Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spooky in Italian would be...

For Halloween this year, I’m masquerading as a small-town Italian. I have many of the characteristics down pat (no pun intended): the slow bicycle rides; the affinity for gelato, cafe, and Park Club; the friend who drives a school bus; the other friend who runs a sports store with his wife; the friend who goes bird hunting just after the sun has risen; scarf wearing; a local watering hole where... well, everybody knows my name.

The Penguin Cafe has become our Cheers only it has more style and panache, decked out as it is in simple, Modern furniture and art; it serves much more wine than beer, and tasty aperitvo instead of peanuts and pretzels; you cannot watch the Red Sox or Patriots on the TV; and... right, it’s in Italy. And I don’t think anybody works for Poste Italiane, which is fine because the last thing those people need is anything else slowing down their infamously leisurely post service.

Mark met the owners, Mario and Paula, through an American who stayed here briefly over the past two summers. Now, Mark and I are greeted warmly when we arrive. We often end up staying past closing time, chatting away with a revolving series of characters. Personaggi. Just like in Cheers, the Penguin attracts many types: the longer haired charming suitcoat; the barkeep who laughs a lot and keeps everybody guessing; the wild-eyed sage on the corner stool. At a recent festa del vino, we even had the opportunity to rub elbows with the director of a vineyard. (Maybe that would be like sharing a pint with Jim Koch?)

All of us are drawn by the place and especially the penguini, as the staff are known. And the wine is excellent. Of course. [In truth, as inquiring minds might want to know, I have consumed nothing bad here in Italy. Even the strips of pig back, while far from kosher, were tasty.] As with the baseball team, it's nice to be included. To feel part of something larger than myself. Even if it is a bar... especially if it's a bar.

Happy Halloween to you and yours, wherever you may be. I’m sure that among the lot of you there are some mighty costumes. Maybe even a Sam Malone? A Papajima? Daniel LaRussa remains tough to beat, on and off the mat, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a go.


Oh, and if you’re in Boston seeing the tourist sights, you can skip the Cheers bar. ‘Tis a silly place.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ramblin' 'round Milano

A few more reasons why Milan continues to grow on me like a pleasant moustache. What? Never mind. I don’t know either. Must be all of these late night/early morning Red Sox games. Oh, and a BC football game. Oh, and Mark just brought home two hockey sticks – I can see the headlines in Il Cittadino now: “Intrepid immigrants inject area inter-murals with hockey sans ice.”

A stone's throw from the castello, Milan's Chelsea/West Village lies in wait. Artists lounge, smoke, chat, doodle, scan the perforate-toothed want ads and have ads, discuss Matsuzaka’s Game 3 start in spacious Coors Field – an art school with balustraded courtyards, an astronomical museum, and a botanical garden. Sagan, spray paint disk space scenes busked, Audubon hummingbirds, O’Keefe, Da Vinci (same of the navigli). Perhaps it is common to use cartoon characters to advertise exhibitions of historical astronomical instruments but... i Simpson? He who designed said sign ingested perhaps an additional hallucinatory hot pepper.

Meanwhile, across town... The navigli, or canals, as I’ve mentioned before continue to wave their flower-boxed windows at me, smile back from their colorful reflections, wind their way towards my heart. They are twists on the type, an endearing wrinkle in the fabric of the city. Not as whimsical as the slide from a pedestrian walkway at the top of the ascensor where I lived in Valparaiso, Chile, but unexpected just the same.

Later, with the day winding down... il Duomo stands stately over the largest piazza in the city, justly famous for staccato spires and a reconstructing facade. Inside, I found it hard to see the trees for the forest – the nave and transept crossing at great heights, both filled with gild and gesso-glossed gigantic canvases. Devotional candles, a collection of closed-door confessionals, stone pillars smooth from years rising above a foundation started 700 years ago... Il Duomo inside is one of the most breath-taking buildings I’ve ever been in; outside... well... I’m curious to know if there are any cathedrals the world over that allow you to sit on the roof and take in the sights. And what sights. After walking up the stairs (or taking the lift if you want to pay an extra 2 euros and get there quicker), you can elbow up with saints and gargoyles, gulls and flying-buttress sight lines, but sadly no kite lines. The green copper domes of other churches rise above the sprawling centro storico. Cranes swings stories above rooftops constructing the new amidst the old. The clouds color as the sky fades to black.

