It’s clear by now: Guy fell hard for this glorious city.
And, yes, he will return to Milan when he has the chance.
Until then, these “digital postcards” and the upcoming personal essay will have to do for sharing some of my favorite memories with friends.
Of course I can’t write about everything I saw and learned in Milan. So for what are pretty clear reasons, allow these four posts to give you a taste of what I experienced. One quick way to do that would be to pretend that you—my readers—have asked me what I would recommend if you had limited time to enjoy Milan. And as you’ve probably guessed, there isn’t anything more for me to say about La Scala or Cimitero Monumentale (or if there is more to say, I’m too polite to take up any more of your time).
So we’ll move on to a third example, and I’ll tell you a little about La Biblioteca Ambrosiana and La Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. Both are located in this single large building, since both the Ambrosian Library and the Ambrosian Gallery are part of the same institution, the Federiciana di Ambrosiana.
Here’s the background: From 1621 until 1776, Milan had its Academy of Fine Arts, established to provide free cultural and artistic training to anyone with artistic or intellectual capabilities. The Ambrosian Gallery was part of the academy, having been founded in in 1618 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, who had already donated his collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings to the Ambrosian Library, which had been instituted in 1607. Thus the two organizations came together, providing one of the world’s great cultural institutions. And despite the closing of the academy some two hundred and fifty years ago, outstanding works continue to be collected, making them available to scholars and researchers over the years.
And while this isn’t the place to go into a deep-dive description of La Biblioteca Ambrosiana—often in Milan described to as La Veneranda [Venerable] -Biblioteca Ambrosiana—I am happy to refer readers to a fine article by Cullen Murphy in The Atlantic, published July 7, 2023, just a couple of months after our return from Milan. Click on this title (The Greatest Museum You’ve Never Heard Of) and you’ll get a very good idea of how exceptional these Milan institutions are. And my travel companions (Sandra Kitt and Andrew Berner) will agree with me that the title of the article captures the essence of what it’s like to visit La Biblioteca Ambrosiana. It really is probably “The Greatest Museum You’ve Never Heard Of.”
As for what else I want to share with you, I can’t begin to describe the excitement I felt as we walked though the splendid collection of art works on display in the Ambrosian Gallery. Of course I couldn’t photograph them for you, but a small sample has been put together for visitors, and I’ve added photographs of these in the attached album. If you have a few minutes, click here and enjoy a glance at these treasures.
Now let me whet your curiosity and mention my next post, coming soon. It will be my last item about Milan, and it, too, will refer to La Biblioteca Ambrosiana. But this is only a mention, because it’s not written yet (even if it’s already titled). Watch for “Milan: Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’ and Me.”