Milanosuites Cordusio

Via San Tomaso 6, Milan, Lombardy, 20121, Italy
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ednanni's new Milan Page

by ednanni

September 15, 4:30 in the afternoon.
Toronto.
Terminal 1.
Air Canada Lounge.

Waiting…to begin…

We saw the sun rise somewhere over Europe…

A thin sliver of crimson split the night sky inching up to blend with the sun’s rim light at the edge of a layer of deep gray night clouds.

A vibrant rose glow eventually back-lit this gun metal gray layer
until it took on the sun’s crimson colouring. Foreshadowing? Perhaps God was providing a preview. Later, as our journey unfolded, we would see these peach, pearl, opal, ochre, terra cotta colours again in the fields, walls and roof-tops of Tuscany.

As we descended into Milan, the fullness of colour faded as the dawn-tinted clouds eventually gave way to dark gray again. Ombra. It felt as though a shadow was following us down. Thoughts of my father had passed through my memory during the planning of this trip. In the back of my mind I felt him watching as we leveled off to land.

The shadowy sky hovered over the airport and runways, bringing the humidity with it. Fog was falling from the clouds.

Finally, I am in Italy.

It feels as though it has taken me a lifetime to get here.

My father left Italy at the age of 14 and never returned...

He sailed on the Roma, third class, on October 14, 1926. My birthday. From Vacri a small town in Chieti province he came to join his father Adamo in Sault Ste. Marie. His younger brothers, Ignatius, Mario and Michele would soon follow. Letizia, his mother had passed away.

Giuseppe Nanni landed at Ellis Island and cleared immigration on November 3rd. On November 4th he arrived in Canada at La Colle, Quebec. His tattered old passport said he was 16. But, that was a lie. Looking closely you can see where the date had been clumsily erased. Someone changed the 10 to an 8. Boldly wrote over the number. The penmanship and ink were blatantly different than the original. Perhaps he couldn’t sail on his own unless he was of age. On the Nanni family record registered in Vacri his birthday is listed as February 23, 1910.
It seems my father was as determined to get to Canada as I was to get to Italy.

As we taxi to the terminal I can’t help but wonder if he felt then as I do now.

The elevators at Milan’s Malpensa Airport have a mind of their own...

Perhaps it is because too many stranieri are trying to make them
behave as they expect North American elevators do. Or maybe it is because the befuddled touristi are just too sleep-deprived and jet-lagged from flying all night that the lifts have decided to have some fun with them.

It became a game. Too many, too-cumbersome, too-heavy bags are dragged and thrown between the opening and closing jaws of the doors. The tourists stand outside the elevator attempting to adjust their next move to the timing of the opening and closing, while those who managed to squeeze themselves in amongst the luggage push buttons that refuse to obey their frustrated fingers. Man tilting with machine.

Fatigue, aggravation and uncertainty seem to be in sync with the elevators. Frustration is feeding them. Eventually the elevators grow tired of their little game and carry the defeated passengers to their next level of confusion.

Now, there are cars to rent, trains and buses to catch. And journeys to begin.

40 minutes to Termini Cadorna…

On the railway ride into Milan, the Tappers are evident in all their artistry.

They have sprayed their names, signs and caricatures on the concrete walls of buildings, bridges and out-of-service trains so much so that you feel you are in New York City and not Milan. We flash by big, bold, faces, symbols and sayings that we can’t understand. Vividly alive with Day-Glo colours the graffiti shouts at us, Benvenuti al Italia, in a shocking new-world way.

This only happens in America.

You don’t expect this in Italy.

Milan – September 16

Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti…

Via San Tomasco is a simple side street just off Via Dante in the centro storico of Milano. Our cab driver had no trouble finding it. Our hotel, though, was nowhere in sight.

We stopped at the corner. The proprietor of a Travel Agency was standing smoking outside his office.

"Dov’e la Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti?" asked our driver.

"E qui," he replied, pointing to a large green door on what looked like an ordinary apartment building next door.

Yes, there it was, #6 the address we were looking for. But, there was no sign. Nothing was obvious from the street. Not even the small white card directing you to the second floor that was scotch taped to the door.

The man from the travel agency confirmed that the hotel was where the note said it would be. Inside in a dark foyer we found a larger, official sign and half a flight of stairs up we found an elevator.

It was the size of a phone booth.

I went with the bags. Norma climbed the stairs.

Sliding back the steel-grated doors I found a woman dressed in black like the women that work at Holts in Toronto. She smiled as she told us that our room wasn’t ready. The room would be ours at noon. It was 9:30 in the morning.

Sleep-walking in Milan…

We stepped out on to the streets of Milan and found the humidity waiting for us like a faithful dog. For two travel exhausted, sleep-deprived neophyte travelers, Milan has too many people and too much energy. But the streets are the only place we can go now.

Armed with a map with hastily circled points of interest given us by the woman at the hotel we leave Via San Tomasco and find our way to a pedestrian only area. Two strangers on strange streets.

We wander. At a sidewalk café we ask about breakfast. The waiter doesn’t understand what we want. We don’t really know ourselves. Espresso, caffe latte and brioche become our first Italian meal.

We walk. The Duomo looms before us. Massive, ornate and white-spired it dominates our view. Inside, it seems to double in size. Outside, the expanse of the piazza matches the church in magnitude.

They started building the Duomo in 1386. Napolean ordered them to complete it in 1813 when he ruled Milan. He was a man who liked to get things done. Perhaps he knew he had to finish it to make room for the people and the pigeons.

This sudden immersion into a totally foreign culture had an immediate effect on us. Everything was a fresh experience. Our eyes alerted our senses to strange sights and sounds. Everything was obviously different, and overwhelming. Sensory overload in the mounting humidity. Processing this information would need a mind that was rested.

We would have to come back to the Duomo. Right now we needed a shower and a nap.

Returning to our Hotel we finally settled into a cheerfully bright room with pine floors, lots of windows, a wrought iron four poster bed with white duvet, fresh flowers and a terrace. Too wound up to rest, hunger took us back to the streets around 3:00.

