Piazza del Duomo, Milan. The entrance to the Galleria is through the arch on the left. The statue is of Vittorio Emanuele II.
So it’s June 1994 and yours truly is in Milan in a serviced apartment (kitchen, living room and bedroom) a short walk from both the office and the Piazza del Duomo. I’m working. Somebody’s got to do it.
Landed at Malpensa Airport, grabbed my bags and headed for a cab. It was then I realized that the airport was so far from downtown Milan it might as well have been in Switzerland. “Cuanto? No grazie.”
So I hop on the express bus which just “zips” you to the Milan Central Railroad Station in an hour or more. Once in town I can catch a cab from there. I’m tired from the flight and looking forward to checking into my temporary digs. I snooze a bit.
I am awakened by chatter. In English. Occasional giggles. Lots of young people on this bus. By this time Toritto is 52. I notice a young man and although not so inclined I had to admit to myself that he was one good looking dude. Extremely good looking.
Then I look around and notice more good looking people. Stunning people. Am I dreaming? I listen to the conversation and suddenly realize I am on a bus filled with runway models. All in town for a show. Talk about making you want to crawl under the knife. Oh well. I hide my old face and go back to sleep.
My apartment is more than comfortable and near everything. Next day I go food shopping and buy easy to make stuff for breakfast and snacks. I have no intention of eating my own food for lunch and dinner.
The weather is just gorgeous and I walk to work in the morning rather than take the 1930s style trolley which clatters by and stops just outside my front door. Milan is not really a tourist city and you didn’t see too many Americans in the mid-90s.
Some evenings during my stay I will have dinner with colleagues but there are plenty of nights I am on my own. I hang out at the Piazza del Duomo, the site of Milan’s great cathedral as well as the first covered shopping arcade – the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II.
The piazza is everyone’s outdoor space; where one goes to see and be seen. Sitting around the statue of Victor Emanuel with a slice of pizza and a glass of vino. Ahh heaven.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan.
Over the weekends I go exploring – the Duomo, the Galleria and at the opposite entrance to the Galleria and across another square -La Scala opera house. Another Saturday was spent exploring the palace of Ludivico Sforza – he who commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to paint The Last Supper and strolling Piazzale Loreto where Mussolini was strung up.
La Scala opera house
Castello Sforza – home of the Dukes of Milan
The Sforza main hall
The Galleria, which is simply magnificent, is completely covered in floor mosaics, the most famous of which is the Bull, his testicles covered as it is considered bad luck not to step on them while passing.
Visiting the Galleria leads to nothing but shopping and spending money but I never return from a trip empty handed. A large silver “Venus rising from the sea” type shell still sits in my living room. The Galleria is stunningly beautiful.
Of course anyone who visits Milan must see Leonardo’s masterpiece “The Last Supper” located in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The work is assumed to have been started around 1495–96 and was commissioned as part of a plan of renovations to the church and its convent buildings by Leonardo’s patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.
As a colleague of the Great American Travel Company I didn’t have to wait in line.
Most of what you see here today is the work of restorers and not Leonardo himself. The last restoration commenced in 1999, several years after my departure.
The Piazzale Loreto where Mussolini was strung up for public view. The original square is completely gone and of course there is no marker. While difficult to see, off the corner in the buildings on the left there is a McDonalds. I am told that the spectacle took place just about there.
On one particular evening I notice that workers are installing two giant TV screens in the Piazza. I find out that the following evening Italy is playing Ireland in a World Cup soccer game at, of all places, Giant Stadium back home in New Jersey. Everyone will be here to watch the game in the open air! Viva Azzurra!
I walk back to my apartment, turn on the black and white TV and take to the couch determined to watch the game tomorrow night on the tv screens in the Piazza. I fall asleep and wake up at maybe 3 AM.
The news is on and I’m listening in Italian. There is a white bronco being trailed by squads of police cars on a highway in Los Angeles. What is going on? Where is CNN? O. J. Simpson? What??
Yes I watch O. J taking his slow ride from a couch in my rental apartment in Milan.
Black and white TV you say? Well the entire world didn’t yet have color TV. Still doesn’t. I didn’t have a phone in my pocket. When I wanted to call home I had to book the call from my room through an operator in Italian. Then hang up and wait for a call back when connected. When you went away in the old days, you went away.
Next night I go to watch the game. Cheers! Waves! Flags! Drinking! Partying! Yaay! Thousands are in the piazza. I got myself a good spot on the perimeter and absorbed the atmosphere.
As the game went on the crowd got a little quiet. Insults. Surly. Agony. Obscene gestures.
Italy lost 1 -0. I left the Piazza early. Wise move.