Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Garibaldi station, the Bicocca university campus, the Arcimboldi theater and some practical notes

I went on an adventure with you in mind (well, for me going some place new, even nearby, is an adventure), and it didn't turn out at all like I thought it would, but it was productive, nonetheless.

It starts at the Porta Garibaldi train station......More......

...that is under these two new large towers (the area is being built up rapidly with high rises). The goal? An outlet that I'd seen in an ad. Not that I'm fixed on shopping, but knowing outlets can be helpful. Destination? The Greco-Pirelli-Bicocca train station.

Before leaving Milan's train stations, it's a good idea to get your return ticket, too. If the destination station is really small, there won't be an open ticket counter, and there might not even be a working ticket machine. Better to be safe than sorry! Touch the screen on the English flag, and follow the fairly easily comprehensible instructions...the ticket won't be much for such a short hop to the first station on this line. Maybe a few Euros. As long as the station is inside the city limits and is served by the light rail system called the "Passante," your normal Milanese bus tickets and passes will work on the Passante trains, too. Beware: some of these ticket machines take cash, while others only take "bancomat" cards (their version of our Automated Teller Machine cards), credit cards and pre-paid cards.

So, my platform was number 19...head straight out to the train lines and turn right, or left, as the case may be, right? Wrong! It's very VERY poorly marked until you actually know where you're going, and turn into the stair well, but all platforms here from 15 to 20 are on the other side of the lines going further into town, so you need to go downstairs, under those rails, and back up on the other side platform by platform.

Literally about 5 minutes later, and the train pulled into the station. Got off the train, and this is what I saw: bushes, an infinite stretch of rails and tall condo buildings. Behind us? A really small station.

Signage stank, so good thing I'd looked on the internet and at maps before going: I turned right, and figured that that white building--whatever it was--in the foreground was about where I needed to turn left into town. Yup, it was.

In the meantime, it turns out that that building is the famous Arcimboldi theatre that was the seat for La Scala operas while that opera house was being renovated, and now houses plays and the very popular Zelig live comedy show. Good to know that it's so easy to get to,, if they only had early afternoon showings, I'd be willing to go.

Forging ahead a short walk, I found the street I was looking for, nestled in Bicocca's open campus of school and dorm buildings (Bicocca is the University of Milan's suburban campus). Turns out, though, that the outlet was a kind of single tag-ends store, not the mall I expected, and it was closed at that (well, it was Sunday afternoon).

Now what to do? A question to a welcome face in this area deserted like the piazzas in a De Chirico painting ("It's packed with people during the school year....") directed me to the two malls in relatively close walking distance, but, with the blazing sun, a quick bus ride away. Not really big on shopping malls in Italy, but, man, was I thirsty and hot. Names? Bicocca Village and Centro Commerciale Bonola. Both what Italians call "cathedrals in the desert." Must be the university summer vacation that creates this eery effect. Here's a snap of the purposefully rusty modern sculpture in front of the Bonola mall...which is not what you see in the background. That must be an office building. Sun wasn't in the right place for a snap of the outside of the mall.

Bicocca Village is a few minutes closer to the train station than the Centro Commerciale Bonola, but there's that eery De Chirico effect. The center at Viale Sarco (corner of via Chiese, set back a bit from Sarco) has a cinema. Stores open 11 A.M. to 10 P.M. Monday-Thursday, and until 11 P.M. on Friday and Saturday. Sundays in August most of the stores are closed (though the mall, itself, was open when I went, and a few stores, mostly the food stalls, were open); during the rest of the year, the stores close at 9 P.M. on Sunday. Other closures? August 15 and September 01. The restaurants stay open until midnight. The cinema also has its own hours. How to get there? You'll have to muddle through the Italian page, but it's laid out well enough, so hopefully you'll not have too many problems recognizing the names of the bus, tram and metro stops.

Centro Commerciale Bonola (via Quarenghi 23) is just a bit farther, and inside is a perfectly normal shopping mall with a do-it-yourself store called Brico (look in the yellow pages to find these handy stores in Milan) and an ENORMOUS supermarket-Walmart-style store combo. How to get there? It's not in English, either, but laid out clearly. Hours? Monday - Thursday 8:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M., Friday and Saturday hours are a bit longer (8:30 A.M. to 9 P.M.), Sunday's a bit shorter (9 A.M. to 8 P.M.).

Nearby the two malls is the old abandoned Falck company steel factory. They keep talking about renovating it, and I hear that a small part has been opened, and rented out to up-and-coming businesses. Here's a sneak peek between the boarded up wall at the side walk.

Upshot of the afternoon?

I wouldn't go to all this trouble just to go to one of these two malls...what they offer is easier to get in town...but if you want to go to the Arcimboldi Theater, or you will be going to the Bicocca campus, now you know how to do it! Isn't that reassuring?!


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