For more photos of my Milano meander, please click here. No here. Okay, really here... or here. That will work. Pinkie swear.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Do you believe in magic?


Somewhere the sun is shining. Not Mudville. Not Cleveland. Not even Codogno yet, but Somewhere is here in northern Italy, there in Cambridge and Andover and Hingham, down in East Greenwich, up in Rye and Passamaquody, over in Millers Falls and Alaska and Davis and Manhattan and Kampala and Oregon and... Red Sox Nation is smiling in the sunlight.

It is 6 o'clock in the morning here and I'm about to go to bed. Again. I slept the first time until 2 AM when Mark and I woke up to watch baseball on the Internet. Game 7 of the ALCS. Red Sox and Indians. These things at least are sure: Papelbon is sick but he don't need no doctor; Pedroia is small and plays yooge; gutsy Coco is into leather; Youk is doing the Monster Mash just in time for Halloween; Big Papi is... Big Papi; the Sawx are wicked good... I could go on, but the final score says so much so simply: 11-2. Good night and good luck.

The New England Patriots are filthy. The Bruins are heating up. Boston College football is #2 in the country. The Red Sox are going to the World Series. I think my fantasy elementary school lunch-time floor hockey team is even still undefeated. This is beautifully absurd. Perhaps I'm dreaming...

It is 6 o'clock in the morning and I'm going to bed. Andiamo.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wait. They eat those too?!

"Contrary to what Weston asserts, the habit of photographic seeing - of looking at reality as an array of potential photographs - creates estrangement from, rather than union with, nature." - Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag may not have actually written this. In fact, she probably did not. Mark Danielewski did, put her name on it, and included it as an epigraph to a chapter in his mad, maddening book The House of Leaves. I don't know about abandoning hope, but definitely tread carefully if you enter there. Having just finished the book, I can tell you that the estrangement is real.

So are the following photos. I can vouch for their authorship. They require neither doctoring nor, in some cases, explanations. Together and individually, they highlight aspects of the Italian nature around me. Some are estranging, while some are merely strange.
*******
Maybe this refers to some other sport. Or a place. Or maybe it's a rare error and is worth more. Or spelling is not what it used to be. [Clothing differences could be a whole series, with Italian t-shirt slogans and the like occupying multiple volumes.]

*******
"Watch out for the man in the low-rider bulldozer!"
Or maybe: "Be excited! The man in the small, open cockpit bulldozer is coming!"

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Airline ticket, Chicago to Florence: $750.
Rental car for one week: $280.
Rick Steve's Italy 2007 Guidebook: $14.95.
Delicious lunch for two of wild boar proscuitto, angel hair pasta, and local red wine: $60.
Suggested donation at quaint, historic churches in small Tuscan hillside towns: around $3 total.
Going home from your Italian vacation with a replica Confederate flag: priceless.


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An example of Italian ingenuity. Like with climbing skins, wooden clogs and sushi, I at first found the practice strange and am now a convert.

As this photo illustrates, many Italians lean their kickstandless bikes on curbs or steps to keep them upright. Sometimes, people leave their bikes like this on busy streets, in say downtown Florence, creating traffic issues, but that's another whole can of bachi. My question is, do you need to do this when your bike already has a kickstand? From my initial surveys, the answer would appear to be a resounding yes. The bike-pedal-on-curb technique must be used at no times less than all.
*******
Lastly... fill in your own punch line.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today I learned that it is Blog Action Day, an international call to arms focusing on the environment. [Thanks to Michelle at bleeding espresso for alerting me.] My mind staggers when I consider the task at hand... How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. One bicycle, one appliance, one letter, one tote bag, one light switch, one song, one clothesline, one conversation...

To return once again to Robert Frost, three more things I am sure are true: books, our connection to the natural world, and the possibility for change. Unfortunately, the first can be hard to read and may be an endangered species in some areas; the second is tenuous and frayed for many of us; and the third is often convicted without a fair trial. Thankfully, the first can also be dangerous and empowering; same goes for the second and third.

