I want to whet your curiosity with this short article. It’s the first of some that I will put among the news on my website, and that will deal with illustrious people from all over the world visiting Milan. Enjoy the reading!
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was one of the most original and witty American writers, humorists, aphorists, and teachers of his time. He wrote important masterpieces of 19th century American literature. Among his most famous novels stand out those with children as protagonists, such as “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.” In 1869 he published “The innocents abroad,” or the “new Pilgrim Progress,” a faithful chronicle of his trip to Europe and the Holy Land. He arrived in Milan during his trip, and he leaves us with words of praise about it. For example, of our Cathedral he writes:
“Toward dusk, we drew near Milan and caught glimpses of the city and the blue mountain peaks beyond. But we were not caring for these things—they did not interest us in the least. We were in a fever of impatience; we were dying to see the renowned cathedral! We watched—in this direction and that—all around—everywhere. We needed no one to point it out—we did not wish anyone to point it out—we would recognize it even in the desert of the great Sahara. At last, a forest of graceful needles, shimmering in the amber sunlight, rose slowly above the pygmy housetops, as one sometimes sees, in the far horizon, a gilded and pinnacled mass of cloud lift itself above the waste of waves, at sea,—the Cathedral! We knew it in a moment. Half of that night, and all of the next day, this architectural autocrat was our sole object of interest. What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems in the soft moonlight only a fairy delusion of frost-work that might vanish with a breath! How sharply its pinnacled angles and its wilderness of spires were cut against the sky, and how richly their shadows fell upon its snowy roof! It was a vision!—a miracle!—an anthem sung in stone, a poem wrought in marble!
In other cases, he makes an amusing chronicle of the guided tours:
“Do you wis zo haut can be?” That was what the guide asked when we were looking up at the bronze horses on the Arch of Peace. It meant, do you wish to go up there? I give it as a specimen of guide-English. These are the people that make life a burthen to the tourist. Their tongues are never still. They talk forever and forever, and that is the kind of billingsgate they use. Inspiration itself could hardly comprehend them. If they would only show you a masterpiece of art, or a venerable tomb, or a prison-house, or a battle-field, hallowed by touching memories or historical reminiscences, or grand traditions, and then step aside and hold still for ten minutes and let you think, it would not be so bad…..”
Fortunately, in the meantime, local guides have improved since Twain visited Milan, don’t worry. I hope in any case that sooner or later you will want to check how truly splendid our Duomo is and … … but most of all, tour Milan with a licensed guide like me.
See you soon in Milan!