Straddling the north of Italy like a ruby-lipped succubus, Milano is a city of dreams. More specifically, the dreams of a strange cabal of artsy monomaniacs whose millionaire mission in life is to dictate what you and I should wear, find attractive, and compare ourselves unfavourably towards… Despite the inherent flamboyance of the fashion world and its various istas, Milan is a surprisingly grey and humourless metropolis … unless, as I have often suspected of fashion, the joke is very much on me.
Of the three objects of interest in Milan I longed to see, I succeeded in visiting its beguiling Gothic cathedral, and the revamped La Scala. Unfortunately, I missed out on Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” because of a strike by its curators. Instead, determined to get some (any) culture, I got an eye-opening afternoon wandering the Golden Quad‚ a topsy-turvy land where people are either models, or desperate model wannabes, Amexes glittering in what little sun leaks through cloudy skies. The streets of the Quad, particularly Via Montenapoleone, are lined with sports cars, BMW people movers and hummers, almost all with black-tinted windows, and armed angels to watch over them, whilst their respective Model, Actor or Sultan nips into Armani for something to wear to Elton John’s hen’s night. Or something.
What can I say? I’m both disgusted and hypnotized by the caper – oooh, so that’s a Rolex! – but quite unconsciously find myself blue-steeling‚ like everybody else here, walking purse-lipped down streets full of beautiful people, pretending not to fancy any one of them. (Just as, I’m sure, all the models and actresses were only pretending not to fancy me.) The Quad is hard to escape, with so many colourful creatures swarming around. Unlike a lot of other curious, yet budget conscious tourists, I can’t bring myself to actually go into any of these stores. I just find the idea of spending that much money on knickers and spats a little creepy. And when you do see mortals wearing the really fancy stuff around Milan, it just looks silly, like those children dressed as pumpkins in an Anne Geddes’ calendar. But it’s all just a bit of fun, really. Only, why isn’t anybody smiling?