Party Down with the Ghosts of Gladiators in Milan

Milan, Lombardia, Italy
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I jumped on the #73 city bus from Linate airport to City Center Milan.  Linate is a smaller airport that’s closer to town than Malpensa, the big airport. The entire area is recycled from old warehouses and military installations. It has an ancient industrial vibe–a fading world where the 21st century sweept the machines away with electronic technology. The warehouses morphed into glowing hotels and carparks. Like every century in Europe after it’s people are dead and gone, the places where they lived and worked remain, haunted by ghosts of a time gone by.

When I’m in Milan, The Piazza Del Duomo pulls me into a hypnotic trance. It’s a huge public square that wraps around a magnificent Byzantine Cathedral taht’s made of pink and white granite. I slide my flip-flops off to feel the cool grey marble under my feet. Duomo Piazza is the biggest one of so many outdoor gathering places in this stylish city where crowds of birds and people hang out. I call it the Woodstock of Pigeons and Saints. An enormous video screen looms over the cathedral. Nobody looks up at the screen, but we all look at the faces of Saints that stare at you from every angle of the Cathedral. They have a ghostly gaze in their eyes. I can feel them watching me, letting me know they’ve left this world behind. Each face has a different expression. Some of the watching eyes are calm, some astonished, and a few look pretty disgusted. Then I realize that these faces were just people, modeling for sculptors who were hired by the church. The essence of their souls  transcend the stone from which they’re sculpted.

Folded into the mix of tourists and fashionably dressed locals, are Entertainers strumming sad songs on guitars, people who levitate, ( or make you think they’re levitating) and guys selling selfie sticks, or handfuls of corn to feed the pigeons for a photo op.

The red double decker hop on hop off tour bus took me in a big circle around the city. I hopped off in time for Apertivo–or as Americans call it, “Happy Hour”.  Italian Happy Hour is nothing like the American version, where you get some chips and carby snacks and a few dollars off your over priced drink. In Milan, you get a huge buffet of amazing food free when you purchase 1 drink. It’s crazy. How do they make any money?

I have excellent gay-dar, so I set my controls to find the gayest neighborhood possible, which would insure that my friend Michael and I would  find the best music, the strongest drinks, the tastiest food, excellent pop art, and the coolest night clubs.

Sculptures of giant snails, super hot guys pondering where to go for a drink and the smell of spaghetti sauce and garlic told me I hopped off at the right place. The Navigli. This is where an endless string of bars line the banks of a river. Every bar has an awning in front of it, and lots of tables with seats facing the street for people-watching. For 9 euros (about ten bucks) you get a drink of your choice and unlimited food from a huge spread of unbelievably delicious dishes ranging from fruits and veggies, to meats, seafoods, salads, appetizers, and of course, pizza.  So, like…every freakin night for the price of a mediocre lunch in America you can get a gourmet meal with booze? And you won’t get fat? Really? Holy fuck.

I haven’t seen a fat person yet since I arrived in Italy. No one is rolling around on a scooter with their ass on a luggage rack. Yet everyone eats their face off every night. In Italy there is huge respect for food and eating. The way people eat here makes me think that if you shovel meals down in a huge hurry, you have committed a sin worthy of being cursed by Saint Luigi, the patron saint of food enjoyment. People eat slow. They talk, drink wine and bond with other humans. In other words, every meal is a party. Then, unfortunately they chain smoke. So prepare to choke during your meal unless you get used to second hand smoke flying up your nostrils at every outdoor cafe you dine in. So, for all of our American fatness…the Italians probably have bad breath and phlegmy lungs. Weirdly, the amount of people you see smoking in Italy makes you wonder…did anyone hear about the health hazard thing? Apparently nobody could care less.

One thing for sure, Italy is for the enjoyment of eating quality food. no trans fats, no GMO’s, no chemicals, MSG or artificial colors.  Most of the dishes are prepared simply with just a little salt, pepper and olive oil…and the flavor of the food itself generates the taste. I keep thinking I’m not going to have any more alcohol, carbs or sugar..but thats crazy. So I ordered another slice of pizza with olives and anchovies, and a glass of red wine.

We took a late night stroll through the neighborhood. The shops you pass sell t- shirts with hilarious and clever slogans, and lots of fun pop art novelties. We wandered through a string of smaller Piazzas lined with ancient stone columns where crowds of college age people sat in clusters on the ground drinking wine and reveling the night away. The night was lit with dramatic colors that danced off the columns. This was a place where gladiators once fought animals as a form of public entertainment hundreds of years ago.

There were people all over the place, which I thought was a refreshing alternative to a night club. I thought my buddy Michael was going to get whiplash at the speed his head was turning to  check out all the beautiful women strutting by. The Italian guys were oggling the woman too.  “Mama Mia!!!” a guy said to Michael as their oggling eyes mutually agreed on a smoking hot female with long legs and killer shoes. Michael was at a loss for words, but thanks to this Italian dude, he found two perfect words to sum it all up…”Mama Mia!!!”

In Milan, women show off their legs. Even when they’re riding a motorcycle to the office, they want you to know they wear killer shoes. Before leaving town to head for Verona, we ordered one last drink and toasted to beauty, food and everlasting fun. To Milan, the fashion capital of the world I say, Mama Mia!!!

Next stop: Verona, Italy

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