Milan: Just Like New York, But With Fewer Italians

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After all the excitement we slept peacefully in the camper and without incident. (Whew!) In the morning the Wilsons deposited us in the same parking lot as where they picked us up, off for a day of Ikea (to round out what the camper was lacking; also for Zeke to enjoy identifying all of his furniture around the store) and a night in a real campground while Andrew and I took the two days necessary to get through Milan.
The hike in through the suburbs and then into the city proper was more pleasant than the day before, chiefly because there were almost always sidewalks. We enjoyed the countless tiny lizards that run along the concrete edges of everything and the mystified stares of the locals. We found a cute little lunch shop that reminded me overwhelmingly of New Jersey’s suburbs of New York and enjoyed some piadine (grilled wraps, Italian style) before continuing on past gigantic mauseoleums and through various sections of the park on the north side of Milan.
Once in the city we both were a little disoriented by the realization that it could’ve been New York. Really. I’ve never been anywhere outside New York, much less outside North America, that looked so much like the Big Apple, including the 90 degree angles on the grid of streets, the random intermixing of older and hyper-modern buildings, and the traffic. The traffic above all else. There also must be some deep-level cultural continuity, since there are so many Italian immigrants and their descendants in New York (certainly more than native Italians in Milan!); I can’t figure out how to describe it, but somehow it’s there. Hopefully the photos in a few days will convey some of this feeling.
We ended up spending a good chunk of the afternoon sorting out cell phone and data access issues—vital if not particularly inspiring—so we had only a few moments to spare for the most important piece of Gothic architecture in Italy, the Duomo (very fairy tale and turret-y). We also took a quick detour to the Basilica of St. Ambrose; not the original that was around in Ambrose and Augustine’s time, unfortunately, as it was rebuilt in 1099 in a Romanesque style; on the other hand, it is the church that Luther would’ve seen, and we’re assuming he did—it must have been very exciting for a couple of Augustinians on pilgrimage to visit the place where the great Ambrose finally brought the dithering Augustine around to the Catholic Christian faith.
We spent the evening with Eric and Valentina, both financial journalists. Eric is also a great fan of pilgrimage routes, which is how we found him. He’s done both the Santiago and the Via Francigena, which we’ll start on tomorrow. This also means that they understand the astonishing hunger that pilgrims work up, so they fed us very well. Prego!

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