Italy: Day Two, Monday 3/26/18 (Milan)
Wow, I slept well. Our bed is very firm, unusual for a hotel bed. Our bed at home is so firm we call it The Anvil, and this bed was definitely anvil-esque. We got out of bed at around 7, lolled around a bit, and went down for breakfast. Richard had a bowl of fruit (sliced oranges, pineapple, prunes) and yogurt, with a roll. I had scrambled eggs, sliced sausages, and a roll with Nutella. We each had a cappuccino and a glass of orange juice, and we split a slice of strudel and some kind of breakfast cake. All of it delicious.
My brother Howard has a theory that the appetizer is often the best part of a meal because the chef feels he/she can be more daring and experimental than with a main course. In my case, I think I like the appetizer best because I’m HUNGRY and happy to be EATING. Breakfast is sort of the macrocosm of this theory - - it’s incredibly delicious because I’m incredibly hungry.
We got back to the room and cruised around the TV for a while - - plenty of English-language channels, but I landed on an Italian cooking show, *Sweet Giulia* (yes, the English word "sweet" is in the title of the show).
I didn't understand most of what she said (or much of what she was doing, actually) but was able to fix on a few words, like genache.
ME: Mm, doesn't that look delicious.
RICHARD: You hate genache!
ME: No, I don't, I Iove genache.
RICHARD: Then I'm thinking of the wrong thing. What's that thing that you drape over a cake and decorate with little flowers?
ME: Fondant. I hate fondant. It's tough and flavorless.
RICHARD: Like you.
You can see the bright green piping bag in this picture, and the crinkling sound of the bag drove Richard around the bend. I was impressed that she cleaned up after herself between steps.
ME: Isn't that nice. See how she cleans up as she goes along?
RICHARD: Amazing that you would notice that.
I watched another cooking show while Richard was in the shower. This one was called *Ciao, Sono Hiro* and featured a Japanese guy doing really weird things with oysters.
We visited ViaggImmmagine, a client of Richard's. Clearly the ladies there are crazy for him. We had a fun chat with Antonella, a woman about Richard's age, who said to me, "Why are you with this guy? When there are so many younger guys?" I told her for one thing, he's so handsome, smart, charming, etc. And for another thing, my mother is crazy for him. She said, "Ah yes. There is the truth. Thank you for finally telling me the truth."
We left there and walked over to Garibaldi, a big shopping area. We were there on our last visit, I remembered the water feature in the plaza. We split a sandwich (ham and cheese on toasted French bread) and a bottle of water. We walked over to Eataly and looked at all of the overpriced crap there. I was thrilled to see that they still had a banner advertising a concert that Mina had done in 1967. Here's the one and only Mina singing "Amor Mio" in 1971. There's something a little crazy and/or Muppet-esque about this woman.
We walked back to the hotel, it took about an hour and it was a beautiful day for a walk. I was happy that Richard went along with diligently (one might say obsessively) checking the map at every intersection, to make sure we're going the right way. You'd be surprised how often you're not! Richard went down to the lobby and did a little business while I sat in the room and typed up my notes on the tablet.
We had a lot of free time on our hands so Richard floated the idea of doing a Hop On/Hop Off tour of Milan. We bought our tickets and walked around Central Station looking for where we board the bus. I saw this sign for a restaurant.
ME: Look at that!
ME: It’s Charles Manson.
RICHARD: It’s not Charles Manson.
ME: It’s totally Charles Manson.
RICHARD: It’s not Charles Manson, it’s that guy from *The $1.98 Beauty Contest.*
I’m sure this is some variation on a Rorschach test, where I see Charles Manson and Richard sees Rip Taylor. I showed the picture to my friend Karen, and she said, "It's Che Guevara, right?"
We started with the Modern Loop tour, it took about an hour. We never hopped off, we only hopped on. Just sitting on the bus and hearing the guide was a lot of fun. Though I have to say that the timing of the guide wasn't always lined up with the bus. She'd say, "If you look to your left you'll see an imposing red brick structure..." and yet the only thing we could see on the left was a park, or a statue, or a McDonald's. We still had plenty more time, so we hopped on the Historical Loop. There was some overlap with the previous loop (the Duomo, La Scala) but also some new sights.
One of the remarkable sights on the second loop was the Grand Hotel, where Verdi had lived at the end of his life. Which leads us to my favorite story about Maria Callas. She did a photo shoot for Harper’s Bazaar at Verdi’s apartment, and the magazine had borrowed an emerald necklace from a Milanese jeweler. The jeweler arrived with the necklace and also with a bodyguard. Callas put the necklace on and told them they could wait in the next room. The jeweler said, “Signora, that necklace is worth twenty million lire. We’re not leaving it unattended.” She rolled her eyes and they started the photo shoot.
The jeweler and the bodyguard were over on the side, talking, probably smoking, definitely bothering her. She said, “I will not stand for this, you’re breaking my concentration and ruining our work.” The jeweler said, “Signora Callas, as I said, the necklace is worth twenty million lire. We are not leaving the room.” She went over to her handbag, pulled out her checkbook, and wrote a check for twenty million lire. She handed the check the jeweler and said, “Now it’s mine. Both of you, get out."
