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I was working as a tour guide in Sydney until the planes stopped flying. If you are enjoying my blog posts and can afford to toss a bit of coin into my virtual hat – the cost of a coffee or beer, say – that would be a huge help.  I hope you are faring as well as can be expected wherever you are.

Joy Joy – My Bicycle is Here! Let’s Go See The Last Supper (Milano – 28 May, Day 4)

My bicycle is in Milano! And will be delivered to Maria Elena’s after 2pm. Meanwhile I’ve moved across town to stay with a host, Daniella. I’ve a room in the attic of her rambling home in another multicultural neighbourhood but this one to the northwest and near a university. She is an academic, but not at that university, and a sociologist.

Even though I booked my flight to Milan six months ago and managed to remember to book a ticket to La Scala I had forgotten about The Last Supper until a fortnight ago. If you plan ahead you can book a ticket directly for about 7 euro but if you have left it to the last minute (and for The Last Supper two weeks is last-minute) you have to book into a tour. Fortunately I had found one that was “only” 35 or so euro and at 11:15 this morning.

Before I had a few minutes to admire the associated church.

Santa Maria della Grazie
Santa Maria della Grazie

Access to the room is in groups of 30 people for 15 minutes – which for me was both pleasantly uncrowded and sufficient. Our guide provided us with some history and interesting facts about Leonard da Vinci and stuff. None of which have really stuck but you can look them up in you’re keen.

It was, at first, smaller than I expected somehow but that impression faded as I looked at it and our guide pointed out details. A long term restoration project finished sometime in the last decade so now visitors are seeing more of the actual pigment as applied by da Vinci and a more accurate sense of the original colours.

It’s beautiful. Of course. I’m glad to have seen it. I just don’t have much more to say for it but that it’s one of those things which is so a part of our culture’s collective assemblage of images that its quite a strange thing to find oneself before the real thing.

Having gazed upon one of western civilzation’s greatest works in the morning I spent the afternoon putting my bicycle together.

Once assembled I rode off into the streets of Milan on my own bicycle. A bicycle I have been riding for six years in Sydney (mostly – and a few other places in Australia). What an amazing feeling it was – to be on my own vehicle, familiar in every way, on foreign streets. I was riding a few kilometres to meet Daniella and her friends for dinner. The place we met is well a squat, a sort of squat headquarters. The people there had a few years earlier occupied an unused office building in the city for a while and when they were cleared out had claimed this sprawling former abattoir. There was a bar and, eventually, a serve-up of Eritrean stew served on injara. A dj was playing reggae. There was a real mix of people there – various ages from children to the grey-haired, Italians and immigrants.

Daniella, her friends and I sat on the front steps in the warm evening air with our cups of beer and plates of food. Her friends were a pair from a Polyamorous society – he was originally from Mexico but had been living in Milan for seven years.

Again, what I love about being hosted and saying ‘yes’ when invited along … you meet people and go places you never otherwise would.

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