It's cold. The air in Milano is crisp and heavy with smog and fog. The two mixed together really burns my eyes and the crisp air chills my bones. I've walked three blocks and although I am properly dressed, with winter hat, gloves and even leg warmers, I can't feel my fingers or toes. Milano is rather peaceful today. Perhaps the chill of the mountain air descending over the city has calmed the Italian tempers and left them pensive and weary. On the tram pleasantries are exchanged and the expressions on the faces of the Milanese people seem happier then normal. Everyone seems to be moving at an ever slower pace and I am enjoying this. It's 10 days until Christmas and the city is gearing up for the holidays. Christmas street markets are more common then normal and all around me trees are flashing their pretty lights. Advertisements for free choral concerts are posted everywhere and I hope to take in one on the 19th celebrating music of the world. It is far far too cold to walk too much without taking many stops either in bookstores, shops or simply cafe's. I take a stop in at MUD CAFE on Viale Bligny. It's the only cafe around my neighbourhood that reminds me of New York. It is owned by Swedish Italians who speak both Italian and English and the cafe is quaint, artsy and simply lovely. English is heard being spoken on a regular basis by the Univeristy students that frequent the tiny place and in the background nina simone or the likes is always being played. I love it! The cafe is one of the few in Milano that provides internet and it is free to use it. Mud Cafe is my solace away from the normal Italian life. One can sit for hours drinking a coffee surfing the web or enjoy a hot meal or lovely panini's with Swedish influence. Furthermore they serve cappuccinos in large American sized mugs! Home at last. The coffee shop is situated on Viale Bligny and this is one of my favourite streets to walk along. This is probably because it is filled with many students, boutiques, hair salons, grocery stores, bars, flower shops, $1.00 stores and even a Block Buster. One can walk down Viale Bligny and arrive at Porta Romana or tram #9 will warmly take you anywhere you wish to go along the street making stops almost every three blocks. I chose to walk today as always and my fingers are still trying to recover from the cold. It is bloody freezing!!!! I hope for snow at least it would make this very grey city a little bright with colour. Although I didn't really have anything to do today I opted to leave the house although I should have known better. I should have known by the way the morning air in our apartment was a little colder then usual that it must have been super cold outside. Even with a heater our apartment seemed to allow the winter air to seep in through the windows and rooftop, through the walls. I am going mad staying home without work, without my hobbies, without my dance classes and without my close friends! I've spent the last several days decorating our apartment with Christmas cheer and listening to English Christmas Carols, blasting their joyous sounds throughout our apartment, while sipping chianti. I found a $5.00 Christmas tree at the local PAM supermarket. It was on special and considering artificial trees are far more expensive, I decided to purchase a real one. In Italy however real trees are sold with the root and mud attached. This can prove challenging when taking it home. It makes it a little heavier but all the same I found a vase and bought mud and I planted the tree in our living room! I love real trees, the smell of them reminding me of Canada and of the street corners in New York which are lined with Christmas tree stands, the trees brought in from Quebec or Nova Scotia. The smell of pine, spruce, balsams penetrating the New York air. I have mixed feelings about being away from home this year for Christmas, away from my friends, family and all the lovely events that happen during this time but sharing Christmas with my love will be beautiful all the same. We are scheduled to head up to the Veneto. How wonderful, perhaps I will take a moment to go to Verona, and Venezia. Perhaps I will take a moment to visit the famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet, not very festive but alas romantic all the same!
It is 4:30 pm and it is already becoming quite dark outside. The weather as the light can be very depressing but with the 2nd International Festival of Lights illuminating the city, it is not as bad as it normally can be. Last year in Milano they initiated their first Festival of Lights. I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario and so a Festival of Lights is something I am quite used to. I love seeing a city adorned with Christmas bulbs. The buildings beside the Duomo adorned with snowflakes, and long strips to imitate snow falling. An enormous Christmas tree decorated with white flowers towers in the center of Piazza Duomo. Overall the atmosphere is a festive one. I've been sitting here in this cafe for almost an hour and I can't seem to warm myself up. My fingers are stiff and typing is difficult. I wish I could twinkle my nose and be sitting beside a warm open fire with hot chocolate and marshmallows. That would be lovely. Marshmallows don't exist in Italy nor do pancakes. Funny the things I miss but important parts of my life all the same. Those tiny little things are just chicken soup for the soul on cold, grey days like this! I could settle for a hot chocolate w to warm me up but I am always weary to order one. Hot Chocolates in Italy are melted chocolate. Drinking them is like drinking a melted cup of Nutella only much they are much thicker, sweeter and even richer. I find that they are impossible to drink and more then not I often end up eating them with a spoon or taking two sips and leaving the rest to be thrown out. The last time I was home, I brought Nestle Quik back with me. This they do sell in Italy but I didn't want to risk not finding it and for this I am grateful because sitting sipping a cup of hot chocolate in an apartment illuminated by my christmas tree is a moment to treasure and soon when I find courage again to brave the cold, and now the dark skies, I will drag my iced body home and make a hot chocolate for myself. In the meantime however I continue to sit, trembling and typing. I will continue watching the street life from the Mud Cafe windows, taking in the little solace while I have it and I will finish my lovely polpette sandwich. I will then order a cappuccino. After all what is a day in Italy without drinking a cappuccino!!