Friday, April 29. The Milanese are still wearing their winter jeans, puff jackets and scarves. I’m wearing black linen capris and sleeveless blouses. I arrived in Milano Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., to a morning warmer than Seattle… yet I’m glad to have brought a little summer jacket.
Robin-like birds started singing early this morning. By the time I looked at the clock, it was 5:00 and they had already roused a chorus. I slipped back into sleep, and when I awoke, it was then the doves I heard, cooing in the courtyard trees.
The sky is overcast. There’s a bit of a breeze, and we had both sprinkles and sunshine by day’s end. The church bells just started chiming. It’s a quarter-til-6:00 in the evening. Why aren’t they waiting ’til the hour?
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On Wednesday, the short train ride from the airport brought me to Cadorna Station in central Milano. I caught a cab to the apartment I’ve rented for this week, in the hip-and-artsy Navigli district, just blocks away from my old apartment and one of the grocery stores I always used to shop at.
Late morning, drowsy from the long travel and a little hungry, I went across the street to Trattoria Madonnina with its city-wide reputation… for coffee and lunch served by an unhappy waitress. I sat on the courtyard-side, jasmine-covered patio, with red-checked tablecloths and red, plastic chairs. (The WC is an old-style pit toilet with white, ridged ceramic foot pads for accurate positioning.) The morning was slow and relaxed with a cool, mid-spring sun and Milano’s classic hazy-blue sky. Neighborhood locals passed through the courtyard with their big, round ”ciaos”.
I stopped in to the grocery to see my friend, Justine, cutting prosciutto in the meat department. She’s the meat cutter at the store and has the most beautiful smile. It touched my heart that her face lit up to see me and we gave each other an excited, european, two-cheeked kiss and chatted between customers.
It feels as if it’s only been 2 weeks since I was last here. As if I was back in Seattle just to check on a few things and see family, friends and clients. Actually, 9 months have passed since I packed up and left Milano, but it feels like I’ve come home, as I walk these familiar streets and hear the city’s sounds of sirens and courtyard conversations, soccer cheers and scooter accelerations.
In planning these two months, I gave myself the luxury of a fairly unplanned first week here in Milano. I haven’t even told all my friends that I’m here yet, because I haven’t wanted this week to be a full flurry of gatherings. I’ve taken my naps and slept as needed to get over the late-nights’ crush to leave Seattle, the long travels and resulting jet lag. I’ve focussed on getting systems up and running. I reactivated my Italian cell phone with its rechargeable SIM card, unlocked my ancient (1st generation) iPhone (thanks to Luigi) and transferred the SIM card from one phone to the other. I was allowed use of the wifi at the Design School and have spent hours online, sitting amidst design students in the computer lab while I booked air and hotels for Sicily and Puglia for the coming two weeks.
Connectivity-hooked that I am, with no wifi in this apartment, and inconvenienced by only being online when the computer lab is open, I bought a “chiavetta” – little key – from TIM, one of the Italian carriers and the supplier of my cell phone SIM card service. Very patient Valentina at the TIM store on Corso San Gottardo explained my options and then waded through setup with me. I can now use the key modem independent of wifi availability throughout all of Italy (though it won’t work on my iPad because of device power issues).
Logistics. Though vastly less disruptive to my “life system” to come abroad for “just” 2 months rather than packing up and moving here, it’s still a big effort and taxing. How often do I figure on doing this? Once… twice a year? Would two weeks satisfy me? Will I always want a month or two or more? And to what end? Am I naive in feeling I have some sort of tie to Italy and her people, the friends I’ve made here? Am I holding a glamorized, fantasy of living partly in Italy? And where does that come from?
It’s Friday evening and there’s chatter in the courtyard, an enclosed canyon of a space between several of this big city’s 5-story apartment buildings.
Still moving slowly, I’m not compelled to go out tonight. Rather, I’ll make myself a salad of fresh greens, Sicilian tomatoes, long-missed bresaola, scamorza affumicata, some oil and vinegar. Maybe this weekend I’ll head down the bike path on an already-borrowed bike for some fresh ricotta cheese, and then later meet up with a girlfriend to check out the latest art museum show.
Here just two days so far, I’ve shopped for olive oil and intimates, cured meats and internet keys. At a quarter-til-eight in the evening, the doves are cooing again.
I’m back in Milano.