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Tag Archives: Milan

Not the usual travel photos

21 Apr
21 April 2016. We are once again traveling with stops in Milano, Paris, London, and Dijon. Rather than give you a rundown on the sights we’ve seen, I thought I’d share some of our more unusual photos. We have a lot of fun going to less-known neighborhoods and sights, taking walks where mostly locals walk, and looking at even famous sites with a fresh perspective.
Please click on any photo for a better view and complete caption. 

 

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The wonder of Christmas lights

18 Dec
When we were kids, our parents used to take us out at least once every Christmas season to look at the lights in various neighborhoods of St. Paul, Minnesota. We so looked forward to those drives, wondering if the house on Snelling Avenue had the Santa, sleigh and reindeer up again this year (very special in the late 1950s/early 1960s) and marveling at the “rich people’s” houses where there were so many lights you knew they did not have any concerns about electrical bills. Our house always had a few strings of lights, but somehow the other neighborhoods seemed more exotic.
Ahhh, the Milano Duomo and its magnificent tree!

Ahhh, the Milano Duomo and its magnificent tree!

When my son was small I’d do the same thing with him although eventually these viewings became what he called forced marches through neighborhoods in Omaha and Portland as we took to our feet instead of the car. Ric and I have continued the tradition everywhere we’ve lived and traveled, with fond memories of wandering down Peacock Lane & strolling through the Grotto in Portland. In Italy the private dwellings are not the focus, it is the public lighting.
Wednesday night we traveled through Milano, stopping for one night on our way to Paris, and made a point of taking a Christmas Lights Walk. Subtle, like Roma, nothing really garish, but people were out in droves enjoying a crisp-but-not-cold night, taking the kids to see Santa, shopping, and gawking at the tree in Piazza del Duomo.
Adding to the festiveness, a live orchestra was performing in a building overlooking the Piazza del Duomo. Christmas songs done in a swing style with a proper chanteuse singing in slightly accented English (‘Ave you-self a merrrrry little Chris-mas.…) blared out through open windows and over a magnificent sound system. People were paying rapt attention even though one could not see the musicians. It truly was festive!
Click on any photo for a slide show.
I am looking forward to the French experience in Paris where I understand the lighting is far less subtle.

Milano Musings

2 Mar

When you arrive in Milan after living in Rome for awhile, the first thing you notice is how tall the buildings are. (If you are coming from, say, Seattle or Denver, you won’t even notice.)

The Duomo in Milano, during a brief rain-free moment in the evening. It truly is spectacular!

The Duomo in Milano, during a brief rain-free moment in the evening. It truly is spectacular!

In Rome nothing can be taller than St. Peter’s Dome, so the buildings all top out at about 6 floors. This lends an interesting sameness to the architecture of Rome, a unity in height if in no other manner. Also, in Milan, there is a “newness.” As the city was heavily damaged in WWII, one doesn’t find as many old buildings.

The second thing you might notice is the streets: they are wider overall than in Rome, and fewer are winding alleyways. Some areas have broad flat sidewalks without loose stones so you can walk without watching your feet. And it is flat. Rome’s famous seven hills won’t exactly test the legs of someone from Portland, but Milan makes Omaha look hilly.

Not your average mall restaurant....

Not your average mall restaurant….

I had need to go to Milan for work, and Ric came to join me for the weekend. Two days in the office passed easily enough and I didn’t have time for any culturally significant outings. Upon Ric’s arrival we headed to Centro Storico to wander around, taking a quaint little tram that dated to 1928.  Now some real behavioral differences began. In Milan, those waiting to board a tram or a Metro train actually let those exiting get off before shoving their way on. Ric and I turned to each other in wonderment! What a delightful change in comportment!

We shopped a bit – after all Milan is the shopping Mecca of Italy – then proceeded to supper in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. To call this a “mall” is like calling Villa Borghese a “playground.” No food court or discount stores here. Rather the likes of Prada, Valentino and Versace. For the record, we didn’t buy anything in the galleria.

Saturday dawned like a Portland March day, but even colder and wetter.

The rain did not deter the crowds waiting in line to enter the Duomo. Glad we arrived before the line was so long.

The rain did not deter the crowds waiting in line to enter the Duomo. Glad we arrived before the line was so long.

It never stopped raining, making for a good museum day. We were impressed at the number of people out despite the rain. Long queues of umbrellas waited patiently to enter the magnificent Duomo, and we narrowly beat the crowd both at the Duomo and for an Andy Warhol exhibit nearby, handily avoiding the long queues because we are early-birds. The Warhol exhibit was eye-opening as we discovered some of Andy’s less-known work, all from the private collection of Peter Brant. Truly amazing that one person could have amassed such a collection from a single artist.

The pillars in the Duomo of Milan are about the size of sequoias.

The pillars in the Duomo of Milan are about the size of sequoias.

As to the Duomo, this is the fourth largest church in Europe and quite a contrast to most of those we’ve seen in Italy. Ric said “This church seems almost Lutheran,” which is quite insightful as it is predominantly Gothic, reminiscent of the Protestant Churches of Northern Europe. Of course the Lutheran churches in our hometowns lack marble, entombed remains of cardinals on display, or pillars the size of sequoias.

Yes, that's the body of a Cardinal, with a silver death mask. Nothing like this in St. Paul, either.

Yes, that’s the body of a Cardinal, with a silver death mask. There’s nothing like this in St. Paul, MN.

4th longest nave in Christendom, so says my guidebook.

4th longest nave in Christendom, so says my guidebook.

There's nothing quite like this in St. Paul, MN.

There’s nothing quite like this in St. Paul, either.

The afternoon took us to a more obscure museum, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana  where the building was as much art as the contents. This is a fabulous palace with amazing mosaics and inlaid floors. Regrettably, no photos allowed so I cannot show you. Again, a private collection, this time of none other than a Cardinal from the 17th century, Borromeo.  In this vast collection of 1600 items there’s a Caravaggio, Raphael’s original charcoal drawing for his Vatican fresco “The School of Athens,” a Tiziano, a Botticelli or two, a DaVinci, several Brueghels, and a lock of Lucretia Borgia’s blond hair. Oh, and Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus in its 1119 page glory is in the library at Ambrosiana. We saw 22 pages carefully displayed. (It’s only 500 years-or-so old.) Church work was very profitable back in the old days…. I don’t think Papa Francesco would approve today.

For those looking at this post as a travel guide, we stayed at Hotel Teco, a sweet and relatively (for Milan!) inexpensive hotel at about €137.00 per night including breakfast. We were able to get a VAT exemption as diplomats. To my Embassy friends: don’t overlook the paperwork needed before you travel.  A 17 minute walk or €10.00 cab ride from Milano Centrale, Hotel Teco is convenient to the Metro (5 minute walk to the Rosso), and Tram #1 to the Duomo is about a 7 minute walk. Numerous restaurants including Ristorante Sabatini (the woman at the front desk said ottimo pizza” and she was right!) are a short walk away.  I also like Osteria Mamma Rosa nearby, although we didn’t make it there this trip.

I’ve been to Milan four times for work, and once prior in personal travel. I’ve either lacked time or weather sufficiently pleasant for a trip to the roof of the Duomo. I think we’ll have to take advantage some sunny summer day and hop a train to Milan just for the day and make our way to the top. 

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