2021 Travels Part 6
T plus 9 days
The day started off auspiciously. I promised the Swiss Miss (called Heidi in a previous memoir) that I’d take her to a special place. It’s in what I now thoroughly realize is my favorite neighborhood in Milan: Brera. There is a little street we happened upon maybe 5 years ago, and as I wrote about in a previous travel memoir, there is a little shop on that street with the most amazing window display I had ever seen. There is no 2nd place worth mentioning.
A couple or more years after that we were back in Milan searching for that same shop, and after carefully studying pictures I’d taken previously, we worked out the name and returned. It was still glorious.
It’s called Il Segno del Tempo, and I hesitate to share that with you, for it’s like giving away the position of a secret surf spot, one carefully guarded by locals. And indeed, my impression is that this little street is intended primarily for locals, and those of some means. Still, probably no harm done, as fewer than 10 people have ever read any of my memoirs.
So this morning we hopped aboard the #2 tram and got off at the end of the street of my secret spot. A quarter mile walk brought us to the shop, and it easily lived up to my expectations. I placed my iPhone against the glass and took several pictures. (The door to the shop had never been open or unlocked in all the times we’d visited.)
I noticed a man in the back, and when two workmen got his attention he came to the door and talked to them. The door was opened. I was not about to let this opportunity pass. When the workmen exited, I told the man that this shop was the most amazing I’d ever seen – or words to that effect; I fawned, shamelessly. And would it be possible to come inside? Yes, of course. Keep in mind, this fellow told us that he had only worked there for a year, and he was not an owner. I think we lucked out in this regard.
So, we got in, and I was now surrounded by works of art and science that thoroughly captivated me. Goosebumps occurred. I was simply awed in every direction I looked.
And lo! There was an elevator to yet another floor. Would we like to descend to the other level? Does the pope do cosplay?
(I’ve since visited their website and got an impression of how much disposable wealth one needs to buy their stuff. After our return we discovered our furnace is no longer viable, our circuit breakers ought to be replaced, and we’ll soon need to pay property taxes. Consequently my disposable wealth has few significant figures to the left of the decimal point. Sigh.)
Upon exiting, still giddy with excitement, I half noticed that Heidi was perplexed. This whole eye of the beholder thing is at times aggravating, especially when you are swooning and those around you are making a brave effort to partake in said swooning, but failing utterly to understand why they should do so. Francesca shared my rapture, but Heidi was just nonplussed. But I did not care. Heidi actually wanted to go to parks and walk amidst greenery. I like parks, but they’re not why I come to Milan repeatedly. (Why would anyone go to any remarkable city to sit in a park? Anyway, I found her brave confusion slightly aggravating. I shared something precious, and got a “That’s nice” in return. My fault entirely. In my heart I knew Heidi’s tastes did not encompass this sort of thing. Ah well. And anyway, I hadn’t dragged everyone to this street and shop because I thought it would please anyone else. Nay nay. I needed to be there, and again experience the wonder of that little shop.)
Still, later, when asked to briefly hold a bag containing some undergarments I had just purchased, and, a short time thereafter, perplexed as to why she was holding a bag, she put the thing on the ground, where it remained when we sauntered off … anyway. My fault. And my subsequent ire when I raced back to find it, leaving Francesca and Heidi behind, and then I couldn’t find the fucking thing because I didn’t remember the location, and I told them curtly on the phone to take a tram home, and hung up with noticeable dudgeon, and fortunately found a taxi stand that got me home 60 seconds before them.
Still, I got inside the shop, and it amply fulfilled my expectations. And we got Heidi to the train, and hours later she got home. She is more of an Indian Ashram kind of person. Expecting Milano to thrill was an error on my part, but it was where we were, and it was nice she came down to visit.
As to that, Heidi was not the only one to travel some distance to see us. There would be two other visits, and I was grateful for each. Still, the nagging fear that they were doing so because they might not see me again did not lift my spirits. Ç’est la vie. Ç’est la mort.
T plus 10 days
Sauntered back to our street via Piazza Gae Aulenti. I said hi to a couple dogs. We ate. Walked. Trammed. Rested. Discussed recent events, myself putting a forgiving spin on everything. And now I’m typing. Tomorrow is our last full day in Milan.
Discovered today a long street of outdoor dining a couple blocks from us. Walked halfway down. This place looks nice. 40 or so tables, only one other one taken. Time: 19:40 = 7:40 pm. By 9:40 pm all tables full, people waiting for early birds to leave. Italian notion of proper dinner time differs from ours. Radically differs, truth be told.
