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The Duomo and piazza from the Museo del Novecento

On the train to Malpensa Airport in Milan, all packed up. I count to 5 over and over before we leave the apartment–two roller bags, two backpacks and my small bag. Leaving our airb&b apartment, which has served us pretty well this week, we need to leave the keys on the table and leave the building. If I forget anything, we cannot go back.

I am overly concerned this morning. Our route is easy-taxi, train, airport shuttle, plane, train-and I check that over and over. I woke up ready to cry. Anxious. Sleep did not come easy and I spent the early morning on the couch dozing so as to avoid Julia’s every movement in bed. And she wasn’t moving much. It was all me. I was grateful to have the alternative of another room and a couch. I am surprised how hard this leaving is, much harder than last year. Some more visceral reaction, like I am being torn away. And yet, I am tired of pizza and pasta-the last few days we’ve searched for a meal a day that was something else and found two good sushi places and a pretty bad Indian place.

I am tired of working so hard to be understood–no fault of the Italians–understanding every third word and missing conversations that a few people tried to strike up and that I could only reply in the most inane manner. And it has been miserably hot in Milan and our apartment had no air conditioner, a small fan, no screens on the windows and mosquitos. Not Wisconsin worthy mosquitos but enough to to force us to sleep with bug spray and wear anti-itch cream during our days. Still, I don’t want to leave.

Tuesday, our penultimate day in Milan, we spent in The Museo Civico di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum). It is an old fashion museum with dioramas, a few rooms of extinct animal bones and many dead pinned insects. Most of the signage is is Italian although after a month here I recognize more words to translate when Julia asks. Of course, she knows all the dinosaurs. Northern Italy was not prime dinosaur territory. The museum was gifted with parts of a t-Rex from the Dakotas, and there is one little dinosaur, which reminds me of a velociraptor (Julia begs to differ), that is a special find which Julia appreciates.

There is display case after case of rocks and bugs and butterflies and sea creatures and seeds and shells. Julia pours over each one, engrossed in the transformations and evolutions. I like the butterflies and the shells. I think the shell displays are especially full. The single exhibition that has translation is about Milan’s flora, fauna and natural history. Julia took lots of pictures!


In the afternoon, we saw a few of the museums in the Castello Sforzesco.  Old art, furniture through the ages starting in 1200 and armor. Tuesday afternoon is free admission and the museums were more crowded than we’ve experienced them. Crowded but no where near the Florence level of last summer. We wandered without looking at or listening to references or commentary. At the very end of the picture gallery, there were two painting of Venice that were exquisite. I teared up. Time has changed the city so much but the bones were there and we were not seeing Venice this trip. It is as if I miss it.

In general, the walls insides the museums have been white washed or has clean coat of plaster skimmed over them but the ceilings have been left painted. Frescos and decorations, some simple, some exploding scenes of gods and wars and flowers and Angels. Again, like in the churches, I wonder what the rooms looked like in their glory days.

On our last full day-and I am so aware that it is the end of the Italian journey-we spent the morning at the Museo del Novecento  after breakfasting in the shade of the Duomo. It is an interesting transition. The art is mostly Italian with a few international piece that set the tone. Gone are frescos and the saints we know by name. It feels like we are being weaned from all those kings and priests and saints and war memorials. Even though some of the canvases are 100 years old, they draw us into the present that we are familiar with. If they are old, they are American old. The people who painted them were, in a sense of our time.


After lunch, we took the metro to Navigli. Canals, conceived and built to move goods, now revitalized with shops and bars, restaurants and gelato sellers. Here we have our last gelato, savoring each spoonful. Julia eating pineapple and banana, I have a mixture of berries.

On the train to Malpensa, Two women sit in the seat next to ours. And I feel like we have travel uniforms. The three of us have on black tee shirts and dark khaki capris. Not fashionable but very practical for moving about quickly, waiting and sitting for hours.

On the train, I strain to see the last bits of Milan. The train ducks underground and when we come out, we are definitely out of the city. Suburbs quickly give way to green, towns and a few planted fields. The green outside of Milan could be northern Jersey and I want to notice its uniqueness, not the similarities.

I just don’t want to leave Italy.

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