2 October, Tuesday: La strada
Before we got on the highway, Al wanted to show me two small towns he discovered yesterday afternoon. Pontigano and Pontignanello are small villages among the vineyards. We stopped to watch the grape harvest in the fields, all by hand. The old towers of Siena could be seen in the distance. Even passed a charter house from 1345.
Finally, on to the busy highway and a long drive to Milan. The trip took six hours but could easily have much taken longer. There is an enormous amount of truck traffic on this highway, the right lane being one semi after another. Most of Italy's freight is carried by truck, many of them funneling towards the tunnels that go under the Alps. Three times as we drove north, the southbound traffic came to a complete standstill and was backed up for miles. We were fortunate that there were no delays going in our direction.
Our hotel, the Hotel Villa Malpensa, is located in Vizzola Ticino, a small town right next to the Malpensa airport outside Milan. Amazingly, we never heard an airplane while there, even with the windows open. The hotel is old and dignified, but is well adapted for today's business travelers. In the restaurant we savored one last wonderful Italian meal. For the first time since before our cruise, we had a television in our room; but the only English-speaking station was an all financial station, so we still didn't get much news from America.
3 October, Wednesday: Home
Neither of our flights today was crowded. Milan, as it has for years, required an armed policeman at the gate before we could board. But what was new was the search of carry-on baggage just before entering the cabin. We were aware that this would happen so we checked two bags for the trip home, whereas when we came to Europe four weeks earlier, we had all carry-on and no checked baggage. The plane was a little more than half filled, but many passengers were dressed "tout en noir", all in black. No, they weren't in mourning. These were "fashionistas" who were leaving the great annual fashion show taking place in Milan that week.
At Kennedy airport, we expected a long delay at customs but instead zipped right
through, with personal service from the Delta folk. On board another flight with many empty
seats, a Delta supervisor came to our seats, knowing our names, and asked about the quality of
service on both legs of our flight. The airline had never
before been so solicitous. Flying had definitely changed since September 11. We got back
to San Francisco and into the house by 8:50 PM, just twenty-four hours after waking up in Milan.