In Milano on Ferragosto, the festival celebrating the Assumption of Mary, walking through the felicitously planned, carelessly groomed park around the Castello Sforzesco, you hear dancing. They’ve just finished singing the immortal, shameless Toto Cutugno hit L’Italiano as you spy the big white tent with no walls, and come closer and see a roiling crowd of rhythmic seniors dancing to the music, getting their juice from a middle-aged couple singing onstage.
She’s a long-haired brunette with white skin and a girl’s earnest voice, in wide-legged white pants, and she’s got just the tiniest bit of a camel-toe when she hitches them up across the swath of belly towards the tiny black top while blowing, out of breath, up on her bangs because she’s hot, and you can see the opaque front pockets shining through the white linen pants on her hips, and she’s fanning herself with some cheap disposable fan between verses, making smiling flamenco gestures with her hands, and the impromptu-dancing audience is loving the generation-old tunes she and her too-tanned partner with Roman hair and a hoop in the ear are belting through an amateur-sounding audio system, and it’s a real feria of an atmosphere and everyone is twenty-five years younger and there’s racial and gender and all other kinds of harmony in effect.
The women in this city, by the way – the 45-and-over set – are unabashedly, gloriously sexy: bright-eyed, tanned and wide-hipped, impossibly slim-waisted for their or any age, squeeze-breasted, with fine lace bras peeking out of their, say, aquamarine summer dresses that show plenty of leg, the occasional burst of cellulite or varicose vein on the satin skin notwithstanding. They feel beautiful and they smile and smile, and it all works for them, in the sense that it works for them and their audience. Maybe it’s Ferragosto or maybe – in this city of effortless, airborne feel for style – maybe they’re born with it.
In the evening, after a meal organically balanced between salty and bitter, wine and fish, sprezzatura and conversazione, you walk along an old residential street when, in a quintessentially Italian moment of the horsehair canvassing of cinema that undergirds life becoming just barely visible through the quotidian fabric, one looks up to see a man in a third-floor room in this old quarter of Milano – so the ceilings are high – sitting before a flat-screen TV mounted high, looking up in devotion, his face illuminated, gaze transfixed, high on the bare wall behind him a picture of Mary.
An image right out of Reality.