The Milan SMILE

Smiles come in all languages.  A face has a language of its own independent of its words.  My Italian is not so good anymore and it was never so good in the first place so I have replaced words with lots of nods and pointings and smiles and eyebrows and more nods with smiles. Smiles work very well.


It is late evening as I sit here in my little apartment and write this. It rained today, drizzled really. just enough to make my hair frizzy and coat the road with perfect shininess. The cobbled streets had been waxed and shined. We walked about, me looking everywhere and my friend trying to stop me getting run over by the cars and scooters that hurl themselves bravely around the bends and corners.

We had spent the morning is these amazing Baths, styled on old Roman baths, everyone wearing identical white bathing robes, and wandering at will through rooms lined in dark stone, everything water. Of course there are no pictures from there, that would have been wholly intrusive,  but it is called Terme Milano and is in the Porta Romana area if you are ever in Milan. All my travel fatigue just washed away –  though it does not seem to have been replaced with a need to sleep.

I am wide awake and running out of things to read!



All our walking took twice as long, as I was endlessly stopping, handing my umbrella over and taking photos. Here is a quote from Antonio  Gramski that my friend showed me,  beautifully written on a stone wall along with other graffiti.  I have always had a soft spot for graffiti. Especially intelligent writings for all to see and read and discuss.


This was written by Antonio Gramski.  Gramski was an Italian Marxist,  a thinker, a theorist and a writer. A revolutionary really who stood up and loudly fought for his ideals. Right or wrong – his theories were interesting. While imprisoned in the early nineteen hundreds he wr0te.  (And this is a translation remember)  “I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who are really living cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life.  This is why I hate the indifferent.”


Whether you support his politics or not. The sentiment is meaty and challenging. And weirdly current.

milan-97 milan-94



The light faded as we walked and soon it was time for us to part. I went back to my apartment,  cooked a simple meal with fresh ingredients we had gathered on our travels and ate as I worked on my pictures. A glass of wine at my elbow.



I became so tired I could not hold up my head and went to bed gratefully. Only to wake up two hours later totally refreshed and ready to get on with my day only to discover that it is 11pm. No morning yet.  Sigh. So now I write.

Tomorrow we walk again – I will be meeting new friends. The best way to see a town is from the feet – having guides is not such a bad idea either. My guides will soon know  that in the absence of a horizon I am totally without any sense of direction and there is only so much a smile can do. But I know where all the little stores are now, close to my apartment,  the bread store, the vegetable shop, the tiny little supermarket with wine, a place with cheese and olives and a stunning butchers who know where his meat is grown and I know to walk close to the buildings so as not to be cleaned up by a fast moving tiny car with a honking horn.

The ancients are everywhere. milan-9

I think I will be perfectly fine for a while. Two more full days here in Milan! A beach girl from a farm in a big foreign city. It is good to scare ones self out of a comfy body every now and then.

I am such a lucky person.

I hope you have a lovely day.

Love celi

47 Comments on “The Milan SMILE

  1. Perfectly said, ‘the ancients are here’. The cobbled streets, the worn brick, the sensation of history as you walk along. The baths sound wonderful, I envy you that experience, but am happy you had it. Revel in Milan’s treasures.

  2. A wonderful post, your photos are great, There is nothing better than exploring a town by foot. Have fun and enjoy.

  3. Brings back many happy memories of a week’s visit to Milan about 8 or 9 years ago, ending with a night a La Scala. Thanks for those wonderful photos and enjoy your stay!

  4. A friend’s daughter is studying in Milan this semester and has posted some pictures. It is nice to see more pictures from a different perspective. Enjoy your stay.

  5. Work took me to Milan annually for quite a few decades: have to smile that now you are showing me the ‘real’ Milan I never had time to look at or did not see – delightful photo series! I do wish I was a birdie on your shoulder to go see the Stravinsky programme at La Scala tonight . . . . and I do hope you will somehow have the chance to take the short trip to the Lakes during time remaining . . . one of the most beautiful and relaxing places on earth from one of the most fascinating and cultured cities . . . enjoy!

      • 🙂 ! I know Italy v well: find Milan very elegant, stylish and exciting with wonderful food. but probably the romantic in me loves Venice and Florence better . . . Enjoy!!!

