I got a message from Giuliana on Facebook the other day. She wanted to come to Milan to see me. She had come to Italy to visit her mother in Ancona and could make a day trip to Milan, if I was available. It turns out that I was available. So this morning I met her at the train station. This was our first meeting. She had connected with me on Facebook through mutual friends that had visited me this summer.
Despite the Italian name and her mother in Ancona, Giuliana is from Ukraine. Since she only had the day here, I asked her what she had in mind in coming. She said that mostly she just wanted to meet up with me and to possibly make connections through me with other musicians in Italy. But she had an issue with her phone to deal with first. Since Giuliana doesn’t speak Italian, she needed my help to explain the problem to the phone store.
While the phone guy was dealing with her problem, I got a call from Nina. She had come to my house, hoping to find me and go out to lunch with me. This was important because the day after tomorrow I return to the US for my annual Thanksgiving and Christmas visit. We made plans to meet for lunch, and Giuliana was invited, too.
Once her phone issue was resolved, we decided to go to a place I had seen on Facebook: Crazy Cat Café. It is close to the train station, so we walked over. There was a line of people waiting to get in. So we got into line and spent the next fifteen minutes getting to know each other better. Then we were ushered in. Our table had a sugar container, napkins, and a cat toy on it. Although they say that they have six cats, from our table, we didn’t see any cats at first.
The waiter took our order, explaining that since this was their Opening Day, they had a very limited menu. We ordered American coffee and a brownie each. After he went to fill the order, I saw a small gray cat dash by. A woman at a nearby table lunged for the cat, but never got close to it. I was horrified at her behavior. Cats need time to warm up to people, and this one was clearly spooked already.
In my opinion (which is what you always get on my blog), the Crazy Cat Café’s opening was a success. The coffee was real American coffee, not espresso with hot water added. And the brownie was both chocolaty and a light texture. When we exited there was still a line of people waiting to get in. I told those in line that it is worth the wait. The owner was out there and heard me say it. He said, “Thanks!” The sincerest compliment is the one made when you didn’t know the person could hear you.
Then we returned to the train station where we met Nina and Michael. We went for a pizza and they got to know Giuliana, as I translated. It was a nice lunch and good time together. Then Nina and Michael said their goodbyes, knowing that they would not see me for a few months.
Then Giuliana and I went to my apartment. On the way we stopped at the bus, where lots of people (from all over Italy and beyond) have been sharing Jesus with passers-by on the busiest shopping street in Milan. I explained my ministry, how I collaborate with missionaries, like those at the bus, and how my apartment is used for hosting missionaries that come to Milan. She liked the idea of hospitality as a way of encouraging missionaries. Then I went online and helped her buy her return ticket to Ancona. She wanted to stay long enough to get a good visit, but not so long that she would arrive late at night. So we got the ticket and hopped onto the bus that goes downtown. Although Giuliana had been to Milan before, she’s never had the opportunity to see much of it. I told her, “You’re in luck! Pretty much everything worth seeing in Milan you can see in a day.”
I said, “I think you need to see some chocolate shoes.” If you want to see the look she gave me, look in the mirror because you’re probably making the same face right now. On the seventh floor of the department store by the Duomo Cathedral is a display of chocolate shoes and chocolate purses. Of course she took pictures. Then I took her out the door to the rooftop café, where you have the best view of the cathedral’s roof. Although it is possible to take an elevator to the cathedral roof, this is the best way to experience the roof (again, in my humble opinion). She took some more pictures and we left before we would reasonably be required to buy an over-priced coffee.
From there we went through the Galleria, and on the way we saw a spaghetti chandelier. Of course, I had to take a selfie under the spaghetti chandelier! Then on to the Galleria, where people were spinning on their heels on the bull’s nether regions (for luck—I’m glad that I don’t have to depend on luck, being blessed). And then a look at La Scala, which is really not very impressive from the outside. I wanted to take her for a walk down Corso Dante toward the castle, and on the way we heard piano music. I thought it sounded like a real piano, not a keyboard. When we got close enough to see, it was indeed a real piano. Since Giuliana plays the keyboards, she was very interested to see and hear this piano busker. I admit, I’ve seen buskers with a variety of instruments, but this is the first time I’ve seen one playing a real wooden piano in the open air. He was very good.
Giuliana really wanted some gelato, so we sat at an outdoor café, eating gelato and watching the parade of tourists go by. What a life!
Then it was time to take her back to the train station. I’ve said it before: my work hardly feels like work, and today was an outstanding example of that. God, the maker of cats, is good!