I’m probably going to upset my Milanese blog readers, but I can’t help it: Stefano and I didn’t care much for Milan. That said, however, we did have a good time, and we also managed to pack in a lot of sightseeing. On Saturday morning, as soon as we got off the train, we purchased a two-day bus, tram and subway ticket. Highly recommended, since the subway system is easy and takes you to most of the attractions.
First stop: Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” Stefano and I had originally planned to go there with a friend. But he’d had a family emergency and wasn’t able to come with us, so we were left with three tickets. No huge deal, since they cost only €8 each (about $10). But when Stefano and I saw people being turned away in the ticket office, we announced that we had an extra ticket and would be happy to give it to someone. Well, we made a Asian guy’s day. He had been hanging around the office, hoping that there would be a no-show…so he was absolutely delighted to get our extra ticket.
Before entering the former refectory where the “Last Supper” is located, we had to pass through a couple of special airlock-type chambers, which were installed to protect the masterpiece from dangerous pollutants and whatnot. Ah, how coincidental!, I just found a 2011 “Science Daily” article on this very topic: http://goo.gl/7EDLN
Well, what can I say? Seeing the “Last Supper” was the highlight of our entire two-day visit. Yes.
I’d read about the damage sustained by the mural painting (which is not a fresco, mind you…Leonardo painted it on a dry wall, not wet plaster, which turned out to be a huge mistake…But you can look all this up online, so I won’t dwell on it, as interesting as I think it is…). And if you look closely, yes, you will see the damage…
One thing that stunned me is that Jesus doesn’t have feet. Apparently, in the middle of the 17th century, a nincompoop monk decided that it would be a good idea to cut a door right through the lower part of the painting, right smack through Jesus’ feet. The door has since been bricked up (you can still see its outline), but Jesus’ feet are gone forever. Well, back then I guess it was more important to have an extra door than a couple of feet. 😉
So the best thing to do is to stand back and admire it at a slight distance (the last row of benches, more or less). It’s spectacular from there…
Since you have to leave the refectory after 15 minutes, make sure to have a look at the Crucifixion fresco on the opposite side of the refectory. Leonardo painted the Sforza family figures there.
Oooooh, I just found something that is rather neat: a link that will take you “inside” the refectory and allow you to zoom in and out and move around using the up and down, left and right arrows. It’s interactive, in other words, and will give you an idea of what Stefano and I saw. Check it out: http://goo.gl/SQngQ You will now be able to see that blasted arched doorway…
Anyway, after leaving the refectory, we also visited an exhibition displaying part (20 pages or so, out of more than 1000) of Leonardo’s Atlantic Code, but it was really hard to see the pages properly–too dark inside the exhibit hall. Still, I always love peering at Leonardo’s unusual handwriting and drawings, even his drawings referring to hydraulic energy, something that interests me less than zero…
Second stop: Castello Sforzesco, via Dante and the Duomo. If you want to walk on the ramparts of the 15th century Castello Sforzesco, which is probably a neat thing to do, you have to make a reservation, which we didn’t do, oh well.
A bit disappointed, we walked down Via Dante, which connects the castle to the Duomo. It’s a nice walk in a pedestrian area…beware of the tourist eateries, though!
When we arrived at Piazza Duomo, we headed straight towards the cathedral. We had originally planned to climb to the top (to have a 360° view of the city). What we didn’t know, however, was that Cardinal Martini, the formal Archbishop of Milan, had just died. His body was on display inside the church, and there was an endless queue of people waiting to get inside the church, see photo (which, however, gives NO idea of how many people were in line)…The wait would have taken hours. Too long. We gave up and left…oh well.
Third stop: The Navigli, Milan’s system of navigation and interconnected canals, part of which dates to the 12th century. Our hotel was located right on the Navigli. After checking in and resting our aching backs for a bit (Stefano had been carrying all his heavy photo equipment; I, a knapsack with a change of clothing and other random stuff, which got heavier by the hour, no idea why… 😉 ), we headed back to the Duomo to take a few more photos and see if by any chance the crowds had diminished. They hadn’t. We hopped on a tram for the Navigli and went out for dinner…
Yesterday: Since it had rained all night, and the weather was still iffy in the morning, we decided to visit a couple of museums. The first was the National Museum of Science and Technology, which we had been told was lots of fun and interesting. Yes, true, parts of it were indeed quite interesting…
I was struck, however, by the fact that there was an ENTIRE section on recycling and on rubbish disposal, BUT after we’d finished drinking a bottle of water (bought from a machine INSIDE the museum!), we couldn’t find a plastic recycling bin…or any other sort of recycling bin, for that matter. Hello???!!!
Another negative point: there were very few hands-on displays. Too bad for all the families with kids…
So, mainly for those reasons, in our opinion it didn’t compare to the equivalent museums we’d visited in Boston, Toronto and Munich. (Sorry.)
I know, I know, so far I must be sounding sooo amazingly negative. But wait, here’s a positive note! Yesterday morning/early afternoon we also visited the Pinacoteca di Brera, which contains one of the most important collections of paintings in all of Italy. For example: “The Kiss,” by Francesco Hayez (very famous!), Giovanni Bellini’s “Pietà” and “Madonna and Child,” Rubens’ “Last Supper,” and Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emaus.” The list goes on and on. Uhm, of course, here in Florence we have the Uffizi Gallery… 😉 (Oh sorry, couldn’t help myself!)
We then went back to the Duomo for the third time in two days, but there were so many people waiting in line to pay homage to Cardinal Martini that a second, seemingly endless line had formed. We’re talking, hundreds of thousands, here. The Duomo, we’d heard on the news, had been kept open all night. Amazing. Perhaps it is about time for the Vatican to wake up and smell the coffee??? Check out this interesting article by “The Independent”: http://goo.gl/1n9f5
We changed our tickets and took an earlier train back to Florence. Well, it was fun to be out and about for a couple of days.
And the “Last Supper” was definitely worth the trip…yes, definitely!
That was such a wonderful trip. Me and my family are also planning to visit Milan next month. Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂
Loved hearing about Milan Margaret! Enjoyed learning so many details and always love the pictures! And the link that took us inside the refectory to see the Last Supper…amazing!! I will never get to see it in person so this was the next best thing! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your exciting adventures!
THE DOOR 🙂
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1-2).
That Duomo looks nice. It’s almost as good as yours 🙂