The heat and humidity had peaked…

So had the crowds of tourists. We were making a gallant attempt to catch up with ourselves and the time and place we were now a part of. We hadn’t slept in 24 hours and we hadn’t eaten. Lunch was on our disoriented minds and Lesson One was quickly learned: Mi dispiace. Lunch is served between 12:30 and 2:00.

Paninni or pizza were our alternate choices. Which leads to Lesson Two. Don’t walk the streets of a strange city eating pizza.

A young, weary-eyed gypsy was suddenly in front of me…

"For the baby. For the baby," she moaned, pushing a child to me. She held the child in one arm in some sling-like harness made with enough material to hide her other hand.

"For the baby. For the baby."

With both hands on my pizza and my bag dangling freely, I presented the perfect target. There was hardly any room between us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Norma. Crowding her were a young boy and obviously pregnant girl.

I called Norma’s name. She began yelling. Surprised, the boy and girl backed away from her. The pregnant girl came over to me.

"For the baby."

I jumped back. Looking down I saw that the snap on my bag had been opened.

The gypsies disappeared into the crowds as quickly as they had
appeared.

They got nothing. We had been warned.

Now, we were awake.

Travel is a great teacher. If you are not a good student the end results are all too evident.

A little shaken but not deterred we cautiously continue on to our original destination, Castello Sforzesco…

Crossing what was once a draw-bridge over an empty moat you enter under a grand arch to find yourself in a spacious courtyard of a 15th century castle. Around you are fortified red brick walls with wide stairways leading to walkways and towers. There are three courtyards, each with buildings now converted to museums and galleries. It is in one of these that we come face to face with our first Michelangelo.

In a secluded corner his Rondanini Pieta sits unfinished. This is the piece he worked on for the last nine years of his life. You can see the powerful chisel marks in the marble. You can feel the figures struggling to emerge. Even though the marble is unpolished you can see the beauty of Michelangelo’s vision waiting to be made clear.

Curiously a third arm hangs from a block of stone beside the uncompleted sculpture. It reminds me of a poster we’ve seen of an old man holding a newspaper. Seated beside him is a woman staring off into space. From underneath the newspaper a third arm is reaching for the woman’s purse.

An incident with the gypsies, the poster and a stone third arm, I can’t help but smile at the coincidence.

Feral cats patrol the street leading to our hotel…

The cats have no time for the antics of pedestrians trying to befriend them. They just wander uncaringly about the street. Since the road is closed to traffic, a local bar has turned this to their advantage and set up a café on the cobblestones. It is a perfect place for us. There is shade and time to enjoy some Italian beer. When I order, I’m given a look that I know I will eventually get used to.

Norma is writing the first postcards of our trip. Locals stop in making themselves comfortable with a small dish of olives and potato chips. From a taste perspective it’s an odd combination, but we make a mental note to try some soon.

Our first real meal in Milan is in the Galleria…

Still disoriented from the flight and the day’s events, we quickly decide on Biffi a restaurant with tables spilling out into the Galleria. Deciding to move ourselves away from the rush and crush of curious tourists we take a seat inside and settle in to watch the show.

After a delightful dinner of veal paillard and gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce, we stroll Galleria Vittorio Emanuele’s four corridors window-shopping the great names of fashion. Italians call it il salotto di Milano, Milan’s parlor. Based on the milling crowds it is easy to understand why. Built in 1864, you have to admire the brilliance of this class-ceilinged, barrel-vaulted 19th century mall designed in the shape of a cross, one corridor leading you to the Duomo and the other to Piazza Scala. Now I know where the Eaton Centre got its inspiration.
On our way back to the hotel we are caught in a loud, happy gathering of the Hari Khrisna complete with giant floats and dancing disciples in saffron robes. Milan hasn’t failed to surprise us.

That evening we were asleep by 9:00 PM. A deep, dead-man, dreamless sleep. Awake Sunday at 8:00 AM. On Italian time in just one day.

At 10:00 AM church bells summon the Milanese to mass...

Sitting on our terrace we are surrounded by slim bamboo trees in pots and planters. Above us pigeons call softly to one another. Below the traffic sporadically sends its sounds swirling up to us. Church sounds mingling with street sounds. An occasional breeze plays through the leaves of the bamboo trees.

To this music we welcome breakfast. Fresh whole fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice tasting better than anything memory can recall, yogurt as it doesn’t taste in Toronto, hard toast which we don’t eat in Toronto, Danish which one wouldn’t expect in Milan and coffee which tastes like nothing in Toronto; rich, dark, thick and sweet.

Such is Sunday morning in Milan, our first Sunday in Italy.

A bicycle rattles up the cobblestone street in front of our hotel...

A young mother with her son on a seat mounted just behind the handlebars is riding towards me. The boy chattered (as young children do) to his father who ran along side. The father joked with his son. Mama wore an expensive tan leather knapsack…Papa had a cell phone dangling from his belt. The family was well-dressed as most Milanese families are.

I stepped back on to the narrow sidewalk and they brushed past me as if I wasn’t there.

Further down the narrow street an elderly couple were unsteadily approaching. She, leaning on his arm. He, leaning on his cane. Coming from morning mass. Both seemed frail as they shuffled towards me. Both were impeccably dressed as most elderly Milanese are.

I pressed myself against the stone wall of the building to let them pass.

The woman looked up and smiled.

"Piacere," she said.

Ahead of them the young family had just turned the corner. The elderly couple continued sedately in the same direction.

They were in no hurry.

The colour of Campari…

The name sits on a billboard on a background as distinctive as this bittersweet liquid’s colour. That’s all that is needed for the Milanese.

Gaspare Campari invented the drink some 140 years ago in a bar in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Looking at its rosy red tint I’m reminded of the sunrise that greeted us the morning we arrived in Milan.

Campari would be the official drink of our journey.

