With Christmas over, Eleanor and I are in Italy to catch up with friends Paola, Paolo and their growing family. The wonderful Margarita was born in April, a chubby, smiley little sister for Mario.
Milano is a lovely Winter city of thick fog, cobbled roads, trams, theatrical Christmas displays still sharp in the designer shops of the Quadrilatero and the smell of roasted chestnuts on every corner. I've been coming on and off here now for over twenty years and it always feels familiar and welcoming. Both of us have a fair amount of reading to do for the new year, so we've spent quite a bit of time in the city library, but in between times we've taken to bikes and freewheeled around the town from church to coffee shop and coffee shop to church.
We couldn't get a timed ticket for the Last Supper in Santa Maria Delle Grazie, but did spend some time exploring the Sant' Ambrogio basilica, which is just at the end of Paola's street.
St Ambrose is the patron saint of the city and his ghoulish remains lie, dressed in fine vestments in the crypt of the church. In life he was said to be so eloquent that bees used to fly into his mouth, which must have been terribly annoying, especially during sermons.
Perhaps the most interesting attraction in the complex is Sarcophagus of Stililcho sitting proudly under an ambo, off centre in the nave, from where it hasn't moved since it was carved in 385. It's a thing of beauty indeed with sculpted scenes from both the old and new testaments including naive representations of Christ handing St Peter the keys to heaven, teaching his apostles and holding the last last supper, offset with fabulous birds and beasts from myths and legends. In all my previous visits I'd never come across it before. A little treasure chest in the middle of the city..