Italy | This Time Around

“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.” – Erica Jong

To be completely honest, I was half afraid to return to the city that so drastically altered my life. I was nervous that without my original companions, Milan would feel empty and harsh, like she had moved on without me, leaving me with hollow memories and utter desperation. Instead, I am in love again: This time around, my dear Milan is a whole new world. Indeed, she is flourishing after her winter rains and coated heavily in every kind of greenery. Contrary to practically every association I have, there are no more daily blankets of gloomy gray – the sun is dazzling and casts a golden glow on every street. It’s a wonderful summer here, full of rambles and new adventures, perhaps not as virginal as before, but just as meaningful and enveloping.

People are out. They move a bit more slowly, a bit less grumpily, and with a clear kind of joie de vivre.

Where I used to meander Il Parco Sempione nearly alone, I now find it swollen with animated people, both young and old; lovers stroll arm in arm, friends picnic spread on the grass, and children cruise around on bicycles. It’s clearly the season for camaraderie and romance.

Most agreeably, the Duomo is finally uncovered, which is a rare occasion to be sure. Mark my words, by the time I leave my beloved city, they will have begun restoration all over again – this time from the back. In fact, the never-ending restoration of the Duomo is a running joke among the Milanese, so it is essential to take advantage of its rarely naked edifice. And truly, given the blue skies lately, there is no better place in town than plopped right in Piazza del Duomo, sketchbook in hand. On the down side, the lovely weather has resulted in an emergence of tourists, who come by the bus load to encourage the pigeon feeding by the Duomo and crowd the castle courtyard. Hilariously, the first line in the Wikipedia entry even reads, “Piazza del Duomo is the main piazza in the city of Milan in Italy. The square takes its name after the dominating Milan Cathedral. Tourists and pigeons crowd the area and it is a good place for photography.” Blunt, but to the point, no?

This is also a reunion of my dearest friends, the kind of people that make you laugh for weeks on end and render you grateful to be alive, to have met them, to have held their hands. While we are, in some ways, more tourists than ever before, it is now a new lure that draws us here. I am no longer busied by trying to see and do, and this is very freeing indeed. Instead, I can fill my days with finding new niches and appreciating time with soul mates. My roommate is essentially Davide, who has been ever the gracious host, even introducing us to Bloody Marys at La Hora Feliz, which may be one of the best Milanese discoveries, exaggeration aside. I cannot even express how delicious the drinks are here – I never even liked Bloody Marys until one of theirs touched my lips. Ever since, I have been forcing my friends to order said drink of choice. So far, no regrets. It is sheer perfection every time. How on earth do they do that? La Hora Feliz is also enjoyable because it’s a total dive with a generally fun vibe and accommodating staff who know their regulars by name (Davide included). The charm is only amplified by the brilliance of staying open insanely late. We have on many occasions wandered in after Davide’s pub shifts at around 2am. Even at this dark hour, it is still lively and teeming with locals spilling into the street – just the place to experience a real Milanese night.

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