Passegiatta…

Milan is Sunday morning quiet. Traffic is sparse. There are a few people on the streets. The day is overcast and you know the heat and humidity are only a short hour away. Attempting to oriented ourselves with the map we seek our first destination Piazza della Scala. Our skills are still rudimentary and the Opera House eludes us.

Instead we come across a small square with the customary statue in the centre. At first we thought we were looking at Casa di Manzoni, the museum/home of Alessandro Manzoni who, according to The Rough Guide, wrote ‘The Betrothed,’ the greatest Italian novel of the 19th century, which means absolutely nothing to us. Moving closer we notice a beggar on the steps of what is actually a small church.

Opening the simple wooden doors we stepped inside to the liturgy of our first Italian mass. Simple, serene, tranquil. The words were like music. Because of the Italian we found ourselves being pulled back to the days when Mass was said in Latin. The fear, mystery and reverence you felt as a young impressionable Catholic came flooding back. It is something you can never forget.

When we left another flashback crystallized from my childhood memories. There in the piazza small groups of men were locked in serious conversation. What they were talking about was probably trivial. When I was a kid growing up in Little Italy, I would circle these tight Sunday morning scrums outside Santa Maria degli Angeli hoping to be swallowed up in their circle of words that I might feel grown up.

Outside La Scala the scalpers are busy…

And not just with the tourists. Locals too are looking for tickets. La Boheme is on. Franco Zefferelli has staged it. Now, I regret not having paid whatever price they were asking, just to be in the house. As we walked around La Scala we heard the tenors and baritones warming up. That would have to be enough.

Later we saw the Milanese arriving for the performance. Mingling with them we felt as though we were part of the audience about to enter this storied hall. Inside the foyer the ushers were taking tickets. They were the best-dressed ushers I had ever seen…all in black with white ruffled shirt collars showing above their black tunics ringed with a gold medallion on a thick chain. Their breeches and leggings were black and their black shoes carried a big gold buckle. Looking like courtiers from a different age they stiffly guarded the doors. All we could do was catch a glimpse of the ornate foyer that led to the grand hall. There was no chance to go further.

La Scala is not as imposing a building as I though it would be, but then, because of what happens inside, it doesn’t have to be.

At night, lights focus on the façade of the white marbled Duomo giving perched angels the feeling of flight. The spires dance in the glow as if basking in the Northern Lights.

Statzione Centrale…

The air is heavy with humidity and full with traffic, motorini, and construction sounds of a city working.
Street sounds on Monday morning.
Milan is busy.
The day is grey.
It is time to go.

Mussolini forced the construction of Statzione Centrale as a monument to himself. Its edifice is massive. The approach to the terminal is traffic-congested with cars, scooters and taxis jostling for position on the traffic circle that leads you to a drop off area clogged with exhaust and diesel fumes.

Inside people swarm the Bigletteria. They glide up the long escalator to the concourse where more humanity ebbs and flows in front of the newsstands, snack bars and sacred souvenir shops. People exit the escalators looking up pulling, pushing, carrying, carting luggage; eyes raised to the Arriva/Partenza boards that will tell them where they are going and when, leading them to the Binario with their waiting train.

Travelers know what they’re doing. Tourists don’t.

It is easy to spot the difference in a railway station. Seasoned travelers and the Milanese don’t have that mixed look of puzzlement and pain on their faces. They have no trouble making their needs known. Up to the wicket. Out with their money. Grazie and they’re on their way. Verify the ticket in the little yellow box. Done.

Right now we are not these people.

The most significant journey is always a personal one.

Travel has a way of forcing you to deal with discoveries about yourself. You must shake off the established patterns of everyday life as you know it.

The stresses of travel leave no room for emotional baggage.

On the road there is no place for undiscovered cracks in a relationship. A couple must be confident that their connection is solid.

No one is ever sure what lies ahead, regardless of what travel agents, guide books or the Internet tell you. If your relationship is a good one it will get stronger, deeper, richer more mutually supportive with each passing destination.

You are alone together. Travel gives couples time and opportunity to become what they thought they were.

by ednanni

Viagiatore…

"Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand different circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will…whatever we may think.

They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures…and the best of them lead not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection…

These thoughts belong to Venice at dawn…

Lawrence Durrell
Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

September 15, 4:30 in the afternoon.
Toronto.
Terminal 1.
Air Canada Lounge.

Waiting…to begin…

We saw the sun rise somewhere over Europe…

A thin sliver of crimson split the night sky inching up to blend with the sun’s rim light at the edge of a layer of deep gray night clouds.

A vibrant rose glow eventually back-lit this gun metal gray layer
until it took on the sun’s crimson colouring. Foreshadowing? Perhaps God was providing a preview. Later, as our journey unfolded, we would see these peach, pearl, opal, ochre, terra cotta colours again in the fields, walls and roof-tops of Tuscany.

As we descended into Milan, the fullness of colour faded as the dawn-tinted clouds eventually gave way to dark gray again. Ombra. It felt as though a shadow was following us down. Thoughts of my father had passed through my memory during the planning of this trip. In the back of my mind I felt him watching as we leveled off to land.

The shadowy sky hovered over the airport and runways, bringing the humidity with it. Fog was falling from the clouds.

Finally, I am in Italy.

It feels as though it has taken me a lifetime to get here.

My father left Italy at the age of 14 and never returned...

He sailed on the Roma, third class, on October 14, 1926. My birthday. From Vacri a small town in Chieti province he came to join his father Adamo in Sault Ste. Marie. His younger brothers, Ignatius, Mario and Michele would soon follow. Letizia, his mother had passed away.

Giuseppe Nanni landed at Ellis Island and cleared immigration on November 3rd. On November 4th he arrived in Canada at La Colle, Quebec. His tattered old passport said he was 16. But, that was a lie. Looking closely you can see where the date had been clumsily erased. Someone changed the 10 to an 8. Boldly wrote over the number. The penmanship and ink were blatantly different than the original. Perhaps he couldn’t sail on his own unless he was of age. On the Nanni family record registered in Vacri his birthday is listed as February 23, 1910.
It seems my father was as determined to get to Canada as I was to get to Italy.

