When design beats utility

After the excitement of yesterday’s trip to the lake, we decided today we’d go for a walk in the park. It wasn’t just any park though, it was the Parco Sempione within which one can find an arena, a castle, an aquarium and a design museum. Best of all, it’s quite a short and direct walk from the hotel.

So, after a lovely long sleep in, we set off down the Corso Como then the Corso Garibaldi until we found the entrance by the arena. The arena is where lots of different open air functions are held. It looks a lot like the amphitheatre at Pompeii except for the lack of grass. Not that we could go inside because they were setting up for something involving massages, workshops and fitbit training. Apart from anything else, with the temperature due to rise to above 30, the complete absence of shade did not appeal. At all.

However, what did appeal (apart from the dogs off lead area filled with exercise equipment for dogs and benches for the owners to lounge on) was the aquarium. Mirinda loves an aquarium.

Ready for the fish

Of course there’s always the problem with visiting aquariums that they may just turn out to be a bit like the bottom of a muddy puddle put behind glass and injected with a few bubbles housed inside a drafty caravan…which sort of describes the one we saw at Lyme Regis a long time ago. However, we were not disappointed with this one. Though small, it was beautifully housed in a purpose built structure from 1909. The outside decorations beautifully illustrate the various creatures that live in the water.

There’s also a delightful hippo fountain with a tree growing out of the hippo’s mouth. The hippo’s name must be Billy, the tree being Ethel.

But an aquarium is more than the sum of its exterior facade. It’s all about the creatures in tanks, inside so inside we went. We weren’t disappointed. For starters it was pleasantly cooler than outside in the heat and for seconds it was not too big (I get a bit bored looking at fish for too long without eating them). It was also circular which means there’s an obvious start and finish.

We found out all about the fish that lurk around various watery places in Italy including the lakes and the streams and the Med. We also saw an amazing exhibition of Finnish frozen landscapes upstairs. All in all, a jolly good aquarium.

We then felt an overwhelming need for some liquid refreshment so, setting off once more into the park where an increasing number of decreasingly clothed bodies were appearing stretched out on the grass absorbing more than sufficient amounts of vitamin D. On the way we spotted a lake with the most tortoises I’ve ever seen in one place at one time. Some were soaking up the sun on an artificial reef while others floated around in the shallows while yet others pestered the ducks.

All tortoises

Finally we found a place that was littered with umbrellas, beer and salads. It also had a big fan mounted high on the wall into which was sprayed a very fine mist which sent cooling droplets down onto everyone. That makes it sound like they were soaking us with a hose but it was a very fine mist that you hardly felt but that made you feel a bit cooler.

We also spotted this sort of apparatus along the Corso Como attached to the awnings coming out from cafes and restaurants. A brilliant and effective idea.

The Umbrella Place

Another brilliant and effective idea is a Caprese salad on a hot day accompanied by a nice cold beer. Both of which I enjoyed immensely. I’m sure Mirinda’s big salad was equally refreshing as was her glass of red wine. It was then back into the park for a bit more wandering around like aimless locals out for a bit of a parade about town. Though it wasn’t exactly aimless because we were heading for the design museum.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for weird and wacky museums but when they feel like they may have somehow managed to thrust themselves right up their own firmament then it gets a bit much. That’s a polite way of saying it was a lot wanky. As we wandered through the years of Italian design, backwards, a lot of what we saw was pure design not made to be very useful or even comfortable in the case of quite a few pieces of furniture.

I feel that a chair, to qualify as a chair needs to be a nice place to rest one’s body not some sort of hard, flat piece of discomfort designed to look really, really cool and funky. Seriously, some of the stuff we looked at would have been quite at home in the darker reaches of the Spanish Inquisition. Though I did rather like this book case:

And the mirrors were fun. I’m not sure that they were supposed to be fun rather I think they were just part of the museum design whereby the designs were reflected back into the room which was made to look bigger as a result. However, we found them a lot of fun and spent quite a bit of time making faces and posing in silly ways…as you do.

A couple of swells

After a bit of fun we decided to go downstairs and have the world’s smallest cups of coffee where we watched the main guy serving spend all his time devoted to three chaps who were obviously in far greater need of a cocktail than any human has any right to be. It was a bit odd to say the least. Anyway, we drank our coffee, hardly noticing them before leaving for the long, hot walk back to the hotel.

Of course we stopped off on the way back for a gelato each – they were amazing, the best yet. The Italians make the BEST ice cream EVAH!

The old and the new looking up Corso Como

Now any eagle eyed reader might have noticed that we didn’t visit the Sforza castle. The reason for this is simple. We are big fans of the Medici and Borgia families both of which had problems with the damned Sforzas. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could thrust them! Anyway, we had more than enough to contend with than making an effort to see the Sforza castle.

Meanwhile back at the hotel…after a long deserved rest, which may have included an episode of Silent Witness, we set out for dinner. Mirinda had booked us into the wonderful Sicilian restaurant, Sikélaia. It was a bit of a hike from the hotel but by the gods it was worth any sort of hike.

We had the taster menu and every course was sublime. The wine, which was chosen by the sommelier given my lack of Sicilian wine knowledge, was so extraordinary that I’m going to insist that our wine guy gets us some.

Over dinner we were wondering who we would enjoy a taster menu most with. After much discussion and debate, the answer was unanimous. It had to be Monali. Maybe Ben as well but Monali regardless.

That was merely a side issue in what was the most delicious meal we’ve had in ages. The staff were also brilliant, making each course and interaction amazingly personal, as if they’d known us for years. It’s a great skill and one we thoroughly enjoyed.

The veal course

We then wandered back to the hotel, dodging the thousands of revellers that literally littered the pavement all the way back. To be completely honest, I wandered behind a staggering Mirinda who had rather over indulged…but I’m not going to tell anyone that.

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One Response to When design beats utility

  1. mum says:

    Those pictures of you both were great ugly but great haha love mum xxxx

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