from work one morning and said to me I start the new job in two weeks. So lets plan a last minute trip before I start the new job. I am never one to turn down a chance to travel. Out of nowhere we decided to go to Milan.


I love Milan. I had been to Milan once before in 2002. But many people are unimpressed with Milan. On my first trip even the woman at the ticket counter in the airport asked me "Why Milan?" So I was bit concerned Mark might be unimpressed also. But I had nothing to worry about. Mark loved Milan as much or even more than I do.


Mark chilling at a ristorante in the Galleria in Milan

We also had the chance to take a train to Bergamo while in Milan.


Beautiful Bergamo

Also on this trip I had the chance to return to my beloved Switzerland. And any year I can visit Switzerland is a good year. While in Milan we took a side trip to Lugano. It was definitely Switzerland but it also had a very Italian feel to it. It's right on the border of Switzerland and Italy. There is just something about Switzerland that captures my spirit even if they are speaking Italian.


The beautiful Lugano Switzerland

Mark started his new job after we returned and it worked well for him. But then out of nowhere he received another job offer. The job had a good increase in salary and also was a much better commute for him. So after just a few months he bid farewell to the new job and started his adventure to a job in our neighboring county. And he really likes the job and everyone who is working there. Even though I have said this was not a great year for us, work wise it's been a great year for Mark.

Because Mark was in a new job we were not able to travel this summer. But don't feel bad for us. We spent every weekend this summer visiting local breweries in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia area. It was great fun. We were entertained every weekend. And we got to try both very good and some mediocre beers. But even mediocre beer isn't all bad.


RAR Brewery - Cambridge Maryland

The year was going well. Mark was enjoying his second new job of the year. My daughter Katie was hired for a new position with a large increase in salary. And then the ball dropped. My daughter Danielle was made redundant at her job. She was completely unprepared. She was given a small severance package. And she remained unemployed the rest of the year. Then to add fuel to fire her wife was let go from her job also at the end of year. We are all hoping after the holidays are over they will be be able to find new jobs the first of 2020,

In November we were able to travel once more. Our friend Gillian from Manchester, England joined us for a week in Hawaii. It was Mark and my fourth trip to Hawaii. And once more we were overwhelmed.


December found us with two more problems. My daughter had to have cervical surgery. She had to have a disc replaced in her neck. Then her boyfriend had emergency surgery two weeks before Christmas. To top all of this, Danielle and her wife were unable to join us for Christmas due to their job situation. We had a very uneventful Christmas missing Danielle and Andrea. We spent the morning on our Iphones with face time opening presents together.

We lost some dear friends this year. A beloved extended family member passed away on Christmas Day. We lost family members in Mark's family. And we lost a beloved little dog named Kobi who has been a part of our family for fifteen years. We have continued to watch Mark's Mom slowly fade away to the monster of Alzheimers. But we still have so much to grateful for. And we have a lot to look forward to in 2020. We are already planning some travel for February. I am assured Danielle will find new employment. I have a 50th high school reunion in mid 2020. 2020 you are the beginning of a new decade. We are counting on you to start of this decade better than the last one ended.

Posted by littlesam1 21:10 Tagged italy christmas hawaii switzerland milan Comments (5)

Pirelli Tower Plane Crash, Milan and Me

Impressions on the Pirelli Tower - From two very different perspectives

View Italy 2002 on littlesam1's travel map.


Pirreli Tower - March 2019

I have a very unique relationship with the Pirelli Tower in Milan. It's important to me for several unique reasons that are important only unto me. But even without my own skewed opinions it is a remarkable structure in it's own rite. The construction of the tower started in 1955 I was three years old so it had no significance to me at that time or to my family. I doubt my parents ever heard of the tower in their lifetime. It was designed by a group of architects headed by Gio Ponti and Pier Luigi Nervi. Ponti was a designer and an architect. He created things ranging from coffee machines and chairs to houses and churches. Nervi is considered one of the greatest engineers of his time who specialized in concrete structures. Their combined knowledge and creativity led to the creation of a truly innovative skyscraper.

The most striking aspect of the tower's design is it's slender shape. With Nervi's technical knowledge it allowed Ponti to design a tower with a very narrow base. It is supported by concrete piers that decrease in size as the reach up to the top of the building. The tower rises up from it's small base to a height of 417 feet. Before it's completion there was no building ever in Milan that rose taller. At it's completion it was the tallest building in not only Milan but also all of Italy. Today in Milan alone there are many towers that are taller but for it's time it was a massive achievement.

