On the train from Lausanne to Milano. I had no problem catching the train, despite some anxiety ahead of time that I might not be in the right place at the right time. Also, I had a voice message from Guido (a former exchange student), asking me to call him, but it turned out he had sent it yesterday. We made contact today as I was waiting in the kiosk by the track (voie 3) for the train to Milano to arrive in the station.
The stay in Milano was lovely, but tinged with melancholy because I will probably not see that family again. I felt a great deal of love and acceptance – even honor – while there. The family is very strong, reflecting, I think, the general Italian culture. The two boys and their families live near Gianni and Rosanna, in the same complex of buildings. They work in Milano, and that is one of the issues Guido has about the job. He and Patrizia have recently purchased a larger apartment in the same complex, which limits his options in terms of location for a new job.
Although I had requested a quiet stay in Milano, Gianni and Rosanna wanted to take me to as many sights as time would permit. Perhaps it was for the best, because they both have lost a good deal of hearing, and quiet conversation might have been impossible. So we visited many fascinating, historic, and beautiful sites in the four days there. When I wanted to speak, I would tap Gianni’s arm and he would turn his best ear toward me and cup his hand behind it, I would speak loudly, and most of the time he could hear and understand. If I wanted to say something to Rosanna, I would usually go through Gianni, although if she said something to me, I could often respond directly to her, in Italian. Our conversations usually began with Rosanna directing two or three words to me in English, followed by “comme se dice…” and an Italian word, which I was usually able to translate into English, then she would continue in Italian, and I would respond in Italian if I understood what she said, which was often the case.
On the first day in Milano, we went to the center of the city and saw Il Duomo (the cathedral), and we spent a good deal of time wandering around the inside. It is a huge structure, with a central nave and two large side-aisles, nearly as large as the central nave. The chiaroscuro of the interior gives a feeling of mysterious calm. I had an auditory guide, which I used primarily when looking at the three large windows in the apse. They were designed in the 1500s, I believe (the cathedral was built from the 1300s to the 1500a) and contain over 400 panels, of which some 60+ have survived intact; the rest have been repaired or replaced. One of the windows depicted stories from the New Testament, one had scenes from the crucifixion, and the third showed stories from the Old Testament, with scenes of the Garden of Eden before and after the fall near the bottom of the window.
After absorbing as much of the art and atmosphere as possible, I turned in the audio-guide and bought a booklet of postcards. Then we went into an underground passage near the entrance of the church, where the excavated remnants of several previous religious structures lie buried beneath the square in front of the Duomo. There was a paleo-Christian baptistery in a round, Romanesque structure (third century?) and fragments of earlier and later buildings, including two other churches (San ? and San Giovanni) that had preceded Il Duomo. It was very interesting to see the false-perspective checkerboard (black-and-white) that seemed to characterize much early Christian design, both in buildings and on the clothing of bishops and other church officials I remember many such illustrations on the walls of ancient churches in Bulgaria.