6 December 2016
Today I drank a dark Italian espresso, and I couldn’t help but to smile as the bitterness turned sour in my mouth as I walked back out onto Corso Buenos Aires. I eavesdropped on conversations, ate panzerotto fritto and got lost in sweet laneways somewhere between Duomo and le Colonne. I found myself openly staring at strangers who stared right back, walking without much regard for who was coming my way (ah the eternal game of Milanese chicken), and attempting to give directions on the metro while vocabulary came back to me in dribs and drabs.
It’s funny the things that stay with you, even when you think they might have been lost. The permanent scowl we dubbed “the Italian face” a few weeks into our 6-month exchange, that we adopted ourselves as time went on. The ability to walk fearlessly into a crowd, knowing that scowl will send people scurrying around you. I’m not sure why the Milanese do this – they all walk at such a slow pace, in groups long enough to take up the entire pavement and then some – but walk in their general direction and prepare yourself for a face off.
But then I didn’t remember Milan as a friendly city, and I’ve found it to be overwhelmingly so. The plane over seemed like one happy family – all the Italian passengers chatting away, despite having seemingly never met before. They helped each other out with confusing television sets, and translated for flight attendants who didn’t speak Italian & new friends who couldn’t understand English.
Back in the hostel a new friend told the bewildering story of having asked directions on the tram, when suddenly the entire carriage erupted in an attempt to determine the best route. They couldn’t believe everyone was so ready to interrupt their day for a perfect stranger, especially not a foreigner.
It was a good reminder that this city, like most, has the capacity to surprise; that I should get rid of any presumptions and preconceptions.
And so as I walk along the street, despite my inclination to wear that same old Italian face, I can’t help but to smile. Because it’s all so the same, but all so different. I’m just already wishing I didn’t have to leave.
I took these photos and wrote these words last year in December which seems a lifetime ago. I was in Italy to visit friends (and to avoid questions about when I’m getting married after my little brother shared vows with his gorgeous wife) 😉 I had no idea then what that little trip would lead to…
Pentax K1000 | Kodak Portra 160 + 800
Locations of Note:
Castello Sforzesco, Milano
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, Milano
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano
Bolzano e Soprabolzano
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, Rome
Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze | Sculpture by Ai Weiwei
Alzaia Naviglio Grande, Milano