Rocky Mountain Institute - Thanks to my friend Dan for the thoughtful link. Much like the words to Imagine, the recent speech by Amory Lovins included on this site is naively optimistic and quixotic by some standards. Is this man crazy to profess that we can solve our problems? Was Lennon? Dr. King? RFK? Having just finished watching Bobby, a powerful movie about the day of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, the spectors of fallen visionaries loom large before me. I am my parents' son, and their characters were forged in large part during that turbulent time. Over the weekend, they saw a production of The Man of La Mancha; my mom reminded me that we can still dream the impossible dream. We can. For a start, we should be tilting at oil derricks and putting windmills in their place. And riding bicycles.

Most of my favorite writers can be grouped together on a stage, or better in a tent, or better yet on a ridge labeled "Nature/Environment." Thoreau. Edward Abbey. Jack Kerouac. Gary Snyder. David James Duncan. Annie Dillard. Wendell Berry. Bill McKibben. Some of them might not get along with each other; others were downright anti-social. Individually and especially collectively they are dangerous, possibly in the way Don Quixote's tales of chivalry were dangerous. One thing I can guess: if Abbey saw me typing this, he'd probably guffaw and tell me to throw my computer at something and get on with it. If you haven't read any snarling writers recently, maybe you should. I should.

One book I would pick up tonight if I had it with me is Poets on the Peaks by the photographer John Suiter. It is a beautiful book about Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac, their friendships, and the time each spent as fire lookouts in the North Cascades in Washington State. I have long wanted to serve as a fire lookout, but I don't know if I will make it. I can live vicariously. Whalen, in a letter to Gary about his explorations of Buddhism, wrote:

Personally I feel the need for the Mahayana kind of deal - coming back to the village with gift-bestowing hands, as differing from the Vedantist and Hinayana kind of solipsism. But I don't say that their kind isn't needed; the world needs more sages than anything else right now. More prayer wheels, more visions, more poems, more magic.

Amen, Phil. In order to understand what you're saying, I have some more research I need to do, some more bites I need to take, but I second that.

The greatest earth on show.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Travelin', parte quattro

Bella Roma. Mark and I went down to Rome late Friday to meet his parents and his family friends Jane and Terry before they all headed back to the States. After a long and convoluted trip, we arrived at the plush hotel [note to self: be sure to travel when possible with people who like to stay in fancy places] in time to go to bed.

In the morning, Mark and I set out on what will easily be one of the most memorable and certainly most historic runs I will have the pleasure of running in in my life. As an introduction to Rome, it sure beats the sardine-can red tourist buses with the open tops. The city speaks for itself, but it also helped that Mark lived in Rome for a few months back in 2005. In addition to the echoes of Caesars, Michelangelo, fratricide, and il Duce (no, New Yorkers and Chicagoans, I’m not talking about a 53-year old Cuban pitcher with a high leg kick), Rome holds memories ‘round most corners for Mark. Running tour guide anyone? Mark almost worked as exactly that when living in Rome; luckily he ran with me for free.

Approaching from the west, Mark and I ran towards the newly risen sun; stopping in front of the Acqua Paola fountain, we tried to catch our breath only to have it whisked away by the view of the city stretched out before us, throwing off its nighttime blanket of mist and haze. Dropping down the hill into the city, Mark and I ran past many of the nearly infinite famous sights of Rome: the Coliseum, the forerunner of nearly all modern sports’ stadiums, looking like she could still host some games; the Forum, the Circus Maximus and the Palantine Hill; along the Tiber River; countless piazzas, including the Piazza del Campidoglio with its geometric paving, surrounded by the Capitoline Museums, which opened to the public in 1734. Last time I checked, we in the colonies were still operating under a pre-mercantilist economy at that point, 40 years off from our own first museum – though work may have begun on the Giles Corey mannequin in Salem, MA.

The home stretch of our run led us through Rome’s largest landscaped park, Villa Doria Pamphili. After the enrapturing maze of alleys and monumented thoroughfares, Mark and I were thrilled to run free like gazelles (or water buffalo, depending whose stopwatch you trust). It is a gorgeous park that curves along the crests of hills south of Vatican City, full of historic villas, African savanna trees and grasses, Romans exercising, a hedge maze, space.

