23 August 2007

f is for ferie

It's that time of year in Milan. You'll find it impossible to buy the 14 euro cube of cheese you've innocently had your eye on. Or the 24 euro tub of gelato featuring a whopping two flavors. And just give up trying to order the 50 euro plate of goose salami.

It's not that Milan has been stricken by a wave of sensible and clearly-displayed pricing... We've dropped those hopes along with the idea that the customer is always right and the vague notion that the customer might warrant a blink of attention while shopping. Instead, I'll point at the calendar and remind you that the lack of over-priced goods available in Milan is simply due to the month of the year.

It is August and Milan is closed.

There are entire stretches of neighborhood where every shop is closed. They've been emptied of their inventory and shut behind metal gates and papered windows. There are small signs with drawings of palm trees and sail boats stuck to the windows. These signs all basically say, happy vacation and what the hell are you still doing in Milan?

It's true. Most all of Milan has gone. They've gone to the mountains or the sea and they've clogged the highways with their mass exodus. You can see their absence in apartment windows with all of the security shades drawn. And you can feel it walking along sidewalks empty of their usual rushers and dawdlers. And where, for the love of Milano, are the sidewalk scooters nipping at your heels?

The only remaining neighbors are the ones you wish would move away forever. The ones that sneak into your bedroom and torment you before dawn, yet always wait until well after you've drifted off to sleep. The mosquitoes are here. They haven't left. And despite the proximity of endless and what must be incredibly-alluring rice paddies surrounding Milan, they never will.

Despite the mosquitoes we've almost come to appreciate the surreal August quiet that strangles Milan. Today we even found a gelato. And maybe tomorrow there'll be an olive breadstick. But the thing we're really excited about... The thing we just can't wait for...

September. When the restaurants open again.

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