As we taxi to the terminal I can’t help but wonder if he felt then as I do now.

The elevators at Milan’s Malpensa Airport have a mind of their own...

Perhaps it is because too many stranieri are trying to make them
behave as they expect North American elevators do. Or maybe it is because the befuddled touristi are just too sleep-deprived and jet-lagged from flying all night that the lifts have decided to have some fun with them.

It became a game. Too many, too-cumbersome, too-heavy bags are dragged and thrown between the opening and closing jaws of the doors. The tourists stand outside the elevator attempting to adjust their next move to the timing of the opening and closing, while those who managed to squeeze themselves in amongst the luggage push buttons that refuse to obey their frustrated fingers. Man tilting with machine.

Fatigue, aggravation and uncertainty seem to be in sync with the elevators. Frustration is feeding them. Eventually the elevators grow tired of their little game and carry the defeated passengers to their next level of confusion.

Now, there are cars to rent, trains and buses to catch. And journeys to begin.

40 minutes to Termini Cadorna…

On the railway ride into Milan, the Tappers are evident in all their artistry.

They have sprayed their names, signs and caricatures on the concrete walls of buildings, bridges and out-of-service trains so much so that you feel you are in New York City and not Milan. We flash by big, bold, faces, symbols and sayings that we can’t understand. Vividly alive with Day-Glo colours the graffiti shouts at us, Benvenuti al Italia, in a shocking new-world way.

This only happens in America.

You don’t expect this in Italy.

Milan – September 16

Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti…

Via San Tomasco is a simple side street just off Via Dante in the centro storico of Milano. Our cab driver had no trouble finding it. Our hotel, though, was nowhere in sight.

We stopped at the corner. The proprietor of a Travel Agency was standing smoking outside his office.

"Dov’e la Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti?" asked our driver.

"E qui," he replied, pointing to a large green door on what looked like an ordinary apartment building next door.

Yes, there it was, #6 the address we were looking for. But, there was no sign. Nothing was obvious from the street. Not even the small white card directing you to the second floor that was scotch taped to the door.

The man from the travel agency confirmed that the hotel was where the note said it would be. Inside in a dark foyer we found a larger, official sign and half a flight of stairs up we found an elevator.

It was the size of a phone booth.

I went with the bags. Norma climbed the stairs.

Sliding back the steel-grated doors I found a woman dressed in black like the women that work at Holts in Toronto. She smiled as she told us that our room wasn’t ready. The room would be ours at noon. It was 9:30 in the morning.

Sleep-walking in Milan…

We stepped out on to the streets of Milan and found the humidity waiting for us like a faithful dog. For two travel exhausted, sleep-deprived neophyte travelers, Milan has too many people and too much energy. But the streets are the only place we can go now.

Armed with a map with hastily circled points of interest given us by the woman at the hotel we leave Via San Tomasco and find our way to a pedestrian only area. Two strangers on strange streets.

We wander. At a sidewalk café we ask about breakfast. The waiter doesn’t understand what we want. We don’t really know ourselves. Espresso, caffe latte and brioche become our first Italian meal.

We walk. The Duomo looms before us. Massive, ornate and white-spired it dominates our view. Inside, it seems to double in size. Outside, the expanse of the piazza matches the church in magnitude.

They started building the Duomo in 1386. Napolean ordered them to complete it in 1813 when he ruled Milan. He was a man who liked to get things done. Perhaps he knew he had to finish it to make room for the people and the pigeons.

This sudden immersion into a totally foreign culture had an immediate effect on us. Everything was a fresh experience. Our eyes alerted our senses to strange sights and sounds. Everything was obviously different, and overwhelming. Sensory overload in the mounting humidity. Processing this information would need a mind that was rested.

We would have to come back to the Duomo. Right now we needed a shower and a nap.

Returning to our Hotel we finally settled into a cheerfully bright room with pine floors, lots of windows, a wrought iron four poster bed with white duvet, fresh flowers and a terrace. Too wound up to rest, hunger took us back to the streets around 3:00.

The heat and humidity had peaked…

So had the crowds of tourists. We were making a gallant attempt to catch up with ourselves and the time and place we were now a part of. We hadn’t slept in 24 hours and we hadn’t eaten. Lunch was on our disoriented minds and Lesson One was quickly learned: Mi dispiace. Lunch is served between 12:30 and 2:00.

Paninni or pizza were our alternate choices. Which leads to Lesson Two. Don’t walk the streets of a strange city eating pizza.

A young, weary-eyed gypsy was suddenly in front of me…

"For the baby. For the baby," she moaned, pushing a child to me. She held the child in one arm in some sling-like harness made with enough material to hide her other hand.

"For the baby. For the baby."

With both hands on my pizza and my bag dangling freely, I presented the perfect target. There was hardly any room between us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Norma. Crowding her were a young boy and obviously pregnant girl.

I called Norma’s name. She began yelling. Surprised, the boy and girl backed away from her. The pregnant girl came over to me.

"For the baby."

I jumped back. Looking down I saw that the snap on my bag had been opened.

The gypsies disappeared into the crowds as quickly as they had
appeared.

They got nothing. We had been warned.

Now, we were awake.

Travel is a great teacher. If you are not a good student the end results are all too evident.

A little shaken but not deterred we cautiously continue on to our original destination, Castello Sforzesco…

Crossing what was once a draw-bridge over an empty moat you enter under a grand arch to find yourself in a spacious courtyard of a 15th century castle. Around you are fortified red brick walls with wide stairways leading to walkways and towers. There are three courtyards, each with buildings now converted to museums and galleries. It is in one of these that we come face to face with our first Michelangelo.

In a secluded corner his Rondanini Pieta sits unfinished. This is the piece he worked on for the last nine years of his life. You can see the powerful chisel marks in the marble. You can feel the figures struggling to emerge. Even though the marble is unpolished you can see the beauty of Michelangelo’s vision waiting to be made clear.