After a stout breakfast at the hotel, we merry band of six set out to conquer Rome. We walked approximately 72 kilometers, each of us wearing through at minimum two pairs of shoes. We revisited many of the sights on the morning run itinerary, this time at walking pace and with the requisite POSes (photo opportunity stop) every 7 feet. Other highlights included the requisite Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps; tap-dancing buskers in Piazza Navona, which may house the first instance of sculpture as a medium for trash talking; the Pantheon, which is the most pagan-temple-feeling church I’ve ever been in; peeking through the window at World Cup rugby outside the Abbey Theatre Pub; the sun setting behind the Coliseum; the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli and her long staircase, built at the end of the bubonic plague. An unusual way to celebrate maybe, but a beautiful setting.

In full disclosure, I was in Rome for all of 36 hours and found nearly everything beautiful. During the weekend, Ray Allen, a new addition to the Boston sports pantheon (more on that in a moment), was stopped by a Roman policeman for riding his scooter into a no-drive zone. In the related article, Ray is quoted as saying, "Wow! What a city! They keep their ruins!" Yes, there is a lot to see and I clearly need to return.

The question of the hour is: Will I ever again have the opportunity that occasioned our visit in the first place? Boston Celtics. Playing the Toronto Raptors. In Rome. Yes, it was a pre-season exhibition game, and yes, the starters didn’t play the entire fourth quarter, and yes, there was no organ player pumping up the crowd but... a) the cheerleaders are already in great form; b) team mascots dunking a basketball by launching themselves improbably through the air off of trampolines looks cool in any language; c) Paul Pierce is a beast; and, most significantly, d) Kevin Garnett is an even bigger beast and has single-handedly upped my caring factor for the NBA to Code Orange. Or something higher than it was before.


In addition to living la bella vita en bel paese with a lifelong friend who triples as jogging tour guide, link to fun-loving, bank-rolling parents, and Italian slang translator, I get to be a Boston sports fan during an unusually giddy period. If I pinch myself anymore, I won’t have any pinches left for the babies when I throw my hat in the ring for the 2016 Presidential election. Go Sox, Pats, BC Eagles, et al.

Mille mille grazie to the Langones for including me in their vacation. Here are some photos from the whirlwind day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Travelin', parte tre

Lake Como. Mark’s parents were gracious enough to invite Mark and I to join them in Lake Como for a few days. Which is another way to say that they were spoiling us. The hotel had many stars and a stellar location; to the right, for example, is the view from our room's balcony, with the dome of the cathedral, or Como's Duomo, just visible down the lake. As the Red Sox specialize in winning and pirates specialize in swarrrrrthiness, Lake Como specializes in breathtaking views.

At times we comprised a party of nine, with Mark’s sister, our friends Chris and Glee, and Mark’s godmother Terry and her friend Jane rounding out the group. While not the Greatest Show on Earth, we may have been nominated for Oscars in the following categories: Best Comedic Ensemble (Group); Best Actor in a Role Limited to Nighttime Activities (Mark works late); Best Soundtrack (ya gotta love familiar voices from home, especially when they ring with Boston-area accents); and Best Actress Duo Impersonating Laverne and Shirley (Terry and Jane’s starring roles, as themselves).

The town of Como seemed to be in post-summer slowdown, which was fine with me as I am developing a fondness for off-season travel. We strolled the streets of the old town in the rain. We had a great lunch and admired the duomo. The green copper roofed rises impressively above the town as the latter crowds towards the water, making it seem that all the buildings want to take a dip in the lake. But nobody brought their suit.

On a long Saturday morning run with and without Michelle (she is also training for a marathon, her 17th, and ran farther than I did), I had to remind myself frequently to watch my step out of concern for the effect the unfolding views might have on my pedal locomatory coordination. We ran through a botanical garden, around many rotaries, past 17th-century palaces and cigarette boats - speedboats also know apparently as “go fast boats.” [There was a race later the day we left and I honestly thought about changing my ticket.]

Throughout our entire stay, we ate like royalty. If you’re ever in Brunate, a short funicular ride straight up from Como, and are eating in a restaurant that seems impossibly perched on the edge of a precipitous drop, enjoying the view and telling yourself to forget the effects of gravity on unsupported patios, be sure to try the wild boar and venison prosciutto. They’re excellent.

