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Monday, June 9, 2008

At home in Milano: remembering the importance of having a room with view

While some writing and photography commissions keep us on the road for a while crisscrossing regions and countries, as we've just done researching the Calabria guidebook, others, such as city guides, require us to settle down in one place for a while to do research. Usually we rent an apartment and create the 'home' we miss when we're on the road and we endeavor to live like locals as much as possible. This post is the first in a series called 'At home in (insert city)', which I'll write whenever we're based in one place for a while, and where I'll share both the fun stuff and the occasional frustrations of living in 'foreign' cities. We're in Milano now and the image is that of the French doors in our dining and living area and the view from our fourth floor across to an apartment block that's typical of our neighborhood, the Navigli. Navigli refers to the two canals that run through this lively area of Milan, a neighborhood jam-packed with restaurants, bars and cafes and funky little shops, that still has a village feel. From the window I can see elderly ladies who've dressed up to go to shopping exchange niceties with friends they bumped into on the street, dreadlocked Italian students with their art portfolios over their shoulders cycling home from university, and on the balcony opposite a a hip young gay couple sipping something in champagne flutes, as they too enjoy the action down below. We arrived a week ago and after we unpacked and set up our work space on the dining table, I looked out the window and said to Terry: "We need to make sure we always rent apartments with a room with a view - it's just so inspiring." Terry agreed. The view provides a constant source of entertainment, amusement, information, and of course, inspiration. We not only enjoy what we glimpse when we glance up from our work, but we sit in front of the window and appreciate the aspect more fully when we take breaks for coffee or lunch or a glass of vino bianchi in the evenings. Those are the times when, looking out that window, we learn about the rhythms and rituals of the everyday lives of the locals as we watch them go about their daily business, heading off to work, returning home, eating out, meeting friends for drinks, even watching the football together as they were in the bars tonight. Aside from the 'research value', it's just such a joy to take in the vistas and the vibe of life on the street. And enjoy the changing light.


Monna said...

Maybe it is a cliche about travel but I too adore a room or apartment with a view. It really pulls the traveller into the life of the place we are visiting. Our best views have definitely been from two different pensiones in Venazza on the Cinque Terre. We wanted never to leave.
Thanks for writing about this!

Prêt à Voyager said...

For most of my travels up to this point I've never cared about a view. I've been on a budget and never been around long enough to appreciate it. I'm getting to the point though where I think a room with a view would be nice. And you're lucky to have each other to share it with ;)


Lara Dunston said...

Monna, we'll be on the Cinque Terre in about a month - busy time to go, I know, but unfortunately that's the nature of travel writing, can't always pick when and where to be somewhere. Any tips?

Hi Anne, gosh, even when we were young and back-packed on a tight budget I still demanded a room with a view, even with 1- and 2-star places and pensiones, I'd always select the one on the main piazza or an interesting shopping street or better yet overlooking the sea, and always demand a room with a view. Even if we couldn't afford to always eat out we could have some cheeses and salamis and a cheap bottle of wine on the balcony and watch the action below. Now, when I'm seeking hotels out for guides, I always look for views too. I think it makes a real difference to the experience.