So why is this tower significant to me? I was planning a visit to Milan in 2002. It would be my first trip to Italy. At that time the Internet was still relatively new to me and I was having fun "surfing the web" and learning all kinds of new things that I never had access to studying before. I was trying to do some research on Milan for the trip. In 2002 there were not many true social websites. But I did find a little Internet site named Virtual Tourist while researching Milan. And one of the first things I read about was the Pirelli Tower. I joined the web site and became a member of Virtual Tourist, loving referred to by it's members as VT. I had no idea at the time though that I would have my own personal story to share about the Pirelli Tower and something I could write about on this new fascinating web page. My introduction to VT was one of the turning points in my life. I met many wonderful people from all over the world never realizing that one day many of them would also become personal friends that I would come to know face to face. Virtual Tourist closed it's web site a few years ago. It's time had passed on and other communities like Facebook and Trip Adviser had taken it's place. But the friends have remained. And I still see many of these friends from time to time on a regular basis. So the Pirelli Tower has a very important emotional memory for me connecting me to that unique communities of travelers and good friends.

I was flying to Milan from Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. It was my first time to fly from Dulles. It was in April 2002. Six months after the horrific attacks in the United States on 9/11. As I was sitting in the lounge area waiting to board the plane the TV monitor had a breaking news update. The announcer asked is this another 9/11? The Pirelli Tower in Milan has just been struck by an airplane. Everyone in the lounge went silent and stared at the TV. I had cold chills watching the news footage. It did look like a terrorist attack. And we were flying right into that city. Nightmares of the aftermath of 9/11 hit me and I was trying to decide if I really wanted to go ahead and fly into Milan on this trip. After lots of talking and thinking and soul searching my traveling companion and I decided we were going to go ahead and fly to Milan if the airport stayed open. But we were nervous.


Pirelli Tower after 2002 air plane crash. I took the photo on our arrival three days later

The Pirelli Tower sits directly next to Milan's Central Station, it's main train station. So when we arrived we would we be taking the train to that station from the airport and we would see the tower upon our arrival. When we did arrive we had a flight to Venice planned, We would be changing planes in Milan and headed to Venice for three days before eventually staying in Milan. There was much talk and speculation about the plane crash we when arrived at the airport in Milan. But neither of us spoke Italian so we did not know what all was being said. We did come to understand no one was sure yet what exactly had happened. It was still less than 24 hours since the crash.

While in Venice the more of the story started to be unraveled. On April 18, 2002 a Rockwell Commander 112 single engine airplane registered in Switzerland had hit the building. The aircraft was scheduled to fly from Magadino Airport in Switzerland to Milan. The plane was piloted by 65 year old Luigi Fasulo. As the plane flew over Milan the pilot radioed to the control tower at Linate airport in Milan that there was a problem with the retractable landing gear. The tower began arranging an emergency landing. There was a mix up in communications from the tower. The pilot's radio went off with another aircraft saying "No, they told you to land, not me!" Minutes later the small plane hit the Pirelli tower. Glass and debris littered the area and immediate surrounding. Shop windows nearby broke from the vibrations. The pilot and two lawyers inside the tower were killed. All total between thirty and forty people were taken to the hospital with moderate injuries. The nearby Central Train Station, the metro and Linate airport were shut down. We were flying on to Venice from Malpaso Airport in Milan so there were no delays or cancellations when we arrived later that day.

Three days later when we returned from Venice we walked out of Milan's central station and still saw debris and glass on the street. There was an active clean up still going on when we arrived.


My photo of the Pirelli Tower three days after the crash in 2002

When we came home I wrote my tip on Virtual Tourist about seeing the Pirelli Tower after the crash. I must have made it sound like I was an expert on Milan and the tower. A few years later "G" who managed the VT web site wrote to me after reading my Milan story and asked me to be the page editor for Milan. I knew very little about Milan other than my four day visit so I have no idea why I even accepted the offer to be an editor. But I did tag and organize photos for him. VT and my written story are long gone. But the tower and my memories of the day remain. I was very excited to return to Milan in March 2019. And very interested to see the building again after it's restoration.


Larry at Pirelli Tower - March 2019

Posted by littlesam1 13:52 Archived in Italy Tagged venice italy airports milan virtual_tourist pirelli_tower plane_crash Comments (4)

Two Crazy Guys In Milan - Due pazzi ragazzi a Milano

Finding the soul of Milan

View Due pazzi ragazzi a Milano - March 4 - March 13, 2019 on littlesam1's travel map.

Mark and I made a last minute decision to travel to Milan in March 2019. This was truly a last minute decision. We had been planning for a year to travel to Bulgaria to meet with our Virtual Tourist friends for their annual Euromeet in June. Then suddenly Mark had a drastic change in employment The bank where he works was sold and we had no idea what he employment situation would be for the rest of the year so we put all travel plans on the back burner. Fortunately Mark found a new job before his current job ended. He was to start his new job the end of March. So there was no way we could still plan the trip to Bulgaria in June. He would have no time accumulated for a vacation and let's face it, it's not good practice to start a new job asking for vacation two months later. So we decided to take take a brief vacation between the ending of one job and the starting of the other. But we only had two weeks to make the plans and leave for the trip to make this work. And how do you plan, research,and book a trip in that short of a time span? The easiest thing would be to plan a car trip locally. Maybe the Blue Ridge Parkway, maybe North Carolina's Outer Banks. Even a flight to the the western US using airline mileage and a rental car would not be too difficult to pull off. So what did we end up doing? We went to Milan, Italy.

