Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 2 - More of Milano

Today's highlights: visiting two of the world's great art treasures - Leonardo's "Last Supper" and Michelangelo's unfinished "Pieta of Rondanini."

Reservations were made several months ago to view the Leonardo masterpiece. After going through two air-controlled rooms, groups of 25 people are allowed 15 minutes of viewing. Everyone knows what the painting looks like so there is no need to describe it, or mention what a moving experience it is to stand in that room. I observed one woman in tears, being comforted by her daughter. "The Last Supper" evokes that kind of response.

Stepping into that hall, my first impression was that the fresco is larger and more brilliantly colored than I expected. When you move closer, the colors do not seem to be as penetrating as from a distance, however. I believe it is quite appropriate that this Leonardo masterpiece does not hang in a famous art museum or in a majestic cathedral. It exists in a small, neighborhood church - the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. (Photos not permitted in the "Last Supper" hall. Image above is small-sized reproduction.)

Church of Santa Maria della Grazie


The  Sforza Castle  (Castello Sforzesco) is a massive and imposing, but not aesthetically pleasing, military fort built to protect the city of Milano in the late 1300s. In later centuries it served as a Renaissance palace for the Sforza family, and later as military barracks. It is now home to a number of museums, all covered under one admission price. The first and most magnificent is the Museum of Ancient Art. I honestly had little interest on this day (jet lag had finally conquered me), but because of the presence of Michelangelo's unfinished Pieta, chose to tour the museum. It is interesting and educational to see Michelangelo's work in this state, chisel marks and even some uncut marble still showing.
Michelangelo's unfinished Pieta
We quickly walked through a paintings museum which would be of considerable interest to fans of early Italian art, but not to me. Our only other museum of interest was one dedicated to the history of musical instruments - lots of cool stuff in there.
Leaving the castle we walked through one of the few green spaces we have seen in Milano, a park described by some as the city's Central Park, to a grand triumphal arch similar to the one in Paris. This arch was built to face in the direction of Paris, welcoming the rule of Napoleon. When the Milanese figured out just what kind of a despot he was, the horses on top of the arch were turned around so their "tails" faced toward France.

Final site visited La Scala Opera House Museum. On the previous day we had seen the famed opera house without realizing it. Although the world's best-known and most prestigious opera house, the exterior of this 1778 theatre doesn't really stand out in this neighborhood near the Duomo and the Galleria Victor Emanuele.  We did the museum thing, which thankfully included an opportunity to look into La Scala's breathtaking theatre where a set was in place and light crews were engaged in a tech rehearsal.


Some general observations about Milano: 
  • Traffic was heavy, but not super crazy or unorganized; that must be a Rome/Naples thing... 
  • Just walking around reminds you that Milano is one of the fashion capitals of the world. The women are very style conscious... 
  • Nancy and I both concluded that we had not seen so many men in suits in ages, but then I remembered the city is a banking and finance capital also...
  • Dogs seemed to be a component of the Milano style, and not just mutts, either. Didn't seem right though to make a dog take care of his "business" on a busy city sidewalk... 
  • Saw much more smoking than we are accustomed to, but probably not as much as on our last trip to Germany... 
  • Saw lots and lots of women with babies, but not one pregnant woman in public... 
  • Kansas City's Country Club Plaza could learn something from Milan's Via Dante. No vehicle traffic at all; restaurants extend their seating into the street; a great deal of activity going on.

Time to turn in - have a train to catch in the morning, headed toward Lake Como.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Miss you guys already. Maybe you could try an Internet cafe?