Milan is big, the second city of Italy. The area around the station – a large area, all the way through half-developed Dante-hell close to Garibaldi to the so-so Corso Como, one of those hot spots, that’s not – is an Ektachrome vision of neo-realism. I see: theft, a bottle fight (nasty), street people everywhere, police at both of, hundred yards apart, McDonalds. Lesson: pay more, stay in the centre. But Milan is about global finance and fashion – that means expensive.
It is in Milan that Tom gets really going, squeezing more sights into a single day than Kate Moss could squeeze cat-walk shows. Tim Moore was going to leave pretty quick, but got fogged in (he travelled in November). Instead of leaving: “I bought a bus ticket from a man selling pornographic comic books at a roadside booth.” He describes sight-seeing quite well in his Milan pages…I took the metro.
The first English words I hear in Milano:
“I can’t decide, I think we should hire a driver for tomorrow.” The voice belongs to a six foot plus boy, about 18 or 19, with the Rupert Everett when “Another Country” public schoolboy. This boy is about 100lbs and has a military haircut. His two companions are similarly good-looking with Paolo Maldini long hair, and soft American accents.
“I don’t know, we can get to the castings by metro.”
“It’s not reliable enough.”
“Let’s get a driver.”
“We haven’t been cast yet…”
The English boy’s accent is betwixt Harrow, Heroin-chic, and Amy Winhouse: thus perfect for his career. All three are young male models, hustling for work in Milan. A short thunderstorm would wash all three away. I close in on my interview, but they vanish into the crowds. This is the Duomo station stop, leading out to a hugely impressive cathedral – it is big – and hugely impressive prices. This is where tourists and fashionistas can sink eight euros on a bottle of beer, or anything from twelve for a real drink. I go to the cathedral instead.
The next night the entire square is given over to a free concert, hundreds of thousands of people go to watch music, of some kind. Macy Gray and the woman from the Cranberries were there as well. I was fi-fishing: watched it on the television.
“The Cathedral Church is dedicated to our lady, which John Galeatius Duke of Milan caused to be built, anno 1386. This is an exceeding glorious and beautifull Church, as faire if not fairer then the Cathedral Church of Amiens, which I have before so much magnified. All this Church seemeth to be built with marble: herein are many notable things to be seene: in the Quire the bodies of many of the Vicounts of Milan….I ascended almost to the toppe of the Tower; wherehence I surveyed the whole citie round about, which yielded a most beautifull and delectable shew. There I observed the huge suburbs, which are as bigge a many a faire towne, and compassed about with ditches of water: there also I beheld a great part of Italy, together with the lofty Apennines; and they shewed me which way Rome, Venice, Naples, Florence, Genua, Ravenna, &c. lay. The territory of Lombardy, which I contemplated round about from this Tower, was so pleasant an object to mine eyes, being replenished with such unspeakable variety of all things, both for profite and pleasure, that is seemeth to me to be the very Elysian fields, so much decanted and celebrated by the verses of Poets, or the Tempe [general name for rural beauty] or Paradise of the World. For it is the fairest plaine, extended about some two hundred miles in length that ever I saw, or ever shall if I should travel over the whole habitable world: insomuch that I said to myselfe that his country was fitter to be an habitation for the immortall Gods than for mortall men…I saw the auncient Palace of the Viscounts of Milan…I went to the Library of Cardinall Borromaeus, which is an exceeding faire peece of workmanship, but it is not fully finished, so that there is not one booke in it, but it is said that it shall be shortly furnished….
…A certain merchant of Genua hath a very beautifull house in this City…There is a very magnificent Hospitall in this City, wherein there are an hundred and twelve chambers, and foure thousand poore people are relieved in the same. The yearlie revenues of it are said to be at least fifty thousand crownes.
…No City of Italy is furnished with more manuary arts then this, which it yeeldeth with as much excellency as any City of all Chrstendome, especially two, embroidering and making of hilts for swords and daggers. Their embroiders are very singular workemen, who worke much in gold and silver. Their cutlers [knife makers] that make hilts are more exquisite in that art then any that I ever saw…Also silkmen do abound here, which are esteemed so good that they are not inferior to any of the Christian world.
The Citadell is the fairest without any comparison that ever I saw, farre surpassing any one Citadell whatsoever in Europe….it seemeth rather a towne then a Citadell, being distinguished by many spacious and goodly greene courts…also in these courts as it were certaine market places, there are usually markets kept…The munition of the Citadell is so much…For a great part of Lombardy Westward belongeth to the Citadel, for the sustenation of the Presidiary souldiers, who are all Spaniards, being in number five hundred. …When I came forth of the Citadel, after I had surveyed all the principal places, a certain Spaniard imagining that I had beene a Flemming expressed many tokens of anger towards me, and lastly railed so extremely at me, that if I had not made haste out with my company, I was afread he would have flung a stone at my head, or otherwise offered some violence to me. There is such an extreme hatred betwixt the Milanois and the Spaniards, that neither the Milanois doe at any time come into the Citadel, nor the Spaniards into the City, but only in the evening.
….”it is thought there are not so few as three hundred thousand soules in this city. Thus much of Milan.
When Tom was here Milan, those Szfozas and Viscontis, was under the rule of the Spanish, who were not too popular. They kept themselves to the Citadell, but pointed their guns at the city; nowadays it is the fashion-conscious who point the finger, bereft of this year’s male look I retreat to Shakespeare. Cities like this, despite Tom’s engagement here, don’t bring me closer to him. I’ll write more on court and country soon.