On The Train from Milano

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele il

After eight hours roaming in Milan, of cathedrals from the middle ages, of galleries wall to wall with framed masters, of a new language and customs and clouds and empty Piazzas, that suddenly turn to sunshine and faces every where you walk, and friendly touts that give you a handful of corn that make a million pigeons invade your soul, and then the friendliness turns sour when you don’t pay them the right money for  the twenty corn kernels that you carelessly fling over your shoulder as you walk away, not forgetting the beautiful policewoman Christina who, while Jodie is taking my photo with her, asks me where I am from and what do I think of Italy?, and lost for words I say ‘I’ve only just arrived from Lausanne...’(I wanted to say I think the policewomen are very beautiful but being unsure of the police/citizen protocols I thought better of it.). And did I tell you about the Leonardo Da Vinci collection of his original drawings of Codex Atlanticus, housed in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana and the Basilica of Santa Maria Delle Grazie (built in 1607), the drawings displayed in the original library with books from floor to ceiling dating back to the 1400’s, a gloaming took place for me as I sat on a lone crinkled leather chair at one end of the darkened room taking counsel from a feature-lit, bust sculpture of Da Vinci facing me from the other end. He was in this room constantly from 1482-1500, scouring the universe that was at that time known to man, adding to it constantly as he challenged the ideas of others with his own thoughts, artistic and engineering talents, teaching what he knew and discovered to the many students that sought him out. While I sat I wondered about how it is almost impossible to expand your connection to the universe and Universal Mind, unless you challenge who you think you are or meet your fears headlong in a narrow alley after midnight or attempt something new, with the secure understanding that failure is only a belief that man is imperfect and there is a supreme judge and jury ready to scorn you at every crossroad. Leonardo asked questions and worked out the answers, not to take away from Milan what was already amazing but to make a personal contribution from the endless gifts he entertained that would indeed make Milan a better place when he was no longer there. In this ancient library, conformed by the scent of old paper and ink, bringing to life the words and imaginings of my own possibilities, when I consider that I could never have arranged this moment sitting in the Brazilian hammock on the front verandah of Wild at Heart repeating my old mantra of ‘C’est la vie’. And did I tell you about Leonardo’s paintings, ‘Musician’ and ‘The Duchess’  and ‘The Last Supper’? The Last Supper, the masterpiece that made The Da Vinci Code famous in popular fiction by using some long kicked around ideas scrambled together with a few obscure facts and famous buildings that is now held by many as their truth to the origin and answer of the one they called The Christ and his descendants. Well it is here, gracing the wall of the ante-room from end to end, an icon, a piece of history, brush strokes of oil placed by a master’s hand, and I am trying to soak up each mark, to take to mind what the digital age is unable to capture, while Jo has an epiphany as she is transfixed and captured by the scope of the wonder that stretched out before us, and for a moment it was all ours , the two of us in a room with The Last Supper, until the attendant came over and talked to us in perfect Milanese, pointing and gesturing, he passionately described while holding his heart, eyes closed, sounds, which while not understood, are perfectly translated in other dimensions where the three of us stood together and were bound by time to history.
On the train from Milano to Lausanne, Jo reads the book we purchased about Leonardo’s exhibition. Lost in the wonder of yet another new adventure I look across the dark and light and colour of the tiled rooftops to the peaks of Italian Alps, the base of which we and the train will soon be exploring like miners to another world.
‘Rob.’ Jo whispers, not wanting to disturb the sounds of the French, Italian and Portuguese conversations that resound around us like an orchestra warming up. 
‘Yes?‘ I whisper back, wondering why I need to hide my beautiful Australian accent beneath my breath.
‘It was a fake!’
‘What was a fake?’
‘Look here. The Last Supper. It was a copy... painted by il Vespino in 1611.’
I look out the window of the train. The Italian Alps are still there, Jo and I are still on the train sitting opposite Pedro and Sandra, the Portuguese couple escaping  the demands of their jobs as economic research analysts, by hiding out in a chalet high above Interlaken, and no matter what the book says, what we both experienced earlier in the day did take place. All of it was real. All of it except The last Supper. It was a fake.
When we get home Jo finds the real ‘The Last Supper’. Yes, it is in Milan, two blocks from the copy we witnessed. You can view it by appointment only, for fifteen minutes at a time. In reflection I don’t feel that our first day in Milan has lost anything. For me, all our experience means is that we will need to return to Milan another day, for coffee and pizza and The Last Supper.    

Central Milan Station
ll Duomo - 1386

One of hundreds of panes
A candle for peace

Outside Leonardo


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