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It has been two months since I have driven a car. This is probably my longest non-driving stretch in the last twenty years.

Our priority for choosing an apartment in Milan during the sabbatical was proximity to our daughter’s school. We wanted to be within walking distance from it, because that is where we would need to go twice every day – to drop her off in the morning and to pick her up in the afternoon. By all accounts, driving in Milan is not fun. It is not so much the driving itself that is stressful – it is not being able to avoid fines for obscure violations like illegal parking or inadvertently crossing a bus lane.

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The first apartment we chose was literally within steps of the school, but we had to move to another accommodation because of a formality related to our registration with Italian authorities – the apartment was slightly too small to legally accommodate our family. The new apartment is much nicer: it is more spacious and bright. The location is also better in all but one aspect – it is twice as far as the first place from our daughter’s school.

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Now, instead of walking, our daughter commutes to school on a bicycle, while my wife and I walk. The bicycle belongs to the son of my colleague. The boy has outgrown it, so he lent the bike to us for the time of our stay in Milan. It became our daughter’s daily transport. It takes about three adult-sized steps to cover the same distance that she travels in one revolution of her bike pedals. I would say, it is fair – at least, we can travel wherever we want at a reasonable pace (sometimes, a bit too briskly for true comfort). In fact, Google predicts that it should take eighteen minutes to walk from our apartment to the school, but we regularly make it there in ten.

Night ride

Night ride

Besides the daily commute to and from school, our favourite route for biking, walking and jogging is a footpath that starts near our apartment and follows a canal (Naviglio Martesana), crossing railroad tracks and busy streets in graffiti-covered underpasses. The canal, the path, and the many parks along it are a welcome retreat from the hectic city life surrounding them. Along the canal, there are several picturesque houses that I keep snapping pictures of, to use as references for future sketches.

Canal house

Canal house