I suspect that part of Milan's negative image stems from the fact that it's not as quintessentially Italian as the country's other major cities. Consider the locals, who, though warmer than the ones I encountered in Berlin, still keep a somewhat cool distance: Last night's invitation to Lake Como aside, nobody in Milan has ever taken more than a casual interest in me -- including the policeman from my last trip who fined me 16 euros for riding the tram without a ticket and then proceeded to grill me about life in the Big Apple -- while on each of my two previous Roman holidays, I was taken on a day-long private tour of the city by a local whom I met less than 24 hours after my arrival. I wonder how the Romans will receive me next week.
It's just one of many examples of what I love most about Europe, from a visual standpoint: its often-breathtaking sculpture. Walking through parts of some of the continental cities is almost like being in a giant outdoor sculpture museum, with another must-see statue on virtually every block. In Berlin, they're frequently placed strategically on rooftops, so they hover over the city, striking elegant poses like the world's first supermodels.
Though I appreciate the Duomo more this time than I did in the past, it's somewhat spoiled by the gross commercialization that surrounds it, particularly the video screen attached to it on the Vittorio Emanuelle side. Imagine if Rome's city planners built a supermall across from the Colosseo -- as if the metro stop isn't bad enough -- and then slapped a video screen onto the ancient amphitheatre. The outdoor and indoor scaffolding only further diminishes the mystique of Il Duomo.
The song playing on the radio of the food vendor as I'm leaving Sempione on my third day in Milan -- "You Make Me Wanna..." by Usher -- makes me wanna go jogging even more. Interestingly, I recently heard the 1997 No. 2 single, Usher's first big hit, for the first time in years when my iPod landed on it during the bus ride from Milano Malpensa Airport to Stazione Centrale, and it reminded me how quickly the last 16 years have flown by. As I'm leaving Sempione, it reminds me how quickly the last three days have flown by, too.
Even if it weren't for its often-overlooked visual appeal, I'd say this much for Milan: It has an excellent soundtrack.