Curiously a third arm hangs from a block of stone beside the uncompleted sculpture. It reminds me of a poster we’ve seen of an old man holding a newspaper. Seated beside him is a woman staring off into space. From underneath the newspaper a third arm is reaching for the woman’s purse.

An incident with the gypsies, the poster and a stone third arm, I can’t help but smile at the coincidence.

Feral cats patrol the street leading to our hotel…

The cats have no time for the antics of pedestrians trying to befriend them. They just wander uncaringly about the street. Since the road is closed to traffic, a local bar has turned this to their advantage and set up a café on the cobblestones. It is a perfect place for us. There is shade and time to enjoy some Italian beer. When I order, I’m given a look that I know I will eventually get used to.

Norma is writing the first postcards of our trip. Locals stop in making themselves comfortable with a small dish of olives and potato chips. From a taste perspective it’s an odd combination, but we make a mental note to try some soon.

Our first real meal in Milan is in the Galleria…

Still disoriented from the flight and the day’s events, we quickly decide on Biffi a restaurant with tables spilling out into the Galleria. Deciding to move ourselves away from the rush and crush of curious tourists we take a seat inside and settle in to watch the show.

After a delightful dinner of veal paillard and gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce, we stroll Galleria Vittorio Emanuele’s four corridors window-shopping the great names of fashion. Italians call it il salotto di Milano, Milan’s parlor. Based on the milling crowds it is easy to understand why. Built in 1864, you have to admire the brilliance of this class-ceilinged, barrel-vaulted 19th century mall designed in the shape of a cross, one corridor leading you to the Duomo and the other to Piazza Scala. Now I know where the Eaton Centre got its inspiration.
On our way back to the hotel we are caught in a loud, happy gathering of the Hari Khrisna complete with giant floats and dancing disciples in saffron robes. Milan hasn’t failed to surprise us.

That evening we were asleep by 9:00 PM. A deep, dead-man, dreamless sleep. Awake Sunday at 8:00 AM. On Italian time in just one day.

At 10:00 AM church bells summon the Milanese to mass...

Sitting on our terrace we are surrounded by slim bamboo trees in pots and planters. Above us pigeons call softly to one another. Below the traffic sporadically sends its sounds swirling up to us. Church sounds mingling with street sounds. An occasional breeze plays through the leaves of the bamboo trees.

To this music we welcome breakfast. Fresh whole fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice tasting better than anything memory can recall, yogurt as it doesn’t taste in Toronto, hard toast which we don’t eat in Toronto, Danish which one wouldn’t expect in Milan and coffee which tastes like nothing in Toronto; rich, dark, thick and sweet.

Such is Sunday morning in Milan, our first Sunday in Italy.

A bicycle rattles up the cobblestone street in front of our hotel...

A young mother with her son on a seat mounted just behind the handlebars is riding towards me. The boy chattered (as young children do) to his father who ran along side. The father joked with his son. Mama wore an expensive tan leather knapsack…Papa had a cell phone dangling from his belt. The family was well-dressed as most Milanese families are.

I stepped back on to the narrow sidewalk and they brushed past me as if I wasn’t there.

Further down the narrow street an elderly couple were unsteadily approaching. She, leaning on his arm. He, leaning on his cane. Coming from morning mass. Both seemed frail as they shuffled towards me. Both were impeccably dressed as most elderly Milanese are.

I pressed myself against the stone wall of the building to let them pass.

The woman looked up and smiled.

"Piacere," she said.

Ahead of them the young family had just turned the corner. The elderly couple continued sedately in the same direction.

They were in no hurry.

The colour of Campari…

The name sits on a billboard on a background as distinctive as this bittersweet liquid’s colour. That’s all that is needed for the Milanese.

Gaspare Campari invented the drink some 140 years ago in a bar in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Looking at its rosy red tint I’m reminded of the sunrise that greeted us the morning we arrived in Milan.

Campari would be the official drink of our journey.

Passegiatta…

Milan is Sunday morning quiet. Traffic is sparse. There are a few people on the streets. The day is overcast and you know the heat and humidity are only a short hour away. Attempting to oriented ourselves with the map we seek our first destination Piazza della Scala. Our skills are still rudimentary and the Opera House eludes us.

Instead we come across a small square with the customary statue in the centre. At first we thought we were looking at Casa di Manzoni, the museum/home of Alessandro Manzoni who, according to The Rough Guide, wrote ‘The Betrothed,’ the greatest Italian novel of the 19th century, which means absolutely nothing to us. Moving closer we notice a beggar on the steps of what is actually a small church.

Opening the simple wooden doors we stepped inside to the liturgy of our first Italian mass. Simple, serene, tranquil. The words were like music. Because of the Italian we found ourselves being pulled back to the days when Mass was said in Latin. The fear, mystery and reverence you felt as a young impressionable Catholic came flooding back. It is something you can never forget.

When we left another flashback crystallized from my childhood memories. There in the piazza small groups of men were locked in serious conversation. What they were talking about was probably trivial. When I was a kid growing up in Little Italy, I would circle these tight Sunday morning scrums outside Santa Maria degli Angeli hoping to be swallowed up in their circle of words that I might feel grown up.

Outside La Scala the scalpers are busy…

And not just with the tourists. Locals too are looking for tickets. La Boheme is on. Franco Zefferelli has staged it. Now, I regret not having paid whatever price they were asking, just to be in the house. As we walked around La Scala we heard the tenors and baritones warming up. That would have to be enough.

Later we saw the Milanese arriving for the performance. Mingling with them we felt as though we were part of the audience about to enter this storied hall. Inside the foyer the ushers were taking tickets. They were the best-dressed ushers I had ever seen…all in black with white ruffled shirt collars showing above their black tunics ringed with a gold medallion on a thick chain. Their breeches and leggings were black and their black shoes carried a big gold buckle. Looking like courtiers from a different age they stiffly guarded the doors. All we could do was catch a glimpse of the ornate foyer that led to the grand hall. There was no chance to go further.

La Scala is not as imposing a building as I though it would be, but then, because of what happens inside, it doesn’t have to be.