If you’re ever in Bellagio, a short or long ferry ride from Como (depending if you take the direct Discovery Channel-worthy hydrofoil boat or not), and have built up a sufficient appetite from strolling hillside shops and craning your neck looking for George Clooney’s lakeside villa, I recommend trying the wild mushroom fettucine. That is, if you can manage to chew with so much jaw-dropping beauty around you.

Riding the ferry up the lake, I could see easily why Mr. Clooney and others across the centuries have chosen to live there. The steep verdant hills caught shreds of fog and clouds and held them quiet in narrow river-run valleys. The towns that rest along the shore at intervals looked colorful and calm from the boat. On the distant horizon to the north wait mountains of varying heights that even in early October were beginning to wear white topcoats of snow. The narrow deep blue lake itself feels like the sinuous coast of Maine turned inside out.

Ferries, hills, funiculars, snow-capped peaks, wild boar, lakeside running paths, a short hop skip from Switzerland (you don’t even need the jump it’s so close), clean air and water. I was smitten. I took a lot of pictures.

Obviously, Lake Como is a world-class vacation destination raved about in all guidebooks on Italy and periodicals like the New York Times in their semi-official weekly travel articles on bel paese. Still, I was exuberantly surprised. Next time George calls, I won’t pretend to be busy grooming my llama.

And I’ll tell him I have just the cast of characters for Ocean’s Fourteen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fields and mountains

I walked out into the fields at dark the other night. Partly I was curious to see what the path I run almost every day was like after sundown, and partly I wanted to face, even in passing, some of those fears of darkness that seem ingrained in us. The town’s development ends at a rounded curve where the path begins – or ends, depending which way you’re going. The path is mostly paved but not lit. At a turn, I veered off the pavement. I watched my step through cornstalk stubble, the field having recently been shaved. I heard a splash in the fieldedge irrigation ditch; I suspect it was a nutria spooked by my arrival. [Nutria are rodents the size of small beavers that live in waterways, marshes, bayous, swamps, and the like.]

The path is technically a road, connecting our town with an outlying village, the frazione of Mulazzana, and so is used by cars, mopeds, tractors, threshers, trucks, bicycles, tillers, walkers, runners, and other sundry motorized farm equipment. And nutria, though they usually cross it transversely from one ditch to another. That night, a few cars passed, sweeping the fields with their headlights, traveling in a little globe of light visible from quite a distance across the flat landscape.

I saw stars, though not as many as I had hoped. The glow of Codogno behind me and the streetlights along the autostrada cast an often-overlooked pollution into the sky. The cloud ribbons above looked almost like dull versions of the Northern Lights, and I thought of a friend in Alaska who is probably a loosescrew bodhisattva. I thought also of a mountain ridgeline east of Seattle in the North Cascades.

Gazing up at a starry sky reminds me of Frost again and another thing I feel to be true: we need wilderness. In his famous letter in defense of wilderness, Wallace Stegner quoted the writer Sherwood Anderson, “I can remember old fellows in my home town speaking feelingly of an evening spent on the big empty plains. It had taken the shrillness out of them. They had learned the trick of quiet...." The rectilinear farms around Codogno do not have much directly in common with big empty plains or the great tracts of wilderness in the west of the United States. This part of Lombardy feels much more like Kansas than Vermont or Oregon, but, as for Stegner, the idea that wild areas exist is some consolation to me.

People have been living in the area around Codogno for over 2500 years, but the fields at night feel at least one step closer to wild than my balcony above the street. These fields, as well as the bici vecchia culture, have lessons on the trick of quiet. Hope you’re finding some in your nape of the way as well.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Travelin', part deux

Early in September, I visited David and Ben, twins who attended my high school for a few years, in Geneva. Born U.S. citizens, they are both now Swiss and give evidence of the saying: When all the chips are down, you know the buffalo is empty.

Geneva. An elegant cat stretched across a hilltop soft by two rivers and a clear lake. Swans and sunbathers and efficient looking locks, parks spilling down to the lake, stunning panoramas from the cathedral tower (once a Catholic church and now a Protestant reminder of the Reform), and nearly everywhere views of the great water jet. Why shouldn’t public spaces be whimsical? A growing art scene and East Village from back when neighborhood of people claiming, inhabiting, enlivening underused space. Skateboarders whooping it up alongside a seasonal amusement park/zoo of camels and pachyderms and French-speaking carneys – and to think I saw it all on the Plaine de Plainpalais?

