During dinner, the husband said, “we took a taxi to hotel from Central Station, and got in an unlicensed one.” I was knocked speechless, though my thoughts were going into a tailspin. I was kicking myself for not insisting on going to meet them. Why would this well-traveled couple get into an unlicensed taxi, of all things? Next, they were going to tell me that they were forced to pay some exorbitant fee. Did I have to play bodyguard for these two to make sure they had a nice stay in my adopted city? And on and on it went.
The husband continued, his face a picture of calm. “Since we got in the unlicensed taxi, I figured I would make the most of my trip to Italy and practice my Italian. So, I started counting out my numbers to the driver—uno, due, tre, quattro… when I got to fourteen, the driver yelled back, ‘Enough! Fine! Fourteen euros, then!’
Again, I was speechless.
The unlicensed taxi driver was probably knocked speechless twice himself. First, because his Japanese passenger, who comes from a culture where there’s no haggling at all, starts bargaining with him—and again when he starts at a single euro. No doubt that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was like some odd sketch comedy skit, though between the oblivious husband innocently counting his numbers and the wily unlicensed driver, it was hard to tell who was supposed to be the funny man and who was the straight one.
Back to the couple’s tour of Milan. Apparently they had been to so many other European cities before getting to Italy that they were sick of cathedrals and museums by that point—forcing me to completely rethink the sightseeing tour I had planned out for them. As I was searching for something out of the ordinary to do in Milan, the phrase “Igloos” caught my eye.
So there are some igloos in Milan… though they’re not made out of ice.
Milan has a section of town called Newspaperman’s Village, and right next to it is a street with the nickname “Dwarves’ Alley”. Newspaperman’s Village is a quiet residential area that’s perfect for enjoying a relaxing stroll while looking at houses, but we had a secret destination—and that was this Dwarves’ Alley. The street had peculiar brick igloos along it that were quite amazing.
These mushroom-shaped homes were built around 1945. Apparently there were twelve of them to start, but now just eight remain. A few of them have significant damage to their exterior walls, which was a little sad to see. I’m sure they were quite an innovative architectural experiment when they were first built. Today they have a unique charm that delights the people who go to see them—and it certainly makes one curious about what the interiors look like and whether they’re comfortable to live in.
Perhaps living in a round house like this makes for a well-rounded character as well?!