I always like to name my vacations. It makes it easy to label the file folders for my photos in my computer. It gives me an instant reference when thinking about the trip and reflecting on it months later. Since this was such a crazy last minute idea I named this vacation Due Paazi Ragazzi a Milano which is Italian for Two crazy guys in Milan.

When we plan vacations we brainstorm ideas of places we might both want to see, especially places neither of us have visited before. Many times we mention places to visit and then realize one or the other of us have already been there and we always say "But you have already been there. Let's find someplace we both have not seen." So I was hesitant to mention Milan at first as I had been there in 2002 long before I knew Mark. And also Milan is not always the most popular choice of cities to visit in Italy. I fell in love with Milan on my first visit although most of the guide books warned me there were more exciting cities to visit. Even at the airport when I was checking in for my flight the woman at the Alitalia ticket counter questioned my choice of visiting Milan. So it may have been that I was not expecting a lot when I arrived which caused me to be pleasantly surprised. But I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and have always said I wanted to return one day. However I was concerned when Mark agreed on Milan. I knew it would be his only major vacation this year and I did not want him to be disappointed. I warned him Milan was not Rome or Venice or even Florence. It was unique to itself and its treasures were not obvious. You had to walk the street, keep your eyes open and explore the back streets to find the hidden treasures of Milan. Other than the beautiful Duomo not a lot screams at you Stop Now in Milan. You have to go find it. I think this is what sold Mark on Milan. He loves to walk and explore. Give him a map and he is thrilled to see what he can discover.


We found many churches to visit of course. However we did not get to see DaVinci's The Last Supper. You have to make reservations way in advance. So after two trip to Milan I still have not seen the masterpiece. Maybe I will get back one day to to eventually see it. Instead I saw lots of interesting people like this romantic couple in the photo below. The girl is obviously in a romantic mode in this beautiful city and the guy is obviously more interested in his cell phone. She has no idea.



I also discovered a new beer which became a favorite. I have not seen it here at home so I made sure to have plenty while in Milan.

We stayed at a kooky hotel named Allegroitalia Espresso Hotel. It had a strange subway map motif in the hallway.



Our hotel room had a wine cork screw design on the door.


And the hotel had no morning breakfast which is common is so many European hotel. But we were not disappointed because they had a free dinner buffet in the evening instead. This hotel did everything out of the ordinary. They had a huge lounge area with the food and also a bar. There were huge flat screen TV's where we got to watch soccer live. The employees were encouraged to interact with the guests. So they watched the games with us. Ate at the dinner buffet and also played table top and video games with everyone.


Next subject. Food. We love Italian food. It is my favorite type of food And Mark is Italian so he knows good Italian food. We loved Rome two years ago. We had great meals in Rome. But we both agreed we were more impressed with the food in Milan. We ate most of our meals in our little neighborhood where the kooky hotel was located. And we found a favorite bar and restaurant which was on the unusual side also. It was named Le Biciclette. Small, ecelectic, and very much a small neighborhood favorite. We had great food, interesting drinks and laughs with the bartenders. I love a good Aperol Spritz when in Italy. But I have never seen one made with an olive and a cherry. Always just a cherry. But the bartender added an olive each time and it elevated the drink to a very different and interesting level.


We sat in a rooftop bar near the Duomo on another day for another Aperol Spritz, this time without the olive. But look at my view in the photo. Could there be a more picturesque location for a mid afternoon cocktail?caa527a0-a316-11e9-99ff-313902cae6f6.JPG

Other than Aperol Spritz's and Ichnusa beer we also found time for some of our favorite foods in all of Italy.




We could have planned for months in advance. We could have booked reservations for The Last Supper. We could have taken hours visiting churches and monuments we found on internet searches instead of just finding them by surprise on our daily walks. But we would have missed the soul of Milan. I think this is why so many people do not find Milan to be a favorite. It's a city with a hidden soul. It's a city that is waiting for you to take the time to discover it's secrets. And it was so worth the effort. So if you are planning a last minute trip and only have two weeks to book the trip do something different. Discover the back neighborhoods and side streets of Milan.



Be like the Due pazzi regazzi a Milano, the two crazy guys in Milan


Posted by littlesam1 06:43 Archived in Italy Tagged food italy duomo milan Comments (3)

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