23 Days in Italy
I was in Milan for the World Championships. After not sightseeing on two off days due to rain, I took the subway to the City Center on a Wednesday. The metro stop is literally in the middle of the plaza of the giant, 500-year-old church, the Milan Catherdral, Duomo di Milano. Very impressive image walking up the stairs of the metro being dwarfed by this church, which holds in its possession the Holy Nail, a nail purported to have been used in the crucifixion of Jesus. They store it way up way in the main chapel, I guess, in a shoe box or something, for safe keeping, and, in case you wanted to borrow it, they have placed the shoe box under a red light several hundred feet up.
I’ve been in a bunch of old churches. This one is especially grim and awesome, but grim because they have chosen to place a large emphasis on martyred saints. In fact, the most famous statute in the entire church … there are over 3,000 statutes decorating the interior and exterior … but the most famous sculpture is called “Saint Bartholomew Flayed,” created in 1562, which depicts the saint with “his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a stole,” a line I lifted from Wikipedia.
So, you know, it’s kind of grim.
Oh, and about the Holy Nail … Jesus was crucified with three or four nails. Everyone is pretty much agreed on that. But there are 30 or more holy nails in the world that people revere as an actual relic, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (via Wikipedia).
Anyways, I took in the church. Then I ate McDonalds. Sorry. I wanted to be quick with my eating time. Then I walked and walked and walked. I was trying to find the tourism office to buy a tour ticket to see The Last Supper. The person at my hotel put an x on my map and I went in search of the x.
I never found the x.
I talked to the guy at the door of the Duomo about the tourism office and he said, “Oh boy, it’s far to walk, but it’s only two trains stops down.”
I said thank you very much and headed down the metro stairs and hopped on the train, two stops later I popped out.
Never once did it occur to me that trains at the hub of the Duomo go not only both directions, but every direction. I just assumed that the guy at the door must have known where my journey started and what direction ‘two train stops down’ meant to me. So I popped out and looked around. He said the tourism office was in front of a castle, so that shouldn’t be hard to find.
But early on, I started to think I was on a wild goose chase. I walked around a bit, but I was getting tired and I thought I was in the wrong place, so I headed back to the metro stop … but not before coming upon a bus stop. And in the bus stop was a bus stop poster advertising an art exhibition. A Marc Chagall Retrospective at the Palazzo Reale or Royal Palace. Now in the past 12 months I’ve seen amazing works of art by Marc Chagall in Chicago, Milwaukee and Zurich, so I was excited to see the exhibition.
So I figured I’d do that the next day and headed back. Because I’m stubborn I walked around Milan a little more to find the tourism office, but only managed to see amazing works of ancient architecture instead. Time to head back, I thought, to the hotel.
But because I’m a little pig-headed, I took the metro to Cardona, the nearest stop to the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to The Last Supper. No, I didn’t have a ticket and no, there was zero chance of acquiring a ticket, but I had to go. I thought, if there was a side door or, you know, if it was crowded, maybe I could sneak in. Maybe I could talk my way in. I just had to get near it and that, of course, required more walking. I got near it, but I didn’t see it.
I estimated that I walked for three hours that day.
Then I really had to head back to the hotel, got a snack and headed to arena for our first match in the final round.
It was a crazy journey for the team. We played in front of 200 in our first match in Verona and then on that Wednesday in Milan, we faced Italy in front of 12,600 Italians. They liked the Italian team a lot. I actually got coach Karch Kiraly to smile a little, when I said, “I think it’s possible that maybe Italy might have a bit of home crowd advantage.”
We lost a match that we should of or could have won. So then we were teetering on elimination. We beat Russia on Thursday, but we need Italy to then beat Russia on Friday. Italy had already qualified to the semifinals. They could play all back-ups and no one could really complain.
I had absolute confidence in our team, but our destiny was out of our hands. So I pack. If Russia wins on Friday night, we go home Saturday morning.
So on Thursday, I head back down to the City Center to the Royal Palace and take in the 220-piece retrospective of Marc Chagall, a Russia Jew, who was born in 1908 and was witness to the mistreatment of Jews in Russia in WWI and, of course, then in WWII. The exhibition was thorough with examples from his time in Russia, Paris, and America, and the curators brought together many pieces that aren’t usually seen by the public. It was a one-of-a-kind exhibit that won’t be seen anywhere else. Plus, to have it exhibited in the former Royal Palace was a trip. The Royal Palace was mostly destroyed in WWII, but it was the seat of the government for centuries. The rooms, the ceilings were pretty cool and are still after 50 years being restored. A cool venue to say the least.