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Time gain Milan

By roving hack Ignatius Rake
Milan, Italy

Posted July 12, 2012
The Duomo di Milano milan time slip timeslip
Then it all went weird: The Duomo di Milano. © Ignatius Rake

According to Quentin Robert DeNameland, "Time is of affliction." In Milan, it's just screwed up, as this time traveller can attest.

Being a right scav, I love covering trade fairs so I was more than happy when I was sent to cover one in Milan, even though this sober city of commerce and industry isn't a patch on Genoa or Rome.

Indeed, on my previous visit there I had left with the distinct impression that Milan is not only thoroughly overrated but also incredibly boring.

However, while I wasn't expecting much from the city itself this time around, I certainly wasn't prepared to come face to face with some bizarre fortean phenomenon.

But when exactly do you expect the space-time continuum to suddenly go to pot?

Whenever I'm on this kind of an assignment, I find myself constantly glancing at my watch because time ticks away rather rapidly when you've got lots of stands to visit, people to interview and freebies to pocket.

Having already seen that it had gone 17.40, I wasn't surprised when at 17.50 a voice came over the PA declaring in English that the expo would be closing in 10 minutes at 18.00, which, true to the announcer's words, it punctually did.

Not wanting to be locked in for the night, I bagged up my swag and joined the heaving exodus.

After waiting for Lord knows how long at the fair's own Rho-Fiera metro stop at the end of the M1 line, I eventually squeezed onto a train bound for Duomo, some 17 stops away.

Arguably, with my extended metro ticket I could have gone pretty much anywhere in the city but I chose Duomo as I fancied a butcher's inside the Duomo di Milano, a well spiky marble-clad cathedral that as well as being the fourth biggest church in Christendom is also quite possibly the largest stone rendering of an albino hedgehog to date.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II milan time slip timeslip
Bull market: The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. © Ignatius Rake

Excluding my wait, the journey lasted around 25 minutes if not longer.

However, like the masons who took nearly six centuries to complete the city's cathedral1, I was in no particular rush.

After all, I'd just finished work for the day and was in no hurry to do anything, except maybe get a pint later.

Once at my destination, I spent a good 15 minutes leisurely poking my nose around the hedgehog's innards, a vaulted stylistic mishmash where Shelley apparently liked to read a bit of poetry whenever he was in town.

After my ecclesiastical interest had waned, I strolled outside onto the broad Piazza del Duomo.

A good place to buy an overpriced puffo ice cream, the Piazza is ringed by façades of 19th century grandeur offset by a few flourishes of fascist futurism in the guise of the Palazzo dell'Arengario2.

Not being a fan of fascism in any shape or form, I blew out the Palazzo and instead bimbled over to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a posh-job shopping arcade opened in 1877 that in addition to a triumphal arch entranceway also boasts an impressive glass and ironwork roof and dome.

Here I wandered around aimlessly, eyeballing the pricey trinkets on offer and the rich locals in their snazzy threads before stopping to watch a group of Japanese tourists in full Shibuya clobber taking turns to pirouette on a lucky bull's bollocks.

Fortunately for all concerned, the beast in question was not some snorting beefy behemoth but part of a larger mosaic beneath the Galleria's central dome.

Tradition has it that if you stand one-legged on the bull's hairy saddle bags and then make a full 360, any wish you make will come true.

Whatever the provenance of this superstition, so many people have upheld it over the years that the poor creature's cobblers are now seriously compacted.

Clearly, both locals and emmets alike are far too busy with their own desires to wish him a new pair of nads, something I'm sure he'd ask for himself were he able to rise up and somehow swivel on the remnants of his own knackers.

Charles Fort milan time slip timeslip
Charles Fort: Dude. (Check bottom for credit)

Perhaps it was the Mediterranean climate or simply seeing so many suits sipping expensive espressos everywhere, but as I pitied those pitted pods before me I became increasingly consumed by a need to drink some tea.

Thus, bidding the bull and his battered balls goodbye, I exited out onto Via Silvio Pellico to look for a local Pellicci's that, unlike the plush greasy spoons I'd just left behind, would sell me some splosh for less than a kidney.

However, as I wended my way around the adjoining streets, I was suddenly stopped dead in my tracks by an otherwise unspectacular street clock.

"Ha!" I laughed derisively, clocking that the clock in question said 18.10. "That clock's wrong!"

Now, I'm not normally so critical of inaccurate timepieces but for some reason I was unusually conscious of what appeared to be its gross inaccuracy.

So conscious in fact that I felt compelled to check my own Swiss-made watch.

It too said 18.10.


Somewhat bemused, I sauntered off, scratching my head until my eyes spied a spot for a cuppa.

"Tè con latte per favore," I said to the chap behind the counter.

"Sure," he replied. "But we close soon at six thirty."

The clock above him said it had just gone 18.15.

I checked my watch again.

All hands were in agreement.

I sipped my tea in silence.

Somehow I had left the trade fair at its stated closing time; waited for a train; traversed more than half the M1 metro line; mooched round a massive stone hedgehog; ambled about an arcade; pondered the pummelling of some pictorial plums; sidled up some side streets; and then ordered a brew with milk and all in the space of 15 minutes.

Now what, Charles Fort3, do you make of that?


1) Work on the Duomo di Milano started in 1386 but was only completed in 1965. Apparently, the builders said it would take "just a couple of weeks" but you know what they're like. Mind you, they did a lovely job once they pulled their finger out.

2) Check out the bombastic Milano Centrale train station if you want to see a massive Milanese monument to Mussolini's megalomania.

3) Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) was an American journalist who catalogued anomalous and paranormal reports, ranging from frog falls and spontaneous human combustion to ghosts, cryptids and UFOs. Spending much of his time sifting through "the data of the damned" in the New York Public Library and the British Museum Library, he wrote four seminal texts based on his findings and theories, viz The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932). It is from Fort that the terms 'fortean' and 'forteana' derive. To learn more about this home-brewing inventor of topeacho, have a read of this.

Picture credit (bottom only)

Charles Hoy Fort in 1920 by an unknown photographer.

For licensing information click the above link.

All other photos © Ignatius Rake.

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