Around Northern Italy in a Fiat Panda

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The Contessa and the Commendatore Visit the Home Country

Saturday Oct. 20: Como (Milano)

food & lodging

Food & lodging notes

K On Saturday we braved the Italian railway again with a round-trip to Milano. Simple and satisfactory. Nonstop trains both ways, for which one pays extra.

We walked to the Duomo (about an hour) and took Milan’s new subway back. For a people good at design and fairly good at public signage, they had not succeeded in rendering the subway comprehensible. Part of the problem turned out to be the newness of the system — most of the “yellow line” was in square brackets: the only actual stops on it were the Duomo and the train station, with one between.

Our main errands were to pick up a white truffle (or two) to smuggle home swathed in laundry, and to dash through the Brera museum. The truffle monger that we had seen twelve days before was again in place, her cart set up a block from the Duomo. We chose two small white truffles. Alas, we had forgotten to bring the aboreo rice and plastic seal-tight box that we had bought in Padova for purposes of truffle transport. The truffle monger packed them for us in many layers of butcher paper.

Alice carried the package in her purse. While perusing paintings at the Brera gallery, an hour or two later, we couldn’t help but notice that the truffles were escaping. Their penetrating odor at any rate. Call it paranoia, but I would swear that we were getting strange looks from the other museum-goers. Now, do you know what a truffle smells like? Not to put too fine a point on it, it smells like a darkened room in Algiers in the afternoon with a slowly turning fan after three continuous days of sweaty sex.

That evening Alice emptied and aired her purse in front of an open window. We transferred the truffles to their bed of aboreo rice, and further swathed their plastic box in three separate plastic bags, each one sealed tight in turn with a twist-tie.

K We’d counted on Rinasciente, a large Milano department store, for much gift-buying; but it was closed by a strike. (Else the visit to Italy would have been incomplete.) We got a few gifts elsewhere; and we procured one main aim of the journey, white truffles. They proceeded to smell up the Contessa’s handbag, the Brera / Pinocoteca, the subway car, and the train.
A The walk to the Pinicotecha de la Brera took us through a quiet part of the city. Quiet probably because it was Saturday and not a tourist destination. The Brera itself is a handsome, large baroque building that houses an astronomical observatory and a library as well as the picture collection. We failed to find the observatory…

The Pinocoteca was to be open for another hour when we paid our admission fee. The galleries we entered first were devoted to modern Italian work of a very high caliber. There were many pictures by Georgio Morandi and sculpture by another Morandi — could be father or brother judging by the dates. Others of note:

    Filippo de Pises  (1896—1956) (Keith especially liked his work)
    Ottone Posai      (1895—1957)
    Carlo Carra       (1881—1966)
  From the twentieth century we passed immediately to the middle ages
  Some exquisite paintings here:

    Mantegna    The Dead Christ
    Perugino    Madonna of the Egg
    Raphael     Marriage of the Virgin
    Mantegna    Dead Christ with Mary and John
    Bronzino    Andrea Doria in the Aspect of Neptune
A The Brera galleries were spacious, well lit, and blessedly empty. All the things hanging were substantial. We saw one room of paintings stored in racks. We sped through the late Baroque rooms & the 18th and 19th century galleries as the closing bell rang & then out into the calm, quiet, grey Milano streets.