As I continue with my “digital postcards” when I travel, I am happy to share these from a recent journey to Milan (or, as the Italians say, “Milano” – a sound I like but it’s perhaps a bit pretentious for this New Yorker). And while I like to say that, yes, I fell in love with Milano, I don’t need to be overly exuberant.
So I’ll forgo the usual online comments about the food (who doesn’t love Italian food, especially as it’s served in Italy?), the beautiful and charming sound of the language when spoken by Italians, and the cheerful friendliness of a hotel’s serving staff (and other employees) in the city-center neighborhood where we stayed (and probably everywhere else as well). We were also truly lucky to be near the best museums – from what I gathered from some other travelers – and while I was unable to visit as many of them as I would have liked, anyone coming to Milan will soon realize that it is a city whose citizens love art, both ancient art and much art that relates to other times and places.
If there was a tiny disappointment, it was finding that Milan is a very crowded place, especially in the main part where people (especially we tourists) mingle. But all the people did not make Milan unbearable. In fact, they made it more excitable. And despite the crowds, there was the sheer pleasure of finding one’s self in short walking-distance to the Duomo, probably the most iconic image associated with the city (and certainly the most visited – I’ve never seen so many people lining up to go into a single attraction, and in this photo these were early-morning visitors, not the masses coming later in the day).
And certainly many visitors come to the Piazza del Duomo for the city’s famous La Galleria, Italy’s oldest shopping gallery. Shown here, it is the very grandiose city gate-like building just beyond the statue at the center of the square. La Galleria, recognized as a major landmark for the city, is named for Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy. Housed within a four-story double arcade in the very centre of Milan, La Galleria was designed in 1861 and built between 1865 and 1877. The building is formed by two glass-vaulted arches intersecting in an octagon covering the street connecting the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala.
And speaking of the crowds, with all those people about, there’s the human level to think about. Strolling about the Piazza del Duomo one day, we came across a great many people just wandering about in the bright sunlight, and Andrew and I, along with our friend Sandra (Sandi) Kitt who was traveling with us, had fun getting to know some of the Milanese we ran into from time to time.
We met one young man – known only as “Lusmorfie” – who sometimes paints on the sidewalk, on the pavement itself. He also paints small framed pictures (like those shown above) and makes some money from coins and bills people leave for him, as well as from the occasional sale. The day we met him he was using a huge sheet of paper, working at one side of the cathedral. He reminded us of a young man we know in New York, so we had some limited conversation with him (that is, he speaking in Italian and we in English). And, yes, we bought one of his pictures to give to our friend back home, just because we liked him.
Then there was La Scala, possibly the real reason a fellow like me would want to come to Milan. I had planned it all out. And, yes, that probably best-known opera house in all the world lived up to my expectations, as readers will see with one of the “digital postcards” I’ll post.
For this time, I’ll end these introductory notes with this: Visiting Milan with the good luck of going there in the month of May was very special. We got to see the city’s many beautiful plantings – trees, shrubberies, grass, and anything else growing – looking splendid in the late-spring, early-summer greenness that I had not expected. For some reason I had not paid attention to what’s often said about the natural beauty of Italy’s Lombardy region, and even driving into Milan from the airport on the first day provided a refreshing and bright welcome to this beautiful place.
So let me tell you about my trip. I’ll limit these digital postcards for Milan to what I’ll describe as my four “highlights” of the visit, which I intentionally described as “remarkable” in my title. Readers who might not want to explore each of these with me can pick and choose. Not much commentary this time (with one exception) and, perhaps more fun, links to quick photos. Snapping pictures is becoming a happy hobby when I travel.
Those highlights? Over the next few weeks I will be pleased to share notes and photos about:
- La Scala (no surprise if you know this opera lover),
- my rather thrilling discovery of the sculptures of the Cimitero Monumental and what I’m calling their “pre-Art Nouveau” look,
- the stunning collection at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, and, finally,
- (as part of that great collection), a separate and very personal commentary about the cartoon for Raphael’s School of Athens (the exception noted above).