At night, lights focus on the façade of the white marbled Duomo giving perched angels the feeling of flight. The spires dance in the glow as if basking in the Northern Lights.

Statzione Centrale…

The air is heavy with humidity and full with traffic, motorini, and construction sounds of a city working.
Street sounds on Monday morning.
Milan is busy.
The day is grey.
It is time to go.

Mussolini forced the construction of Statzione Centrale as a monument to himself. Its edifice is massive. The approach to the terminal is traffic-congested with cars, scooters and taxis jostling for position on the traffic circle that leads you to a drop off area clogged with exhaust and diesel fumes.

Inside people swarm the Bigletteria. They glide up the long escalator to the concourse where more humanity ebbs and flows in front of the newsstands, snack bars and sacred souvenir shops. People exit the escalators looking up pulling, pushing, carrying, carting luggage; eyes raised to the Arriva/Partenza boards that will tell them where they are going and when, leading them to the Binario with their waiting train.

Travelers know what they’re doing. Tourists don’t.

It is easy to spot the difference in a railway station. Seasoned travelers and the Milanese don’t have that mixed look of puzzlement and pain on their faces. They have no trouble making their needs known. Up to the wicket. Out with their money. Grazie and they’re on their way. Verify the ticket in the little yellow box. Done.

Right now we are not these people.

The most significant journey is always a personal one.

Travel has a way of forcing you to deal with discoveries about yourself. You must shake off the established patterns of everyday life as you know it.

The stresses of travel leave no room for emotional baggage.

On the road there is no place for undiscovered cracks in a relationship. A couple must be confident that their connection is solid.

No one is ever sure what lies ahead, regardless of what travel agents, guide books or the Internet tell you. If your relationship is a good one it will get stronger, deeper, richer more mutually supportive with each passing destination.

You are alone together. Travel gives couples time and opportunity to become what they thought they were.

Landing in Milan

by ednanni

September 15, 4:30 in the afternoon.
Toronto.
Terminal 1.
Air Canada Lounge.

Waiting…to begin…

We saw the sun rise somewhere over Europe…

A thin sliver of crimson split the night sky inching up to blend with the sun’s rim light at the edge of a layer of deep gray night clouds.

A vibrant rose glow eventually back-lit this gun metal gray layer
until it took on the sun’s crimson colouring. Foreshadowing? Perhaps God was providing a preview. Later, as our journey unfolded, we would see these peach, pearl, opal, ochre, terra cotta colours again in the fields, walls and roof-tops of Tuscany.

As we descended into Milan, the fullness of colour faded as the dawn-tinted clouds eventually gave way to dark gray again. Ombra. It felt as though a shadow was following us down. Thoughts of my father had passed through my memory during the planning of this trip. In the back of my mind I felt him watching as we leveled off to land.

The shadowy sky hovered over the airport and runways, bringing the humidity with it. Fog was falling from the clouds.

Finally, I am in Italy.

It feels as though it has taken me a lifetime to get here.

My father left Italy at the age of 14 and never returned...

He sailed on the Roma, third class, on October 14, 1926. My birthday. From Vacri a small town in Chieti province he came to join his father Adamo in Sault Ste. Marie. His younger brothers, Ignatius, Mario and Michele would soon follow. Letizia, his mother had passed away.

Giuseppe Nanni landed at Ellis Island and cleared immigration on November 3rd. On November 4th he arrived in Canada at La Colle, Quebec. His tattered old passport said he was 16. But, that was a lie. Looking closely you can see where the date had been clumsily erased. Someone changed the 10 to an 8. Boldly wrote over the number. The penmanship and ink were blatantly different than the original. Perhaps he couldn’t sail on his own unless he was of age. On the Nanni family record registered in Vacri his birthday is listed as February 23, 1910.
It seems my father was as determined to get to Canada as I was to get to Italy.

As we taxi to the terminal I can’t help but wonder if he felt then as I do now.

The elevators at Milan’s Malpensa Airport have a mind of their own...

Perhaps it is because too many stranieri are trying to make them
behave as they expect North American elevators do. Or maybe it is because the befuddled touristi are just too sleep-deprived and jet-lagged from flying all night that the lifts have decided to have some fun with them.

It became a game. Too many, too-cumbersome, too-heavy bags are dragged and thrown between the opening and closing jaws of the doors. The tourists stand outside the elevator attempting to adjust their next move to the timing of the opening and closing, while those who managed to squeeze themselves in amongst the luggage push buttons that refuse to obey their frustrated fingers. Man tilting with machine.

Fatigue, aggravation and uncertainty seem to be in sync with the elevators. Frustration is feeding them. Eventually the elevators grow tired of their little game and carry the defeated passengers to their next level of confusion.

Now, there are cars to rent, trains and buses to catch. And journeys to begin.

40 minutes to Termini Cadorna…

On the railway ride into Milan, the Tappers are evident in all their artistry.

They have sprayed their names, signs and caricatures on the concrete walls of buildings, bridges and out-of-service trains so much so that you feel you are in New York City and not Milan. We flash by big, bold, faces, symbols and sayings that we can’t understand. Vividly alive with Day-Glo colours the graffiti shouts at us, Benvenuti al Italia, in a shocking new-world way.

This only happens in America.

You don’t expect this in Italy.

Milan – September 16

Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti…

Via San Tomasco is a simple side street just off Via Dante in the centro storico of Milano. Our cab driver had no trouble finding it. Our hotel, though, was nowhere in sight.

We stopped at the corner. The proprietor of a Travel Agency was standing smoking outside his office.

"Dov’e la Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti?" asked our driver.

"E qui," he replied, pointing to a large green door on what looked like an ordinary apartment building next door.

Yes, there it was, #6 the address we were looking for. But, there was no sign. Nothing was obvious from the street. Not even the small white card directing you to the second floor that was scotch taped to the door.

The man from the travel agency confirmed that the hotel was where the note said it would be. Inside in a dark foyer we found a larger, official sign and half a flight of stairs up we found an elevator.