  6. Have to agree with Eha above on all counts 🙂 Not sure where you are staying, stock up, everybody closes on a Sunday. Laura

  7. Oh C, these photos are wonderful. Thank you for letting us venture about with you. And…I admit, I am really very envious of your adventure 😉

  8. A great message along with beautiful photos. I am saving that quote. I too hate indfifference, hate the I Don’t Knows, I Don’t Cares, Not My Problems, NIMBYs. I say Pick a Side. If you’re Not With Us You’re Against Us. All sitting on a fence will accomplish is a sore bum.

    • Brilliant, Dale! Don’t quite know that I am a Marxist but that saying did it for me also 🙂 !

      • Thank you Ella D. Fence sitters with sore bums! HOwever It is a good idea, as well, to know when something actually is NOT my problem. I find that it is as good for us to know our limits and our own business as part of the equation. I will often shake my head and say “Not my Department” and I find that is a very freeing to ask myself IS THIS MY MONKEY!? Sometimes it simply is not my monkey. Then i can put it back.

  9. I know the feeling of having the sleep schedule turned upside down. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time and love all the photos. Delighted you are able to make meals that you are comfortable with. That is so important. Keep having fun.

  10. How wonderful to have time to look, think, browse, take photos, cook and eat, in solitary splendour in a beautiful place, with no other demands on your time… And if you’re going to do all of these things, to do them in beautiful Italy, where the ages look down on you as part of the quotidian landscape. And best of all, to be awake and aware, instead of shockingly soul-lagged by long distance travel.

    • I must say that Milan is just….WONDERFUL!!! I felt like I was there walking with Miss C and seeing your world. I could hear the rain and feel the soft moisture on my skin!

      Thank you, Miss C for showing us this amazing city!

  11. I always thought Milan might be a bit boring – shops, shops, shops and fancily dressed people. Now I think it looks wonderful. Loved the photos and the story. And you are so right – a smile can say more than any words. Enjoy the next two days.

  12. Thank you Celi, for the incredible photographs and your wonderful narrative! Love the quote from
    Antonio Gramski; it truly stirs the deep down roots of me…
    Any idea who the (very proud) fellow on the poor, exhausted horse might be?

  13. Enchanting pictures… especially the equestrian statue, where, rarely, the horse is on a loose rein! Have a wonderful time! Alison (Brackenbury)

  14. Been in Bulgaria 10 years and still cant speak the lingo. The odd few words but not a complete sentence. However a smile,eyes and hands do just as well..never got stuck yet

  15. Olives and cheese… ah.. must be a bit o’ heaven! I personally, love that quote. What a robust and outstanding statement, that yes, is “weirdly current”. Your statement about about “Not my monkey” is something my sister Jules often cites. “Not my monkey – not my circus!” I really love this post, Celi. It’s wonderful to see these candid photos to give us a peep of Milan through your eyes.

  16. Oh what a delicious post. The photos give me goosebumps. I have always loved old world anything. I especially enjoy that mural of the dog/wolf (no surprise here!). Love the shops too. How did you manage an apartment of your own for so few days? maybe you’ve already said. I missed two days I think, as I’m taking a poetry class online that is very intense. I was “through” Milan for a day–what a waste to breeze through. You have the right idea all right. I hope you are hearing how the critters back home are fairing.

  17. I tied the laces on my walking shoes. Donned a raincoat. Grabbed my flowered umbrella. Then followed you through the streets of Milan. I popped bread, cheese, wine into my cloth shopping bag. At the end of the day my tired toes told me what a magnificent day I had enjoyed with Celi. Grazie mille!!

  18. So glad you are here in that beautiful City. Still on my list. Some day.
    Enjoy, Celi!

  19. The part about how you cooked alone at the end of the day and ” worked on my pictures. A glass of wine at my elbow” is so telling. It really does take quiet, recollection, and time to capture the beauty of intense but passing experiences. And the prospect of sharing that intensity maybe gives more meaning to those experiences, for you as well as for us; e.g.. the progression of color tone in the photographs (easy-going beige, to tan, to shadowy brown and finally to melancholy blue) could reflect stages of emotion as the light changes along with a city-walker’s mood. And the openings and entrances and arches and windows convey (to me) curiosity about the life of a city and a sense of adventure in exploring its unique places.

    So much for analysis. What’s truly significant here are the individual images themselves. No need to talk about them. They speak for themselves. They let streets and shapes in Milan tell their own special stories.

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