You are on page 1of 2

Form 4Ae, Reading comprehension

Read the following passage taken from Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson, an American writer and great traveller visiting Milan for the first time.

I arrived in Milan in mid-afternoon, expecting great things. It is after all the richest city in ltaly, the headquarters of many of the most famous names of Italian commerce: Campari, Benetton, Armani, Alfa Romeo, the Memphis design group, and the disparate empires of Silvio Berlusconi and Franco Maria Ricci. But this, as I should have realised beforehand, is its problem. Cities that are dedicated to making money, and in Milan they appear to think about little else, seldom have much energy left for charm. I got a room in an expensive but nondescript hotel across from the monumental white marble central railway station - like something built for Mussolini to give a strutting address to massed crowds - and embarked on a long, hot walk into town along the Via Pisani. This was a broad, modern boulevard, more American than European. It was lined with sleek glass and chrome office buildings, but the central grass strip was scrubby and uncared-for and the few benches where you could rest had syringes scattered beneath them. As I moved further into the city the buildings became older and rather more pleasing, but there was still something lacking. I paused to consult my map in a tiny park on a pleasant residential street near the cathedral square and it was depressingly squalid - grassless and muddy, with broken benches, and pigeons picking among hundreds of cigarette butts and disused tram tickets. l find that hard to excuse in a rich city. Two blocks on and Milan blossomed. Clustered together were the city's three glories: La Scala, the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. I went first to the cathedral - cavernous and Gothic, the third-largest church in the world - begrimed on the outside and covered in scaffolding, and so gloomy within that it took me whole minutes to find the ceiling. It was quite splendid in a murky sort of way and entirely free of tourists, which was a happy novelty after Florence. Here it was just a constant stream of locals popping in to add a candle to the hundreds already burning and say a quick Ave Maria before heading home for supper. I liked that. It is such an unusual sight to find a grand church being used for its intended purpose. Afterwards I crossed the cathedral square to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and spent a happy hour wandering through it, hands behind my back, browsing in the windows and noting with unease the occasional splats from the pigeons that had managed to sneak in and were now leading a rewarding life gliding among the rafters and shitting on the people below. It is an imposing shopping arcade, four storeys high, built in the grandiose style of the 1860s and still probably the most handsome shopping mall in the world, with floors of neatly patterned tiles, a vaulted latticework roof of glass and steel, and a cupola rising 160 feet above a rotunda where the two interior avenues intersect. It has the loftiness and echoing hush, and even the shape, of a cathedral, but with something of the commercial grandness of a nineteenth-century railway station thrown in. Every shopping centre should be like this. Needing my afternoon infusion of caffeine, I took a table outside one of the three or four rather elegant cafs scattered among the shops. It was one of those typically European places where they have seventy tables and one hopelessly overworked waiter, who dashes around trying to deliver orders, clear tables and take money all at the same time, and who has the cheerfuI, nothing's-too-much-trouble attitude that you would expect of someone in such an interesting and remunerative line of work. You don't get a second chance in these places. I was staring at nothing in particular, chin in hand, when it filtered through to my consciousness that the waiter was making one of his rare visits to my vicinity and had actually said to me, 'Prego?' I Iooked up. 'Oh, an espres -' I said, but he was gone already and I realised that I was never going to get this close to him again unless I married his sister. So with a sigh of resignation I pulled myself up, moved sideways through the tiny gaps between the tables, grimacing apologetically as I caused a succession of unforgiving people to slop their coffee or plunge their noses into their gateaux, and returned unrefreshed to the streets.

Now, please answer the following questions:

1. Bill Bryson sounds rather critical of Milan. What is it that he finds fault with? Explain this in your own words.
2. What was his first impression of the Duomo? 3. Why did he leave the caf without ordering anything? 4. Do you share his opinion on Milan?

5. What is your ideal town or city like?

Related Interests