It was the size of a phone booth.

I went with the bags. Norma climbed the stairs.

Sliding back the steel-grated doors I found a woman dressed in black like the women that work at Holts in Toronto. She smiled as she told us that our room wasn’t ready. The room would be ours at noon. It was 9:30 in the morning.

Sleep-walking in Milan…

We stepped out on to the streets of Milan and found the humidity waiting for us like a faithful dog. For two travel exhausted, sleep-deprived neophyte travelers, Milan has too many people and too much energy. But the streets are the only place we can go now.

Armed with a map with hastily circled points of interest given us by the woman at the hotel we leave Via San Tomasco and find our way to a pedestrian only area. Two strangers on strange streets.

We wander. At a sidewalk café we ask about breakfast. The waiter doesn’t understand what we want. We don’t really know ourselves. Espresso, caffe latte and brioche become our first Italian meal.

We walk. The Duomo looms before us. Massive, ornate and white-spired it dominates our view. Inside, it seems to double in size. Outside, the expanse of the piazza matches the church in magnitude.

They started building the Duomo in 1386. Napolean ordered them to complete it in 1813 when he ruled Milan. He was a man who liked to get things done. Perhaps he knew he had to finish it to make room for the people and the pigeons.

This sudden immersion into a totally foreign culture had an immediate effect on us. Everything was a fresh experience. Our eyes alerted our senses to strange sights and sounds. Everything was obviously different, and overwhelming. Sensory overload in the mounting humidity. Processing this information would need a mind that was rested.

We would have to come back to the Duomo. Right now we needed a shower and a nap.

Returning to our Hotel we finally settled into a cheerfully bright room with pine floors, lots of windows, a wrought iron four poster bed with white duvet, fresh flowers and a terrace. Too wound up to rest, hunger took us back to the streets around 3:00.

The heat and humidity had peaked…

So had the crowds of tourists. We were making a gallant attempt to catch up with ourselves and the time and place we were now a part of. We hadn’t slept in 24 hours and we hadn’t eaten. Lunch was on our disoriented minds and Lesson One was quickly learned: Mi dispiace. Lunch is served between 12:30 and 2:00.

Paninni or pizza were our alternate choices. Which leads to Lesson Two. Don’t walk the streets of a strange city eating pizza.

A young, weary-eyed gypsy was suddenly in front of me…

"For the baby. For the baby," she moaned, pushing a child to me. She held the child in one arm in some sling-like harness made with enough material to hide her other hand.

"For the baby. For the baby."

With both hands on my pizza and my bag dangling freely, I presented the perfect target. There was hardly any room between us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Norma. Crowding her were a young boy and obviously pregnant girl.

I called Norma’s name. She began yelling. Surprised, the boy and girl backed away from her. The pregnant girl came over to me.

"For the baby."

I jumped back. Looking down I saw that the snap on my bag had been opened.

The gypsies disappeared into the crowds as quickly as they had
appeared.

They got nothing. We had been warned.

Now, we were awake.

Travel is a great teacher. If you are not a good student the end results are all too evident.

A little shaken but not deterred we cautiously continue on to our original destination, Castello Sforzesco…

Crossing what was once a draw-bridge over an empty moat you enter under a grand arch to find yourself in a spacious courtyard of a 15th century castle. Around you are fortified red brick walls with wide stairways leading to walkways and towers. There are three courtyards, each with buildings now converted to museums and galleries. It is in one of these that we come face to face with our first Michelangelo.

In a secluded corner his Rondanini Pieta sits unfinished. This is the piece he worked on for the last nine years of his life. You can see the powerful chisel marks in the marble. You can feel the figures struggling to emerge. Even though the marble is unpolished you can see the beauty of Michelangelo’s vision waiting to be made clear.

Curiously a third arm hangs from a block of stone beside the uncompleted sculpture. It reminds me of a poster we’ve seen of an old man holding a newspaper. Seated beside him is a woman staring off into space. From underneath the newspaper a third arm is reaching for the woman’s purse.

An incident with the gypsies, the poster and a stone third arm, I can’t help but smile at the coincidence.

Feral cats patrol the street leading to our hotel…

The cats have no time for the antics of pedestrians trying to befriend them. They just wander uncaringly about the street. Since the road is closed to traffic, a local bar has turned this to their advantage and set up a café on the cobblestones. It is a perfect place for us. There is shade and time to enjoy some Italian beer. When I order, I’m given a look that I know I will eventually get used to.

Norma is writing the first postcards of our trip. Locals stop in making themselves comfortable with a small dish of olives and potato chips. From a taste perspective it’s an odd combination, but we make a mental note to try some soon.

Our first real meal in Milan is in the Galleria…

Still disoriented from the flight and the day’s events, we quickly decide on Biffi a restaurant with tables spilling out into the Galleria. Deciding to move ourselves away from the rush and crush of curious tourists we take a seat inside and settle in to watch the show.

After a delightful dinner of veal paillard and gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce, we stroll Galleria Vittorio Emanuele’s four corridors window-shopping the great names of fashion. Italians call it il salotto di Milano, Milan’s parlor. Based on the milling crowds it is easy to understand why. Built in 1864, you have to admire the brilliance of this class-ceilinged, barrel-vaulted 19th century mall designed in the shape of a cross, one corridor leading you to the Duomo and the other to Piazza Scala. Now I know where the Eaton Centre got its inspiration.
On our way back to the hotel we are caught in a loud, happy gathering of the Hari Khrisna complete with giant floats and dancing disciples in saffron robes. Milan hasn’t failed to surprise us.

That evening we were asleep by 9:00 PM. A deep, dead-man, dreamless sleep. Awake Sunday at 8:00 AM. On Italian time in just one day.

At 10:00 AM church bells summon the Milanese to mass...

Sitting on our terrace we are surrounded by slim bamboo trees in pots and planters. Above us pigeons call softly to one another. Below the traffic sporadically sends its sounds swirling up to us. Church sounds mingling with street sounds. An occasional breeze plays through the leaves of the bamboo trees.

