Brace yourselves, this week the mercury will creep up close to 40 as Saharan heat presses into Milan. It is said that this week will be the worst of the summer, the hottest, and then it will be a different sort of heat. I find myself sweating more than I am used to, wiping off the liquid from my forehead as I entered the Metro this morning and other times as well. Somehow, I don't mind the heat that much. I know that if I keep drinking water and staying hydrated that I'll be okay. And I know that sweating is natural. In a way, it makes you feel alive.
So the weekend was nothing short of amazing, fun, and busy. It all started on Friday, as weekends usual do. I ventured forth to find a modern art museum, La Permanente, only to find that it did not exist and did not stand on the street and at the address where I thought it would. The address itself didn't exist. Great. Would this be the beginning of an awful weekend? I wandered around the public gardens (with certain spots looking as if they should be in Maine and not Milan) seeing dogs tredding through fountains, Italians lazily and oilily (not a word probably) lying in the sun and kids running around, before heading home. Upon my return, I learned that Carly, my old friend from 4 years ago at PSYL (a leadership camp), would be arriving within 20 minutes from Bellagio. What I didn't know was that Carly, fed up with the abusive children she was taking care of and the uncaring mother who wouldn't introduce discipline (boys will be boys), had packed up all her bags and come to Milan. She had decided that she would find a new job and place to stay and that everything would work out. Although I was a bit apprehensive at first, as anyone who hasn't seen someone else in 4 years should be, we immediately hit it off and continued chatting throughout the weekend whenever we weren't in museums or discouraged from conversation by loud public transportation. That night we went to see a free Sting concert as part of the Cornetto Free Music Festival. Standing in a packed Piazza Duomo with people huddled together, lip synching to Negramaro and then Sting, the wholse scene was a good time. From the little children who really couldn't care less, to the man selling beer and water out of a plastic tub on a cart covered with a light and an umbrella to the girls with whom we made fun of Sting's Italian, Carly and I had a wonderful music filled night (with mosquitoes looming above in the bright lights). Three encores later and we finally navigated our way home, awaiting a night of sleep and a weekend of tourism ahead.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to be able to talk in English, communicate effectively and, even, intelligently with another human being. I could speak a language all my own, well no, not really, but you get my drift. I was getting to the point where I needed a bit of a holiday from the English language so that what I have learned would sink in more effectively. At the end of the weekend, it would be back to Italian for me.
Saturday we headed to the Castello Sforzesco for perhaps the best cultural deal in town. Not only do you get to see an old fortification built by the Viscontis (later bombed and rebuilt... an exact replica says my guidebook) but you can also admire over 20 rooms of sculptures and paintings (including michelangelo's pieta rodanini and some canalettos) for only 1.50 euro (student price). Feeling cool (both temperature-wise and culture-wise), Carly and I headed off to Piazza Santo Stefano to have lunch at cente pizze (a hundred pizzas, although they don't actually have a hundred pizzas) and a visit at a latin-american church (who would have known). In the afternoon, we wandered in the heat to the Leonardo Da Vinci Science and Technology museum.
For 6 euro, we thought we had been cheated because the displays were nothing but juvenile and uninteresting (and one room was particularly rancid). However we figured out that we could have a little presentation in Italian about Leonardo Da Vinci with some of his reconstructed machines. With some elementary Italian and a venture into physics, Carly and I learned quite a bit and even built a Da Vinci bridge quickly enough to beat out the ten year olds and get a Evviva Ingliterra (Long live England!) from our guide. The skies broke out in thunder showers after Carly and I had bought melon and prosciutto (which came with free golden kiwis... what?! we still can't figure it out), and Carly, Niki and I went out to dance in the rain and celebrate a temporary end to the heat. In the cool night, Carly and I hit the fashion stores for La Notte Bianca, a full night of shopping, music, and special events around town until 6am (even though we called it quits at 2am).
I want to digress. On this lovely Saturday, at one point we were heading in a metro direction I hadn't gone before. I was convinced, after consulting my guidebook that we were indeed headed in the right direction for Cadorna. A woman came up to me as we waited for the train and asked if the train was headed for Lima. I said I had a guidebook and would check. Seeing Lima in the opposite direction, I told her that she should take the other train. Also, just as the train arrived an Italian woman asked if the train was going to Cadorna, and I said yes, for sure, that's where we are headed. Sure enough, that is not where we were headed, at least on the train that we got on. Not only was our trip a bit longer, but I had instructed two others wrongly because I thought I knew where I was going. I should just give up, I am Canadian I do not know Milan, screw it. Non lo so, I don't know. How do you ever know to trust that random person you ask for directions? You can't unless they have a store, or live here. Don't trust the random person for directions.
Anyways Sunday Carly and I went to the Pinacoteca di Brera, were struck by the scandalous Saint Rocco and the popular-with-the-ladies Saint Ursula, and taken aback by Hayez's The Kiss, Bronzino's Andrea Doria Waiting for Neptune and the final work by da Volpedo's Fiumana. I legitimately got my 2.50 euro entrance from my ATM (metro) card and somehow, unknowingly, I made Carly an EU student and she too got in for 2.50 when she probably should have paid double. Sweet deal. Wandering down Via Spiga towards La Scala, we had some lunch and then hit up the second sweet deal of the day: a 5 euro ticket to a concert at La Scala, the reknowned horseshoe shaped opera house in Milan. We waited around with a bunch of fancily dressed Italian elderly people and got our tickets. After a gelato and people-watching we headed back for the concert. I managed to snap a few photos before being told that I could not actually take any pictures. From our seats we could not see the stage, we could see all the box seats that could probably see the stage, we could see the other people on the other side who also couldn't see the stage, but, however, we could see the stage if we leaned over on a red velvet bar in front of us. La Scala (see interior photo care of Carly), basically, is white, gold, and red velvet, with a chandelier in the middle. Although luscious at first sight, if you look closer, some of the decorations hanging from the red velvet drapse above all the seats are wood painted gold, a bunch of lightbulbs in the chandelier were burnt out and the seats in front of the stage looked like they could have been in a high school auditorium... a lesson in costume jewelry i thought (to which Dorota would later put me down saying La Scala was one of the most famous opera houses in Italy). Once the music began, I would concede that the acoustics were indeed amazing. From my seat where one can see absolutely nothing, I could hear crisply the single violin or the single flute playing their part. Standing up and watching the small chamber orchestra as the played Rossini, Mozart, Rota, and Gershwin, I was moved. The skill of the musicians, the experience of this concert venue and fanning myself as if I were some sort of lower class gentleman from 400 years ago all came together to make it well worth the 5 euro. And at the end there was a sultry gorgeous Argentinian tango complete with a lengthy and riveting accordion solo played as one of the two encores. Of course, they had to play more than one.
We came home, went out to witness the referendum voting and have dinner, before coming home and chatting wildly with the new addition to the household (aka Carly) and anticipating a week of work for some, finding work for others, and utter sweating heat. Thus ended the activities of one of the most enjoyable weekends I've ever spent: full of culture, conversation and connection... really, who could ask for more?