A sunny morning with some clouds in a mostly blue sky…..a big improvement over yesterday. We pretty much sleep through the night, which should put us pretty solidly on Italy time.
Breakfast comes with the apartment and it is served at a bar a few steps away. The weather is nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the morning calm while getting a view of the back of the Duomo.
First stop is to take advantage of the nice weather and go to the roof of the Duomo for a close up look at the spires and statues as well as getting a view over the city and out to the snow covered Alps. After a long wait at the ticket window, Diana heads for the elevator and I opt for the stairs (250).
The roof of the Duomo is quite a magical experience.... you are walking right next to the tall spires, decorative grill work, amazing statues as well as being hundreds of feet in the air looking out over the city.
When we go down, we see that the lines for both and elevator and the stairs are longer than the ticket line we had stood in so we are glad that we beat the rush. Next we go inside the Duomo.... which is one of the largest in Europe. Started in the 14th century, it took more than 300 years to complete and, in spite of that, the Gothic style still predominated. Inside, the most striking features are the massive columns and the gigantic, beautiful stained glass windows, some dating to the 15th century.
The piazza is full of people on this beautiful Saturday...lots of tourists and Milanese in the large square that also connects with the Galleria, an immense covered shopping structure from the 19th century which is also a symbol of Milan.
We walk through some of the old section of Milan, past the Piazza Mercanti (the old market, now a memorial to Italian war dead
and up to the Via Dante, a pedestrian only street that leads to the Castello Sforezco, another major Milanese landmark.
We stop for good sandwiches at a sidewalk cafe on the street (prosciutto and mozzarella for Diana, prosciutto, grana and rucola for me) and then hop on the tram that goes to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The Last Supper (L'Ultima Cena) by Leonardo da Vinci is the granddaddy of all Last Suppers....it has to be booked weeks or months in advance because only 25 people at a time are admitted through a system of "air locks" designed to keep out impurities and humidity. The fresco has been deteriorating almost from the day it was finished because Leonardo used a dry wall "fresco" which enabled him to make changes, rather than a traditional wet wall. However, the technique is not long lasting and over the years, it was retouched over and over again until it was almost unrecognizable. The most recent restoration tried to bring the work closer to the original but it is still much faded and damaged.
But it has the power of a true original and is still considered the most powerful of Last Suppers.
We take the tram back to the Duomo and walk over to the gelato place that was so crowded last night....and find it even more crowded today. So we opt for a gelateria near the apartment and brave the lesser crowd there.
Good gelato....fior di panna and peanut (new to us) for me and pistachio and crema di vaniglia for Diana. We find a perch on the Corso and eat the gelato and watch the crowds walk by.
After Diana goes back, I make one more reconnaissance walk to another section of town....this time to the ultra-exclusive Quadrilatero della Moda where all the big names of Italian fashion and retail (Versace, Gucci, Rosa Valentino, etc.) have stores. As lively and noisy as our neighborhood is, the Quadrilatero is calm and classy and refined.
I find one of the museums that we will go to tomorrow and continue on to the public gardens passing one of the old gates to the city, the Porta Nuova, which still spans a major street in Milan.
Back at the apartment, we try to relax but the crowds on the Corso are making lots of noise as they stroll back and forth
but a sudden thunderstorm completely empties the street...the noise of the storm is bliss compared to the throngs.
The international flags, by the way, are advertising a big international expo next year in Milan. The rain stops and we walk over to one of the restaurant in the neighborhood, Al Cantinone.
and have a very nice dinner....starting with delicious gnocco fritto (fried dough pockets) served with prosciutto, salami and lardo and then two Milanese specialities--osso buco and risotto for me and a coteletta milanese with risotto for Diana. We finish off a nice bottle of Chianti Classico and end the meal with a pleasant conversation with the French couple sitting next to us.
We walk past the busy gelateria on the way back and it is even more crowded than before....so we go back to the apartment, watch the final episode of MI-5 and go to bed. We are liking Milan very much..the only downside has been the noise in the street outside our apartment--crowds, street musicians and a street cleaner with a leaf blower at 2 am.
Tomorrow...the Brera Art Gallery and the Bagatti-Valsecchi house museum.
Jim and Di.