13.9.96 (Fri)

I am now on the train from Milano to Nice. From Nice I will take another train to Marseille, my destination today. I will arrive in Marseille after 2 pm and it is now just 7 am, so there will be seven good hours on train.

The sky is not yet completely bright. I had thought it easy to rise at daybreak to wash and pack, but it was hard. I woke up around 5 am but could not bring myself to leave the bed. My right leg and my right arm ached. My whole body yearned for rest. When I was brushing my teeth, again I questioned myself, "Why this journey? Why 40 days?" Only Jesus could last for 40 days on his own.

I visited Uffizi Museum on my last morning in Firenze. It was too bad that only the rooms on the third floor were open. Some rooms on that floor were even closed. But the paintings were beautiful enough to take one’s breath away. Well one could not help falling in love with Botticelli"s paintings, right? But it was a shame that they were kept behind glass. There were many paintings named "Annunciazione" but still I like Botticelli’s best, better than the one by da Vinci. Botticelli’s works are bright and soft, and his women are beautiful.

I also like the "Venere di Urbino" (Venus of Urbino) by Titian. There were two sets of paintings of "Adam and Eve" facing each other in the museum. They were special, but I am not particularly fond of them.

Japanese tourists simply invade every cultural centre. They are large in number, always in groups, and noisy. But they are welcome everywhere because they spend their money. They filled almost all the museums I went to. It was horrible. Having had the awful experience in the Vatican Museum, I raced to the Botticelli’s rooms once I got into the Uffizi to get ahead of the crowds.

Having feasted myself on so much fine art, of course I could not help but bought quite some souvenirs before I left the museum. But that was also done among loads of Japanese tourists.

As I said, I had to leave for Milano earlier than I had planned simply because of the closing time of the luggage storage service (or I would need to take a train which would arrive in Milano very late at night). So there was not enough time to see the sculpture "David" by Michaelangelo in another museum. I did try, but again there was a long line at that museum.

I stayed in a cheap hotel in Milano for just L75,000 (i.e. around HKD400) per night. By the way, I have booked a room in Marseille for just FF150 (i.e. < HKD300) per night. The price appears suspiciously low.

There was not much to see in Milano. The Duomo was of course majestic. Unlike the Cathedral in Vatican, it was less glorious, less golden and so it looked like a place of worship.

One wonderful experience in Milano was the visit to Pinacoteca di Brera. I was one of the few visitors when it opened at 9 am. In Milano, everyone goes shopping. People scarcely have time for museums. It was quiet inside the gallery so I could enjoy the paintings leisurely and uninterruptedly.

I am not fond of Bellini’s paintings but the one "St Mark Preaching in Alexandria" was interesting enough. Caravaggio seemed too dark to me. But there were many paintings I like in that gallery: "The Kiss" by Hayez, "Fiumana" by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo showing a crowd marching forward, and "Il Ricciolo" by Federico Zandomeneghi depicting a girl dressing in front of a mirror were some examples. As to Raphael, it seems that the one I like best is the one in Louvre, i.e. St Michael defeating the demon.

I went to Castello Sforzesco yesterday afternoon. It was an old square castle and again, a museum. I was by that time a little bit overloaded with fine art and found the collection in there less impressive. That museum had an unfinished sculpture by Michaelangelo. I thought it was a failure. The museum, of course, saw it as a treasure.

Since I had started early yesterday, I was already exhausted around 3 pm and almost fell asleep on a bench in a park. I spent the rest of the day walking around the shopping streets around the Duomo. But I did not buy anything. I could not carry so many things with me.

So that was Italy. My impressions are –

1. The most good-looking men are in Roma, especially in the Vatican. Milano comes second, mainly because of their suits.
2. Mobile phones are surprisingly popular.
3. The most tasty gelati was the one I had in Roma around Piramide Metro Station.
4. The nicest experience was the Arno River in Firenze. Then it was the chat with Antonio the Sicilian.
5. It was delightful that the McDonald’s in Italy offers so many varieties. They have desserts, salads, gelati, Italian coffee and pastries. But not everywhere has a McDonald’s. I did not see any in Venezia or Firenze.
6. There were many military men in uniform walking on the streets.

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