Monday, April 8, 2013

Weekend in Milan

Once again Tom's job took him away from Zurich - this time to Milan. Since we'd never been there before, we took the opportunity to visit the city together on the weekend. It's about a 4 hour train ride which we were told is more convenient than flying. I caught the train after my class on Friday and was in our hotel before his meetings were finished for the day.

We immediately took to the streets to explore.  We walked towards Milan's renowned "Duomo" or cathedral. Like the other European cathedrals, it took centuries of building to bring it to completion as recently as the 1960's. It is amazing - beautiful stained glass windows, intricate stone carvings and of course, gargoyles. I must admit we didn't expect to see huge advertisements covering the scaffolding on the areas under renovation (on the huge historical and religious landmarks there seems to be a guarantee that there will be some portion covered by scaffolding). 

yes, that's an ad for Bailey's on the left
cathedral rear with clothing ad

We visited the inside the next day and also the roof, luckily before the rain came. In the interest of time, we took the elevator to the roof. (that's the only reason)

Here are some exterior close-ups. 
Stained glass windows look much better on the inside.

A sampling of the interior:

to give you a feel for the size note tiny people

closer to the front altar
even the floor has an intricate design

small chapels line the sides

 Do you agree that the stained glass is prettier on the inside?

I have to include this one gruesome statue and story. This is St. Bartholomew, one of the 12 disciples. He was eventually tortured to death by being skinned alive. That is why we see his muscles so easily. The drape around him is his skin! Ewww! But an incredible work of sculpture.

Now, up to the roof.

gargoyles and someone "mooning" the city
I'm not as mean as I look ...maybe

We didn't expect to see statues standing on the roof.

I would NOT want to walk on these stairs!
to give an idea of the size

clock on building across the way

They also use trams for advertising, but the windows are covered unlike the  tram advertisements in Zurich.

One of our "must sees" was daVinci's "Last Supper". In order to see it, a reservation with a tour guide has to be made in advance. We met our guide at the Castello Sforzesco. We had already seen it at night on our way to dinner the previous day. Judge for yourself, but I think it is pretty by day and by night. Maybe the Italians are trying to save money - only one side was lit up.

Forsythias to make me believe Spring will eventually come. It was not warm in Milan.

We were to meet the group at this clock tower entrance. There was a little anxiety while waiting since we saw no official tour agency sign. Eventually others arrived which was comforting. The guide came right on time and not a minute earlier. While we were waiting we watched people getting ready for what we guessed was a fundraising run. People watching is always a fun part of travel. 

Mr. Green?

Like the Colosseum in Rome, plenty of cats make their home at this castle. Some were enjoying a bath in the sunshine.

Milan is the city where Leonardo daVinci spent most of his life. He is fondly referred to as "Leonardo" - no other name necessary. We heard many interesting stories about him and his life on our tour.

Eventually, we made our way to see the Last Supper. It is a wall mural so has been in the same place all these many years. With the abuse and wars, it is hard to believe how it survived. 

Oops, that's an imitation!! Actually this is Tom with his family during a holiday gathering. How convenient that they had exactly 12 people. This was taken after Judas left the scene. You get a prize if you can spot Tom. (hint: he is NOT the bearded fellow)

Of course, no photos are allowed while viewing the real work of art. I bought this post card not only for the pictures, but because it shows how Jesus' feet are not visible. While the building was a barracks, it was determined that it would be convenient to have a door on this wall. The work was cut just like the center section shows here! We were also told that this wall was used for games with men throwing things at it! Incredible.  We went to another museum that had a display of Leonardo's original sketches. In both places, we had to go through several doors in order to keep the inside climate stable. 

Above: special daVinci road signs                               Below: More fun people watching

I always admire how still human statues can stand. They generally acknowledge a monetary donation. The one on the right looks like he's in motion, but he was not.

This one gathered quite a crowd because she seems to be balancing on air!

WWF was fundraising in Milan. This one is for Lynn although it's for sure not the cutest panda she's ever seen! 

Remains of the old city wall and couple smooching on a public bench. They kept at it while our tour guide led the group past. Only in Italy? (I couldn't resist the photo opp)

Milan may rival Paris as the fashion capital of Europe or the world. It also rivals Brussels as the dog poop capital. If you go to Milan, watch your step!

statue of needle and thread in honor of the fashion industry
It was definitely fun to window shop - lots of amusing displays. Pictures were a challenge because of the glare, but I have to share a few.

shoes spinning on carousels

shoes in non-spinning birdcages

furry shoes

Like the hat with the sunglasses built in? Just pull down the brim and you're all set. No need to carry any other glasses in your pocket or purse.

exactly how high are those heels? 

I really, really wanted one of these lace one piece outfits, but there was no time to go inside! Honestly, who would wear that?

As in most European cities I've visited, there is an unlimited supply of interesting buildings that look like they could be museums, but are not. Here are a few:

Stock Exchange and rude sculpture

Just like your Post Office, right?

Shopping Galleria in center reminiscent of the one in Brussels
Napoleon had this archway built - similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. He was in prison by the time this one was completed. 

Milan will host the Expo 2014. Not sure what that is, but they're getting ready. 

Alfa Romeo was founded in Milan and their logo is fashioned after Milan's flag only the reverse. Milan's flag has the cross on the right.

In our wandering, we also stopped in another couple of churches and a villa that is now owned by the city and open to tourists. We couldn't get inside La Scala (their opera house) because they were sold out by the time we thought about it. We had their pizza, but it was just too cold for gelatto! We'll have to go again sometime in warmer weather and buy tickets in advance for La Scala.