A trip to Lugano reminds one of what Italy is missing, and what would make it better — courteous drivers, spotlessly clean streets, apartments and offices free of the suspicious layers of security ones finds in Italy. But in contrast, a trip to the Cenacolo, aside from being a moving experience in itself that should inspire all kinds of questions about permanence and meaning, also reminds one that Italians, diabolical intentions aside, are wonderful at creating a sense of mystery.
You show your ticket, and then everyone is hurried down a short hallway where the temperature drops noticeable. Then everyone crams into an airlock-like chamber, huddled in front of the door to the refractory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The attendents let the tension build. The chatter dies down to silence. Looking at our reflections in the one-way glass, I counted thirteen of us. One can see, at the bottom, a few feet marching somewhere. Then, the curtain — in the form of noiseless, remotely-controlled doors, pulls back, revealing — darkness. Empty space. On a sunny August morning, it takes some time for the eyes to adjust. You look left, but that’s not the right mural, then right, and there it is. The moths are drawn to the flame, and it’s well worth it.
Italian Switzerland is well-worth one’s time, but the Italian arts of surprise and showing off have their moments to shine as well.