Saluti, Milano! from the big one in Italy
Gian Luca Rossi and Nicoletta Prandi, a married professional couple from Milano, Italy, visited their city’s “namesake.”
The adventure started out to be a slight detour on their vacation trip through Texas but the couple ended up staying most of two days in the area and charming everyone in sight.
Rossi is a sports journalist—“it’s all soccer in Europe”—and Prandi works in economic development for the 1,500-year-old city that’s the second largest in Italy.
They weren’t aware Texas had a Milano until Rossi spotted it on a map last week in their Austin hotel room.
That moment their trip to Milam County became a foregone conclusion.
“ We looked at the map! It wasn’t that far so we said ‘let’s go to this Milano’!” he said. (Rossi talks in exclamation points.) “And so, here we are!”
BIG CITY—One point needs to be cleared up. Milan is the English form of the Italian city’s name. It is, and always has been, Milano in Italian.
It’s a city of two million and has a metro area of over eight million. In Italy only Rome is larger.
The couple have a knack for finding la dolce vita (the sweet life) fun on their trips. Rockdale was not supposed to be a stop but they spotted an “Antiques” sign, stopped and spent the night.
“Our room (at Rainbow Courts) is about three times the size of our home in Milano,” Prandi said.
Their Milano (Texas) destination was still eight miles away but the couple spent most of an afternoon meeting, charming and befriending virtually everyone in Rockdale with whom they came into contact.
That included Police Chief Thomas Harris, Municipal Development District Manager (and Milano resident) Kara Clore and embroidery shop owner Matilde Garza of M&G Embroidery.
Garza made Rossi a “Milano, Texas” patch to commemorate his visit. He collects patches and sports a backpack full of them.
Rossi makes it a point to visit police officers wherever he goes. “I have great respect and admiration for the police,” he said.
INTERVIEW—Rossi photographed, or videoed, virtually everything he encountered during the trip to Rockdale and Milano.
In fact, The Reporter’s editor heard something in the hall, came to his office doorway and found Rossi cheerfully videoing away, narrating in Italian, pausing to flash a big smile and a cheery ‘ hi, how are you?’ in English, then continuing on with his Italian monologue.
The couple say they feel at home in the United States.
“I love America,” Rossi said. “When we get a vacation this is where we come. And this year we wanted to go to Texas. It is so big and so famous.”
Then it was saluti (welcome) to Milano. First stop was the community center where Mayor Billy Barnett and Police Chief Colin Owen awaited.
Rossigota quickhistorylesson on Milano’s founding, Texas politics and the nature of Texans in general.
In between those discussions he went bounding outside to video a passing Union Pacific freight and the Milano Volunteer Fire Department’s pumpers.
Prandi talked about her role in helping to promote Expo Milano 2015: Feeding the Planet; Energy For Life, a giant international gathering on the scale of a world’s fair, dealing with alleviating hunger worldwide.
The event will feature exhibits and pavilions by over a hundred countriesr.
After conversing at some detail in English, Prandi mentioned, a lmost in pa ssing, t hat her knowledge of the language came from a two-week course she had taken prior to the trip.
SKYWALKER—Next stop was the Milano school district where Rossi and Prandi delightedly posed for photos with everything in sight that bore the word “Milano.”
Taking advantage of an opportunity to get on the roof of the Depression Era-Milano Elementary School (former high school), Rossi enthusiastically joined a search roaming the building’s halls in search of a ladder.
The couple happily chatted away during the impromptu tour of the building, discussing its history as if it were the Pantheon in Rome.
At one point, Prandi turned philosophical. “You know,” she said. “When he said ‘vacation’ I had a picture of lying on a beach somewhere.”
Finally a ladder was located and Rossi made his ascent to the roof.
The couple then began bidding arreviderci(goodbye)totheir new friends and eventually hit the road to Houston.
But by Monday those new friends in Rockdale and Milano began hearing from them again.
Clore received an e-mail from the couple asking her to convey their appreciation to the people in Rockdale and Milano who had befriended them.
Rossi and Prandi had already been to Houston and Galveston and were headed to San Antonio for the final days of their vacation.
By this weekend they will be back in Italy, where Rossi plans to blog about their trip and will have sections on Rockdale and Milano.
But some of the couple’s new Milam County friends are working on a way to get them back.
They’re going to tell them there’s a Florence, Texas, too.
And a Rome, and a Naples, and an Italy.