Geneva is an international crossroads – Julius Caesar himself mentioned it in his writing - especially for environmental and humanitarian organizations. Just a short drive away is CERN, the world’s largest particle collider, straddling the border with France and saddling up to the infinitesimal. Did you hear the one about the hadron crossing the road?...

David and I spent one afternoon hiking up up up and then doooooown on the Jura, a pre-historic ridgeline that runs up to Germany, older than the Alps. Views of Mont Blanc, stately and large; the Rhone Valley, heading south and west through a gap in the hills, a terroir of excellent wines.

I got to watch a lot of soccer, calcio, futbol. Ben still plays on the team from his home village; he also coaches the under-17 team, and David and I saw parts of both games in addition to some others. In between games on a warm Sunday afternoon, he and I squared off in yet another example of the good life, French/Swiss/Italian style: bocce or its close relative p├ętanque. As attendees to a cetain backyard bachelor party this summer can attest, I’m pretty good by some standards. Some standards. David wiped the floor with me. Rhone Valley 1: Merrimack Valley 0.

Cheese. The Swiss are big into cheese. One night, before watching fellow countryman Roger Federer win yet another major, the twins, David’s roommate Piero (one of the most genuinely cheerful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting), and I ate fondue – rich, heavy, creamy cheese with a touch of white wine kick, pushing us to eat more than we thought possible.

Another night, a group of us dined in the one restaurant in David and Ben’s childhood home village, Laconnex, 500 inhabitants strong. Rugby on TV, food rich with more cheese and potatoes and meats, wines from vineyards just down the road, engaging if sometimes unintelligible companions (French remains beyond my understanding) who share a bond grown over years, and of course the after-dinner digestifs and cafes – lucky am I to have such rich opportunities and hospitable friends.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Travelin'

When it rains, it pours, and I've been drowning in good fortune recently. Traveling. A lot.

Pico Iyer said, about travel writing, "[You should] try to catch the feelings — the sound, the smell, the tang, of a place — immediately, before it goes. A place is like a dream, and unless you record it instantly, however tired you feel at the time, it will fade and fade, and you will never be able to recapture it."

As I am not de Tocqueville, nor am I Iyer. However, during my recent travels, I have made some attempt at capturing impressions of places. These writings are neither remotely grammatically correct nor comprehensive; I may be right or wrong, but it's my opinion you can find 'em both at the Grand Canyon, sundown...

Milano. A cookie and also a city. Much underrated and often overlooked by foreign travelers, Milan buzzes with cosmopolitan life. Unfortunately, many were the faces that drooped when I said I'd be living in her shadow - "You shouldn't move there." "Oh, other Italian cities are much nicer." "Um, two words: yuk and yuk." I disagree and find the city growing on me. Just as turkey should not try to emulate the other animals (thanks, Mitchell), so too does Milan have its own thing going. Aperitivi of delish bar food, meandering streets and grand piazzas, palazzi of historic families and fame, canals lined with cafes and bars and crossed by squared pedestrian bridges (think the Amsterdam of northern Italy, sort of). Orange trams from the turn of the 20th century still ply the streets, hinting of remembered whispers of fedoras and bespoke and war-time rationing and emigration. I stumbled across an artists’ studio school with 20 acolytes attentive to a Titianesque brunette up on a platter.

The subway runs effectively it would seem, and, like DC and the Bay Area and probably many others, the transit authority have installed electronic screens that advise of waits until the next trains [I can hear Marty Markowitz chiming in for New York: Fugheddaboutit!]. I have noted some interesting activities underground, however: numerous people wearing sunglasses; doors opening occasionally while the train is slowing to a stop; a driver over-shooting the platform by a half-car length and backing up to a stop. Motorini everywhere in all shapes, colors, and sizes – even a 4X4?! [Strangely, though, approximately 80% of all cars in Italy are silver or grey. What's going on here?]

Il Duomo rises above expectations and begs hyperbole; la Scala, on the other hand, is unassuming and easy to miss from the outside. Ah, but what sort of devotions and rapturous audiences congregate in one and the other? Further investigations will of course be necessary. I think I know just the Sherlock.

Here are some more photos of Milan if you're interested.