Destination

SWITZERLAND & NORTHERN ITALY #10: MARVELOUS MILAN

We didn’t see much of the city of Milan, but what we did see was marvelous!  The day began with a visit to the church and convent, Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s world-famous mural, The Last Supper.  This mural is so famous that it is viewed by 1,000 people per day (on timed tickets), and the tickets are sold out three months in advance.  Only small, guided groups are allowed in to see it at a time, and it is very tightly controlled with high-tech security. 

(For all photos, click on the image for a full screen view.)

The church, built after the convent, dates back to 1490 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Da Vinci painted the mural in 1495-1498, during the High Renaissance period.  “Truly I tell you.  One of you will betray me.”  These were the words spoken by Jesus that provoked intense emotions in the twelve apostles.  Da Vinci portrays their shock in his masterpiece that has been viewed by countless people over hundreds of years.

Da Vinci used an innovative “dry” technique (a mixture of oil and tempera to bind the pigments) that enabled him to ponder his work and achieve vivid color effects with translucent glazes.  This technique, however, made the painting extremely fragile and in need of continuous restoration.  The latest restoration was completed in 1999.

Directly opposite The Last Supper is The Crucifixion, by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano.  He used the traditional technique of “fresco” wall painting to portray a scene where saints and “blessed souls” of the Dominican order, with the city of Jerusalem in the background. 

Next, a local tour guide took us around the historic city center of Milan, which is known as the only “European” city in Italy.  People come from all over to work in Milan and are quite open to experimentation and innovation, especially in fashion.  Jobs in Milan are the best-paying jobs in Italy, but the flip side is that housing is the most expensive as well.  Apartments cost anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 Euros per square meter.  Compare that to the 400 Euro in Perugia where our tour leader, Maria, lives and it is shocking!

The day we were in Milan the European Union elections were taking place, but only 7% of Italians voted.  In general, Italians don’t follow politics and are not informed.  50% don’t vote at all, and that percentage is growing. Sound familiar?

Our walking tour took us past the Teatro La Scala opera house and Duomo di Milano to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II.  This is no ordinary shopping mall; it’s the place to shop!  Not that we were there to shop; haute couture isn’t our thing.  Built in the late 1800’s, the architecture, with its glass dome and mosaic floors, is gorgeous.

This mosaic mural was in the bar famous for serving Campari drinks.

Following the tour, we had free time, so Bruce and I visited the duomo.  We had pre-purchased tickets, which allowed us to bypass the long lines, so we were grateful!

The duomo took nearly six centuries to complete and seats 40,000 people!  Started in 1386, construction was finally finished in 1965 and is the largest church in Italy.  In the world, it ranks third in size. 

We may not seen anything other than Milan’s historic city center, but what we did see was nothing short of amazing and beautiful!

Our evening was spent back in Lecco, where we walked as a group to a local restaurant for dinner. 

Following our return, the skies opened up!  The electrical storm that followed was like fireworks on the 4th of July.  This is a video I shot from our hotel balcony.  At times, the auto-focus got fooled, but you will get a good idea of what it was like.

Coming up next: SWITZERLAND & ITALY #11: VIBRANT VARENNA

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