Milan didn’t feel like Italy for me. It is indeed in Italy, and is full of Italians, but I never felt like I was rambling in the Land of Amaretto. Locals (admittedly fly) buying clothes and walking slowly whilst carrying bags of flashy clobber. I have no interest in clothes. I have a personal detestation of slow walkers. The bars were lifeless, the streets listless. I did climb the stairs of a cathedral in the city centre, but it knackered me and the heat perplexed my senses. Anyway, it was alright. I was gonna see the San Siro but decided to drink Grand Marnier on a bench instead. Farewell, Milan. Take care.
Venice blew my socks off. I crept in by train under the auspices of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, visions of Dirk Bogarde and a murderous dwarf in a red jacket dominating my hangover. I’d heard icky tales of the sewage and the rats; I couldn’t smell the former nor see the latter, though I don’t mind rats. I had one, Rambo, as a pet. Now I just picture Rambo en masse. The city is a belter, another world, a hinterland of frozen memory, a breathing anachronism untouched by time. I loved the place, and didn’t even mind getting lost (constantly). Thank the heavens for Google Maps, for without them I would have slept on an illegally commandeered gondola every night. I was crestfallen upon leaving. I struggle to fathom why Marco Polo left, but understand why he eventually returned.
Rome was pissing it down for much of my stay. I don’t think Rome liked me very much. Nevertheless, like Quasimodo, I was stricken with unrequited love. The Colosseum already had me at Gladiator (2000), but being there, up close, I could almost detect the baying chants of the Roman mob, the bread and circuses. It’s an antiquated football stadium scene, essentially. Proceeding via Piazza Venezia to the Vatican, I was once again reminded of the fact that I grimace daily at my residential surroundings back home in Edinburgh, and struggled to locate the reason I continue to operate there. Depression can arrive from the most serene origins.
Irish Bars. Every city on the planet has or desires one. I’d like to imagine folk congregating in a relatively quiet district of Baghdad for a Guinness and a lamb stew. The Scholar’s Lounge just off the Piazza Venezia is just sublime, an authentic, not-too-pricey liquid hideaway with staff from Dublin, Cork, Waterford, and Shannon. There’s nothing quite like an inordinate volume of Smithwick’s and a live-screened football match after a day of trudging around the Lonely Planet’s must-sees. I got reeking off Guinness in there, my only memory past 10:00 p.m. a 30-minute chat with a skater bloke from Oakland, California about the improbable rise of Donald Trump.
A note on selfie sticks: these things do my tits in. They were omniscient, from the folk selling them to the sniffers swinging the apparatus about with careless abandon. I certainly wouldn’t want to look at a photo of the Trevi Fountain with my mug dominating the snap; that’s not the sweet life. The pursuit is another bizarre evolution in the travails of the human species.
I now seek out Sicily and Naples. Soon.