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Hemingway Adventure

Milan (first day)

Milan, Italy 
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On his first night in Milan, the seventeen-year-old Hemingway was dazzled by the Duomo. 135 spires and over 3000 statues, all clean and freshly restored.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureYet in the centre of this hard, pragmatic city is one of the most sublimely rich and flamboyant buildings in Europe, the great Gothic cathedral, the Duomo. Itís a fairy-tale building, the roof a petrified forest of pinnacles, marble walls covered with three thousand carved statues, of beasts and saints and Popes and every creeping thing. Apart from anything else itís a wonderful feat of story-telling. Itís just been restored and has a freshly scrubbed, born-again, pink glow.

The mother of all shopping malls - the Galleria - finished in 1877, and a favourite place for Hemingway to stroll with his first love Agnes von Kurowsky, is still open for business. It stands, immensely tall, with domed and vaulted arcades of tiles and a rich stained-glass roof, from which the designer fell to his death on the day before it opened.

There is an older part of town where red brick takes over from marble and banks give way to clubs and bars and stalls selling jewellery, joss sticks and penis-shaped candles in various life-like colours - green, yellow and midnight blue.

Sea bass ravioli and goose at an excellent old town restaurant, then back to my hotel in bank-land.

Hemingway, still a month off his nineteenth birthday, had a less comfortable introduction to Milan. On his first night in the city he was called out to the scene of an explosion at a munitions factory. The carnage was grim. He found himself picking human remains from the perimeter wire. He used the experience later in a clinically gruesome short story called ĎA Natural History of the Deadí, in which he admits, uncharacteristically, to being shocked, not so much at the extent of the injuries but at the fact that most of the dead were women.

By my bed tonight is A Farewell to Arms, Hemingwayís famous story of love and war in Italy. Itís an orange and white Penguin paperback edition of 1959, price two shillings and sixpence, which I was issued with at school as part of my ĎAí Level English Literature course. Itís dog-eared and coming apart at the spine, but I wouldnít part with it. This was the book that introduced me to Hemingway and, in a sense, introduced me to Italy as well.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Milan (first day)
  • Country/sea: Italy
  • Place: Milan
  • Book page no: 46

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