Monday morning and week number one has officially been declared completed. I am back at work, now more optimistic having had a comprehensive tour on Friday afternoon (you would think they would give that on the first day, eh?). I know what happens in every place in the office, I now know what I am doing, and I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel: my days in the archive will end within a week or two. hoorah.
Finishing work at 4.30 on Friday afternoon, I headed to do my first bit of touristy activity and went to the top of the Duomo, a beautiful medieval cathedral that took 400 years to build. The Milanese are constantly restoring the cathedral (currently the facade is covered) and there are parts that are white and pink, fresh to the world once again. I took 150 photos at the top of the Duomo (before editing) and immensely enjoyed my first foray in tourism... there are so many beautiful statues up on the roof (3400 on the whole church to be exact, in true international medieval style) I went a little nuts.
Saturday, after cleaning the house and learning that both sweeping and filling up the gas tank have alternate meanings in Italian that find themselves deep into the night and minds of the Italians (if you know what I mean, which I think you may not... they're dirty people), I decided to hit up the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and be a tourist. I gladly found the museum pretty empty, silent, beautiful. I entered one room, dimly lit and as I turned the corner I witnessed a full wall sketch of Raphael's School of Athens. It was breathtaking, the air was cool, the shadows subtle. I was in quasi ecstasy and I then knew why I was an art history major. Throughout the rest of the museum there were similar moments like these with a Dante-inspired stained glass window and a small impressionist Francesca and Paolo from Mose' Bianchi that all left me a bit numbed, in the best way possible. The feeling is as if your eyes cannot take in as much as they want to and your chest just fills with lighthearted wonder. In short you feel sort of otherworldly. So I guess I had an out of body experience at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. Well worth 7.50 euro.
Sunday we escaped the forno (oven) that was to be Milan to head to Celle Ligure, a beach town in the province of Liguria. From the car I was able to witness the yellow wheat and green grass countryside of the Piemonte, flat farm land all around with a farm house here and there and the extremely photogenic (although I was not successful) single tree alone in a pasture. We went through the Apennines and into Liguria where coloured stucco houses dot the hillside that ultimately end at the coast with beautiful blue beaches. Although parking was nothing short of a nightmare (though everything here doesn't really phase me to worry), the subsequent cloud-like brioche (think warm sugared cloud) and genovese focaccia made everything alright, as did the clouds parting to reveal glorious sunshine. I, of course, was il bianco (the white one) among my newfound family and they laughed really hard when I pulled out my 45 sunscreen lotion. They of course were using 2 (italians usually probably just slather themselves in olive oil... although some were using tanning oil). I started off with 20 and worked my way down to 10 with a little venture into the land of 6. By the end of the day, I was nicely tanned but not nearly as much as the others who were running away from me in terms of skin tone, escaping into the exotic and sensual world of a deep golden brown. People here are just naturally darker, and the contrast to their white parts is almost blinding, as I was to witness from the car one man standing out on the point with a strip of blinding white contrasting against the deep luxurious brown. In my picture taking, I've ventured into suspiciously taking pictures of other people without them being aware. There are some cute shots of people I don't even know, displaying a real life that already exists here without me: the tourist. What is wonderful about the beach and about the Italian culture so far, in general, is that anything goes. Want to go topless on the beach ladies? Fine. Men, want to wear speedos? Va be' (Fine). This liberated spirit that doesn't really worry about what goes and what doesn't but just lives will be something I will live up to the fullest and bring back with me for sure. With pure emotions and a raw sense of aesthetics, it isn't hard to see how Italy appeals to so many.
In parting, a few more shots of la vita Italiana...