We got off at Via della Moscova and walked back to the hotel from there, about fifteen minutes. We stopped and bought flowers for Vincenzo, and also a sandwich, some potato chips, and a bottle of water for us, we were rather peckish. We sat at the table in our room, ate our lunch, and listened to Kay Thompson and Her Rhythm Singers, courtesy of Richard's iPhone. Richard did a goofy little dance, which turned into a discussion of Greta Garbo doing the mambo in *Two Faced Woman.* One of these days I need to see that movie.
We walked over to Vincenzo’s apartment, about a ten-minute walk. He had us over for a drink at 7:45 before going to dinner at 8:30. Vincenzo and Richard met in London just over twenty years ago, they dated briefly and have been friends ever since. We went to a performance by Vincenzo’s tap dancing class the last time we were in town.
Vincenzo’s friend Michele was there when we arrived. The two of them met in a gay running club, they had just done a 10K run the day before. Vincenzo passed around a delicious sparkling red wine, light and not too sweet, not too dry. Perfect. We had some nibbles and chatted a bit. Michele apologized that his English isn’t very good, but clearly his English is better than our Italian.
Vincenzo loved the flowers we brought for him, he’d had a terrible day at work. He gave us a gift, which we opened when we got back to the hotel: a large blank book with a picture of the galleria on the cover, a small blank book with a picture of the Duomo on the cover, and a box with a third iconic photo of Milan. So sweet of him. I used the small book for my notes for the rest of the trip.
Vincenzo is a friend of Italian pop star Loretta Goggi and we always need to get a Loretta update when we see him - - a Goggi-gram, if you will. Loretta is easing up on her engagements these days, only taking projects that she’s interested in. She has enough money, she’s no longer ambitious, she wants to take it a little easy. Perche no? Her standing gig these days is as a judge on a competition TV show called *Tale e Quale,* an idiomatic expression that means something along the lines of “they’re just the same." Celebrities compete against each other imitating other celebrities. Goggi is a judge because she started her career doing impersonations of celebrities, like Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, and some European pop stars we didn’t know. I need to see this show, I want to watch every episode on youtube.
Paolo showed up - - Richard reminded him of when they met years ago, at the Bologna pride parade. We walked over to the restaurant, which was about halfway back to our hotel, how handy. It was a lovely place, very big and charming. We got six kinds of bruschetta to start, also kind gooey kind of mozzarella, you know I was crazy for that. We got a bottle of wine, the same kind of red wine we had at Vincenzo’s, but not sparkling. Also a bottle of sparkling water.
Vincenzo ordered a beef dish I didn’t understand. Michele had a Milanese specialty, a fried filet of veal, pounded very thin, called “elephant ear.” Paolo is a vegetarian and had a rice dish I didn’t understand. Richard had a small filet of beef which he ordered medium rare but was very rare indeed - - just the way I Iike it, but perhaps a bit too rare for him. I got the carbonara pizza, which I’d never heard of - - tomato sauce, mozzarella, bacon, and egg. I was curious to see what the egg would be like, and it was basically globs of hard-boiled egg yolk. Delicious. As expected, it was way too much for me to eat, so we added it to the leftover pizza from the day before, to eat on the train to Rome.
I don’t remember much of what we talked about, but there was hardly a break in conversation. Vincenzo generously served as translator. We had a long conversation about movies - - Vincenzo loved *The Florida Project,* which we hadn’t yet seen. He wasn’t wild for *Call Me By Your Name,* which we had seen and loved. He thought Armie Hammer was totally miscast, that it didn’t make sense that such a hunky, gorgeous guy would go for a “skeeny leetle boy” like the Timothee Chalamet character. I said the Hammer character was a regular person with his own taste and desires, in addition to being hunky and gorgeous, but Vincenzo didn’t buy that. Vincenzo was a fan of director Luca Guadagnino’s previous movie, *I Am Love* (a beautiful movie my mother had told me about). Vincenzo is not so hopped up about Guadignino’s next project, a remake of Dario Argento’s *Suspiria.* He doesn’t like the original *Suspiria,* he much prefers Argento’s *Deep Red,* aka *Profondo Rosso.* Here’s the imdb summary of the plot:
“After witnessing the murder of a famous psychic, a musician teams up with a feisty reporter to find the killer while evading attempts on their lives by the unseen assailant bent on keeping a dark secret buried.”
Looks like fun, right? Maybe not as good as *Killer Nun,* but definitely worth seeing.
Vincenzo's friend Caterina showed up at about 9:30, she had to work late. She’s a real glamour girl, she was wearing Liz Taylor as Cleopatra eyeliner, and you know how I love THAT! She was very sweet, she and Vincenzo told us all about their history together, how they first became friends when she was married, and the three of them went out a lot, took trips together, etc, and Vincenzo feels a little betrayed and neglected now that she’s divorced. She chuckled at that, which is the correct response.
Here are a couple of photos - - Caterina, VIncenzo, and Michele, and Paolo, Richard, and me.
Thankfully we did not get dessert, though a few people (Richard included) got a teeny cup of coffee. The coffee cups here are like from a little girl’s tea set. Vincenzo, generosity personified, treated the two of us for dinner, so sweet of him. Kisses all around, promises to see each other again, and we walked back to the hotel, fell into bed at about 11:30.