Above: the view from Barbara's terrace.
Yes OK, I'm new to tour blogging, a fact which I will make painfully obvious when it comes time to talk about the "highlights" from the trip, because I pretty much managed to have zero photos of those moments, hopefully because I was just kickin' it old-school and "enjoying myself".
So, I must say, I'd forgotten how not close to everything the Milano Malpensa airport is. Why, then, was it our entry/exit point back when we lived in Italy? No idea at all. It's one of those airports where you land (ideally), then taxi for five or ten minutes, then deplane directly onto a bus, which takes you 5km away to baggage claim, after which you take a ten-minute shuttle to the Malpensa train station, where you then take an hour train to Milan Central Station (I'm not kidding), at which point you flail around for ten minutes until a lovely woman you met on the train named Alma from Padova re-teaches you how the metro works, then you get on the metro/subway to go to the hotel's side of town.
ALL OF WHICH WE ARE NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT. We were so extremely lucky to get anywhere at all, because of lo sciopero, which is one of the first vocabulary words they teach you in Italian class, it means: strike. It's kind of an accepted thing, and happens several times a year. They're announced in advance, and generally only last anywhere from a half day to a couple of days. They can be regional or national, and can affect one or all service sectors.
For example, on Thursday the national rail service was on strike and mostly nobody in Italy went anywhere, and then on Friday the rail service was still on strike but also the Malpensa airport ground crews were on strike and all flights were cancelled from 9am-5pm. More about all this on Day 2.
I've always traveled with an overly-researched list of eating/drinking options in an attempt to avoid The Death Mope, which is what happens when you end up in a foreign city hungry and/or thirsty without a plan and you set off in a random direction thinking you'll find somewhere non-touristy or inviting or just generally non-shitty enough to park yourself, and (this is the Death Mope part) you don't. So you keep walking and getting hungrier/thirstier, etc.
For dinner, Barbara asked what we wanted to eat and we said "Italian", and gave us the silent supplicating Italian gesture that means "umm, right, but please elaborate". We said "good Italian", Jeroen said something like "Mark normally knows a good place to go", but this time I didn't b/c I didn't have an Internet connection, a concept that Barbara waved away anyway, saying "This is Italy. If you want to eat well, you don't look on the Internet: you ask an Italian where to go." She left the room for five minutes, came back and said, "I called my friend Paolo, we have reservations in an hour." Go Barbara.
So yes, then the normal driving, honking, swearing, death-defying moving violations, sidewalk parking, etc until we ended up at Trattoria Bolognese da Mauro. Which was perfect in terms of authentic food and relaxed left-wing attitude and tour-friendly prices. The food and atmosphere was indeed very Bolognese, as was the compulsion to eat beyond rational/physical limits. Two or three hours later we waddled and moaned our way back to the car and headed back to sleeping quarters for something like sleep.