“The road from appearance to reality is often very hard and long, and many people make only very poor travelers. We must forgive them when they stagger against us as if against a brick wall.” —Franz Kafka

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Milano

The best part of Milan was having dinner on a warm July evening with new friends in a pleasantly crowded courtyard cafe. It all felt very Italian until I declined the after-dinner coffee although, to their credit, everyone graciously pretended they weren't dismayed by my response. I was sorry to drop out of the flow but I like to sleep at night.

It's certainly not that I don't like coffee. I drink coffee by the mugful. It's one of the few things most of us Americans still agree on, the mug, though it's not so important in the rest of the world. We've stayed in over 50 Airbnb apartments, mostly outside the US, and of those only a couple were stocked with American-sized mugs. And, if you're traveling outside the US, forget about refills. If you want more coffee you buy another cup, full price. Say what you will about the treasonous dimwit and crew currently infesting the White House, at least in America it's possible to find a diner that still pours the proverbial endless cup. Not to say Italians don't love coffee. It ranks not far below the hallowed wine itself, but no sloshing gallons for them. In Italy coffee is a ritual so, as M. Lee recently forwarded me the Ten Commandments of Coffee, I've included them here for your convenience, should you be planning a first trip to Italy.

Crypt of St. Ambrose - Milan
Skeletons of St. Ambrose and his two companions

Beyond that dinner, the Basilica of St. Ambrose (Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio) was one of my two favorite sites in Milan. The 1600 year-old basilica doesn't look that impressive from the outside. Its decorative plaster and bright frescoes are long gone leaving bare brick which makes it seem more like a garden house than important historical site.
 
I had to remind myself that St. Ambrose built his cathedral in the 4th century, 800 years before Cambodia's crumbling Angkor Wat was built which, by comparison, seemed so much older. Of course, over the centuries, parts of the basilica have also collapsed, been torn down, re-built, built up or over. It's like George Washington's axe which is said to be the very one young George used to chop down the legendary cherry tree, though it's had several new handles and heads. 

White slippers cover St. Ambrose's feet.
The foot bones of one of his companions are exposed.

St. Ambrose died in Milan in 397 and he, and his two companions, have laid in the crypt below the alter ever since—give or take a few centuries during which time they disappeared.

Next . . . the Cimitero Monumentale.

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