To this music we welcome breakfast. Fresh whole fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice tasting better than anything memory can recall, yogurt as it doesn’t taste in Toronto, hard toast which we don’t eat in Toronto, Danish which one wouldn’t expect in Milan and coffee which tastes like nothing in Toronto; rich, dark, thick and sweet.

Such is Sunday morning in Milan, our first Sunday in Italy.

A bicycle rattles up the cobblestone street in front of our hotel...

A young mother with her son on a seat mounted just behind the handlebars is riding towards me. The boy chattered (as young children do) to his father who ran along side. The father joked with his son. Mama wore an expensive tan leather knapsack…Papa had a cell phone dangling from his belt. The family was well-dressed as most Milanese families are.

I stepped back on to the narrow sidewalk and they brushed past me as if I wasn’t there.

Further down the narrow street an elderly couple were unsteadily approaching. She, leaning on his arm. He, leaning on his cane. Coming from morning mass. Both seemed frail as they shuffled towards me. Both were impeccably dressed as most elderly Milanese are.

I pressed myself against the stone wall of the building to let them pass.

The woman looked up and smiled.

"Piacere," she said.

Ahead of them the young family had just turned the corner. The elderly couple continued sedately in the same direction.

They were in no hurry.

The colour of Campari…

The name sits on a billboard on a background as distinctive as this bittersweet liquid’s colour. That’s all that is needed for the Milanese.

Gaspare Campari invented the drink some 140 years ago in a bar in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Looking at its rosy red tint I’m reminded of the sunrise that greeted us the morning we arrived in Milan.

Campari would be the official drink of our journey.

Passegiatta…

Milan is Sunday morning quiet. Traffic is sparse. There are a few people on the streets. The day is overcast and you know the heat and humidity are only a short hour away. Attempting to oriented ourselves with the map we seek our first destination Piazza della Scala. Our skills are still rudimentary and the Opera House eludes us.

Instead we come across a small square with the customary statue in the centre. At first we thought we were looking at Casa di Manzoni, the museum/home of Alessandro Manzoni who, according to The Rough Guide, wrote ‘The Betrothed,’ the greatest Italian novel of the 19th century, which means absolutely nothing to us. Moving closer we notice a beggar on the steps of what is actually a small church.

Opening the simple wooden doors we stepped inside to the liturgy of our first Italian mass. Simple, serene, tranquil. The words were like music. Because of the Italian we found ourselves being pulled back to the days when Mass was said in Latin. The fear, mystery and reverence you felt as a young impressionable Catholic came flooding back. It is something you can never forget.

When we left another flashback crystallized from my childhood memories. There in the piazza small groups of men were locked in serious conversation. What they were talking about was probably trivial. When I was a kid growing up in Little Italy, I would circle these tight Sunday morning scrums outside Santa Maria degli Angeli hoping to be swallowed up in their circle of words that I might feel grown up.

Outside La Scala the scalpers are busy…

And not just with the tourists. Locals too are looking for tickets. La Boheme is on. Franco Zefferelli has staged it. Now, I regret not having paid whatever price they were asking, just to be in the house. As we walked around La Scala we heard the tenors and baritones warming up. That would have to be enough.

Later we saw the Milanese arriving for the performance. Mingling with them we felt as though we were part of the audience about to enter this storied hall. Inside the foyer the ushers were taking tickets. They were the best-dressed ushers I had ever seen…all in black with white ruffled shirt collars showing above their black tunics ringed with a gold medallion on a thick chain. Their breeches and leggings were black and their black shoes carried a big gold buckle. Looking like courtiers from a different age they stiffly guarded the doors. All we could do was catch a glimpse of the ornate foyer that led to the grand hall. There was no chance to go further.

La Scala is not as imposing a building as I though it would be, but then, because of what happens inside, it doesn’t have to be.

At night, lights focus on the façade of the white marbled Duomo giving perched angels the feeling of flight. The spires dance in the glow as if basking in the Northern Lights.

Statzione Centrale…

The air is heavy with humidity and full with traffic, motorini, and construction sounds of a city working.
Street sounds on Monday morning.
Milan is busy.
The day is grey.
It is time to go.

Mussolini forced the construction of Statzione Centrale as a monument to himself. Its edifice is massive. The approach to the terminal is traffic-congested with cars, scooters and taxis jostling for position on the traffic circle that leads you to a drop off area clogged with exhaust and diesel fumes.

Inside people swarm the Bigletteria. They glide up the long escalator to the concourse where more humanity ebbs and flows in front of the newsstands, snack bars and sacred souvenir shops. People exit the escalators looking up pulling, pushing, carrying, carting luggage; eyes raised to the Arriva/Partenza boards that will tell them where they are going and when, leading them to the Binario with their waiting train.

Travelers know what they’re doing. Tourists don’t.

It is easy to spot the difference in a railway station. Seasoned travelers and the Milanese don’t have that mixed look of puzzlement and pain on their faces. They have no trouble making their needs known. Up to the wicket. Out with their money. Grazie and they’re on their way. Verify the ticket in the little yellow box. Done.

Right now we are not these people.

The most significant journey is always a personal one.

Travel has a way of forcing you to deal with discoveries about yourself. You must shake off the established patterns of everyday life as you know it.

The stresses of travel leave no room for emotional baggage.

On the road there is no place for undiscovered cracks in a relationship. A couple must be confident that their connection is solid.

No one is ever sure what lies ahead, regardless of what travel agents, guide books or the Internet tell you. If your relationship is a good one it will get stronger, deeper, richer more mutually supportive with each passing destination.

You are alone together. Travel gives couples time and opportunity to become what they thought they were.

Forum Posts

b & b in Milan?

by inkie

We are looking for b & b accommodation in central Milan for one night (16 May). Any suggestions? Thanks!

RE: b & b in Milan?

by DavidHardesty

A couple of years ago we stayed at Antica Locanda dei Mercanti, a block or so from a subway stop, right between Sforzico and the Duomo. Worth checking out.

Comments

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