As of yesterday, by official mandate (if that’s what it’s called), some venues require proof of vaccination, and a temperature check, before entry is permitted. This being Italy, the mandate – as happened tonight – is often ignored.
T plus 11 days
I should explain. Regarding Il Segno del Tempo, my enchantment is 1/3 the objects, and 4/5 the arrangement of the objects, the magical design, as one only ever sees in Italy, especially in Milano, the heart of design in this country. New York, Paris, Milan, the fashion triumvirate, and while Milan is the smallest, it is in my mind the greatest.
Well, speaking of fashion, we hadn’t done the long fashion street yet, so today we took a tram to my favorite street, lunched at a nice place that smelled of truffles … A word: Francesca is wild about truffles, and even the smell makes her weak in the knees. Curiously I don’t seem to have the right genes for the things; I’m never sure if I can actually smell anything, and maybe I taste them … maybe; I’m just not sure. I suspect they are aphrodisiacs for women, and not for men; or it could simply be I was born wrong – sideways or something.
After lunch we moseyed down to the fashion district and ogled this year’s Fall styles by all the leading designers. Even before surrendering my testicles I was fond of fashion, it being but a part of art and design. Should I be more or less attracted to this artistic milieu now, without my little Gundam pilots? Studies have not been made, so I am unsure.
(Heidi knew of my medical condition (she is a nurse, and her husband a medical doctor), and how I’d chosen to confront it, before coming to visit. She seriously wondered if lacking testosterone would give me a higher voice – more feminine. It hasn’t, but I tried to fulfill her expectations a couple of times, and much hilarity ensued. (But really, why would my Adam’s Apple suddenly pop up out of sight in response to that surgery? Still, I do get hot flashes, and that’s fun.))
Now thoroughly hot and sticky, we headed through the amazing Galeria, across the Il Duomo piazza, and hence to the #2 tram, which took us back home and into a cold shower. And a nice lie down. Ciao.
A heatwave is approaching and will encompass all the region between Milan and Lyon, during the next nine days of our travels. This does not make me happy. If our next place, which is not air conditioned, is too unbearable, we will retreat to Chamonix, higher in the Alps, as we did two years ago.
Francesca’s truffle experience
(Her words, typos corrected by the husband person. Why does my Mac want me to replace the word “by” with “buy”? Am I for sale?)
“Today’s beauty was invisible. It was taste and smell. When we were passing by a day ago my knees almost gave way. The entire street had the divine headiness of truffles. I was so desperately sad we had eaten lunch already that day. Had to go back and have some!“
[The restaurant referred to here is at the end of my favorite street with the little shop of wonders. We got back to it, as I wrote above, and …]
“Oh oh oh … I had fresh black summer truffles shaved on carpaccio with parmigiana – next to our ‘offbeat curios shop’. I ate so slowly to savor eat bite and rest in between.
“And you might wonder if a restaurant would be mad at us taking up space for so long. No! Not at all. They actually gave us the premiere spot. It was a corner building with a double row of tables all along two sides and where the sides intersected there was a single round table – with as much area as the 4 seat rectangle tables but because of the space around it it was set only for 2. So it was like the best double in the whole place. And we came along and they motioned to it and I thought that’s a mistake and was trying to figure out where to go, so the manager or owner … the clear top person running the place at the time, walked over to the big round corner and pulled a chair out for me! It was true. They put us right in the corner where people going along both alleys saw. Then he gave us complementary glasses of Prosecco. I had the carpaccio and truffles and then some porcini mushroom riso, and I asked for a glass of the best wine to go with the funghi – and he nailed it. Then I had my decaf espresso and suddenly a complementary limoncellos arrived and then when I asked for our bill, another little glass of limoncello arrives. And I was watching; I was there a long while and watching both ways and watching both alleys and chatting with various waiters. And I specifically was watching for others to get free things – free drinks … nope. We were being spoiled. I don’t know why. But they were lovely to us and didn’t mind us taking up space a while – in fact – the biggest table there. Other guests – not all – one large table of many tables put together for 10 all along half the building length – certain ones kept leaning out and examining us – like they were trying to figure out who we were … as if we were someone. The restaurant made us look like we were! Or it must have been my fabulous new shoes with black silhouettes and long flowing lovely scarf!
“Anyhow – everything about the meal was beyond expectation. And I went in with high expectations having been completely intoxicated by the smell the day before. The free Prosecco was not because of the truffles either. It was given to us while we viewed the menu before we ordered even a thing.”
I snapped this picture at the end of the meal: