Maybe it’s a combination of the sudden onset of heat and resultant fatigue – in the mid twenties yesterday when I arrived – and that I didn’t sleep well for the “closeness” in the room and the ambient street sounds and light. Or, that this time in Italy, I’m one among the now growing crowds of tourists, school trips and Milanese out enjoying the sights on a sunny Saturday. Or, that after six weeks away, I’ve been feeling pangs of homesickness. But despite the sun, the sights, the full flush spring colours, and another perfect hotel room, I had, what one of my well-travelled friend calls, “a low pot” day. Not a scorched dry “low pot,” but moments where I felt niggles of ennui, self-doubt, and just plain and simple loneliness that called for mindful allowing and a bit of intervention.
I felt it soon upon rising, as I reflected on my last dream (since traveling, my nights have been quite full, last night in particular, given the room’s heat). During the complementary breakfast that covered every course from breakfast to dinner and dessert (I think the exceptionally considerate staff aim to please an international clientele’s morning tastes), I was distracted by the American standard “muzak”, though made note to enjoy the waitress’ soft and cheerful singing as she welcomed us to our tables. And the young waiter who took a moment to compliment my attire, ever courteous and careful not to offend, gave me a boost of self- assurance to set me on my way to the Metro.
Last night I went online to book a ticket to see one of Milan’s main attractions, The Last Supper at the Santa Maria delle Grazie. I was one of twenty-five queued for our fifteen minute viewing at 9:45 today. I’m at a loss for words to describe the deep feelings evoked as I stood in the dim, dusk-like light, gazing at da Vinci’s masterpiece (the word hardly does justice). It felt particularly poignant because I was seeing it during this spring season of Lent and Christ’s passion, and because of my own birth on Good Friday.
After making the wrong turn, and sensing I was getting further from my anticipated next destination, the Castello Sforzesco, I asked for directions and quickly nipped in the bud any self-criticism as I retraced my steps for several blocks. My own self laughed when I saw the fortress of brick, parks, and Milan’s own version a triumphal arc, the Arco della Pac. “So close yet so far!” Being inside the castle’s museums offered a cool, and calming respite from the growing crowds and heat. I weaved my way through exhibits of ancient art, furniture and paintings to see Michelangelo’s last sculpture, the incomplete Rondanini Pièta. Eavesdropping on a tour guide’s description and art history’s interpretation of the work really enhanced my viewing and appreciation.
I ate my little cheese and grilled eggplant sandwich made from the breakfast buffet at the first water fountain I’ve seen since arriving in Europe, outside the castle’s front entrance, and then walked down the Via Dante where I stopped at the Aperol Café for what has become my favourite cocktail, an aperol spritz. Aperol, a campari based liqueur, is native to these parts, though to date, the best I’ve sampled was with Kathrin last weekend in Köln, Germany! Today, sitting at outdoor table, I was acutely aware of dining solo, and being surrounded by lovely gaggles of raggazze italiane, and it seemed, couples and families from all parts.
This registered, I moved on knowing I would soon get a glimpse of Milan’s centerpiece, its cathedral, Il Duomo. It almost glowed against the blue sky, the sun now striking its face. The piazza was alive with people of all ages. Children squealed with delight, or fear, at the flocks of pigeons, well trained for handouts.
I ventured inside the cathedral and slowly took in its immensity and grandeur, appreciating that a mid-afternoon mass was in process. I recalled and heeded my niece’s wisdom for lonely travel times, and took a bit of time to sit on a pew and be still.
Through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele to an oasis of green and cool, the Piazza della Scala, anchored by a statue of Milan’s favourite son, Leonardo da Vinci and four of his apprentices, and the famous La Scala Opera House.
I sat for a good hour or so people and psyche watching, and roused myself to fetch an antidote, a cone of lemon and pink grapefruit gelato, topped with almost-frozen whipped cream, from the famous Gelateria Grom.
It’s now well into the evening as I sit in my room composing this post. It’s still hot, the window is open and street sounds rise up. I retrieved one of my routines during my very first solo adventure to Italy…play some music while I tally the day’s receipts and edit the day’s photos, and reflect on a day full…of moments wistful and lonesome, and how I allowed and flowed on through to appreciate and receive its gifts.
The pot is quite a bit fuller now.