Milan is a deformed circle lying prone under a spiderweb of roads, radiating from countryside to centre.
More grey than gracious, her smog spreads along the Padanian plains. Life is punctuated by ‘environmental crisis!’ days when only certain cars are allowed to circulate; sometimes (rarely!) no cars bar the strictly necessary are allowed at all.
She is a mix of some very beautiful gems — the Sforsesco Castle, the Duomo, the Last Supper — and a lot of ugly. It is almost easy to claim that Milan is a once beautiful, once young Duchess who has fallen on bad times, poor times and the ravages of age, but I fear that would be lazy.
My Nonna’s Milan started in 1935 to the east of the centre in Viale del Col dei Lana. For the past 60 years, my nonna’s Milan had been Viale Bulgaria, last stop on the 23 tram, mere houses away from where Milan ends and the fields begin.
Home is a second floor flat in a solid condominio populare. Popular housing theoretically reserved for the nurses and policemen needed to rebuild Italy, or rather bring her screaming into the 20th Century. From outhouses to more cars than kids in little under 30 years. As to how my market-trader grandparents had ended up in flats reserved for frontline workers, it is never good to ask too many questions.
Viale Bulgaria— the end of the 23 tram-line — is now witness to the rapid changes facing Italy; the old and the immigrant living walking-stick to buggy, a generally peaceful tolerance cemented by the ever growing need for once Filipino now Central-American nannies, and marred by angry young men with a less than marked tendency to stand on the tram after their 14 hour shifts and years of being viewed with fear; the casual xenophobia of those who have lived long, and traveled less.
This unmixed pot all fed by diets of linguistic isolationism from the TV’s perma-tanned women under 36 and men far older.
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