Sunday, 25 May 2008

Arrivederci Milano

I recently visited Milan on business, so thought I'd share some brief observations.

The first thing that you notice is the general smartness of the people. Designer clothes abound, people take pride in their appearance. Considering the high cost of clothing this is praise indeed! Versace, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada - everyone seems to enjoy being stylish.

There is little litter on the streets. There is graffiti, though it tends to be artistic rather than crude.

At night I walked between restaurants and bars without concern for my safety. There is a high police presence on the streets. The local police patrol on foot or by bicycle; the Polizei and Carabinieri are highly visible, particularly in the city centre. Most police officers carry firearms.

Young soldiers are often to be seen in the city; National Service was, until recently, still mandatory in Italy.

A brief drive around the city took us past the football stadium, and I was interested to note the proximity of some quite expensive houses. I pondered whether the owners were ever troubled by drunken fans on match days; perhaps that's more an English thing. Traffic is aggressive (observance of Zebra crossings seems optional), and you must take care not to get wiped out by a Lambretta crossing the street. Petrol prices are similar to the UK. There are many small cars and a number of hybrids on the road.

On Friday evening I took a stroll through the centre of the town, taking a beer at a street cafe and absorbing the atmosphere. No gangs of youths to be seen. No drunks in doorways.

My return to the UK reminded me why I enjoy my visits abroad.

Back in Birmingham the Armani suits had turned to Donnay tracksuits, baseball caps and hoodies. Driving back through Birmingham I instinctively locked the car doors. No police to be seen. Groups of young men carrying cans of lager, shouting and swearing. Babies being pushed from pub to pub in pushchairs by smoking mothers. Shaven heads and tattoos. My England.

Buona giornata!

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