Christmas Scenes At Milan (1833)


If you cannot stop to see the Carnival, says a Milan correspondent, you must at least find time, to spend your Christmas here; especially if such another mild and lovely winter as the present should enliven your sojourn.

The whole hive of dealers and shopmen are busy, tempting the eye and purse-strings with their choicest finery ; but none may vie with the Italian lord paramount in the mysteries of the confectionary art; his myriads of sweet temptations really look magnificently seductive in front of his gorgeous mirrors, when seen under the advantage of the glow of artificial light which evening brings with it.

Next in order stand the cervelkri or cascolini, with their hundred varieties of cheeses and sausages, set off by pillars of gigantic Bolognas, reaching to the very cieling, and intermingled with delicately arranged capriccios in fresh and smoked meats, festoons of anchovies, &c.: and last, but not least, enormous and splendid Gorgongola, Lodi, and Parmesan cheeses,—those better than mines of gold to the thriving graziers of Lombardy.

These substantial delicacies, however, are not allowed to owe their attraction to their mere intrinsic recommendations; for they are disposed in a brilliant array of artificial and natural nosegays find garlands, and sometimes whimsically besprinkled with parti-coloured lamps.

Every shop, throughout the entire length of the Corso’ to the ‘ Piazza del Duomo’ is thus redolent with dainties; forming a species of ante-saloon to the gay theatre of Christmas-tide on the latter spot, where humour and idleness lounge hand-in-hand beneath the arcades of the Merceria, or the azure canopy of heaven. Here are vehicles, loaded high with laurels and evergreens for the hallowing of the Nativity ; and, beside them, beautiful pyramids of citrons, oranges, and lemons, fresh from the gleaner’s fingers: whilst, ever and anon, some vender of sugared titbits, bon-bons, graven images, and such-like ware, comes treading along, harnessed to his travelling bazaar. This is the crowded mart, into which the whole neighbourhood for miles and miles away empties its thousands.

I have seldom cast eyes on a healthier looking, handsomer, or sturdier race of mortals; their national costume sets off these noble models of the human form to admirable effect; and the peasant girl, with her long silver needles, set in congregated rays in her ebony tresses, comes tripping like a rural divinity to bless the scene.

It may be wanting in the fiery tone and animation which is so peculiarly the characteristic of the Roman and Neapolitan orgies, and nothing may flit across it, like the spirit-stirring ballad of the shepherds and mountaineers, who crowd the streets of Rome and Naples on Christmas-eve, and wind from house to house with their rustic harmonies;—yet, even here, there is enough of originality in the life and character of the pantomime to fascinate an unaccustomed eye.

Making your escape from the noisy crowd to the polished throng beneath the Arcades, the contrast, which here presents itself, is singularly striking; you have stepped, in a twiknling, out of the province of nature into the region of art; the whole prospect, before and around you, sparkles with jewels, gold and silver, and every gay and glittering adornment, which luxury can covet, or the ingnomity of fickle fashion contrive . . . . .

Source: The court journal: court circular & fashionable gazette, 1833
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