Monday, May 5, 2014

Italy 2014: Day 4: Monday: May 5: Milan

After breakfast at "our bar",  we are off to the La Scala Museum.  We are not opera fans but visiting the museum allows a peek 
from the boxes into the most famous opera house in the world, which we don't want to miss.  The museum is geared to opera buffs so we make a quick circuit of the exhibits.  Since there is an orchestra rehearsal going on in the hall, visitors are crammed into three boxes behind glass to see the hall.  We take our turn, admire the hall, listen to the orchestra and leave.

However, in a bit of serendipity, I check the program for La Scala for the month and see that there is a chamber music concert scheduled for today at 3 pm.  It appears to be a special program for groups of students and senior citizens.  When I ask at the museum box office, they suggest that we check with the ticket office in the early afternoon to see if any tickets have been turned in.

We decide to carry on with our Monday plan (many museums and attractions are closed on Monday so we have saved those that are open for today) and walk up the street to another house museum.  The Casa Poldi-Pezzoli museum is quite different from the Bagatti-Valsecchi house in that it is set up as a proper museum/gallery.  Gian Giacomo Poldi-Pezzoli was a major art collector in the 19th century and decorated his palazzo to harmonize with his collection.   On his death, he willed the collection to the Brera Academy and it was opened as a museum in 1881.  It was heavily damaged during World War II but the art had been moved to safe locations so, once the house was repaired, the museum reopened.

Here is the main staircase leading up to the apartment (Note...these are not my pictures)

and one of the rooms which shows the breadth of the collection.

His collection of Italian and northern European painters was unrivaled and, in addition to the art, the collection includes some fantastic pieces of furniture, fabric and decorative arts.  Here are some of the pieces that especially caught our eye.


Botticelli Madonna of the Book              Bellini Pieta

If anyone wants to learn more about the collection or see more of the holdings, here is the link.  

In this museum, there were also some modern installations (as in the Bagatti-Valsecchi house) interspersed throughout, as a counterpoint to the collection.  Here are Diana's pictures of two of the pieces.

The museum's audioguide was one of the best we have ever used...the explanations were clear, concise and were extremely useful in helping to understand the collection.  Both house museums were worthwhile and enjoyable in completely different ways.

On the way back to La Scala, we had a light lunch at an attractive informal osteria (whose name escapes me)....but all the food was excellent--fusilli with tomato sauce, a simple prosciutto sandwich and macedonia (fruit salad).  We were lucky to beat the the time we left, the place was mobbed.

We luck out at La Scala and are able to get two tickets to the afternoon all-Ravel program which is great with us.  We have a bit of time to kill before the the concert so we hop on a tram and ride for about 15 minutes, get off and come back. Milan has tram tracks throughout the central city and one takes trams rather than buses. We got on a vintage one, with polished wooden benches.


The concert was terrific, it was a great treat to be able to get into La Scala...without having to dress up or to sit through an opera.   

A quick stop on the way back to the hotel at La Rinascente, the big department store (think Bloomingdales) just across the street from the Duomo.  On the 7th floor (the fancy food court), the balcony provides a great view of the Duomo. (Not my picture.)

Since the day is still sunny and warm, we stop for a prosecco at a bar near the apartment and watch the crowds walk back and forth.  Great people watching territory....

We are not too hungry for dinner on our last night in Milan, so we decide just to get a pizza at a pizzeria around the corner.  The place--Mozzarella and Basilico--is part of small chain and it is bright and cheery.  Good fried appetizers, drinkable house wine, nice vibe, tasty toppings almost make up for the crust, which is not our style.

We have had a great time here...we didn't get to do all the things on our list so we have an excuse to return.  Milan is very lively and quite attractive despite its reputation as a big bustling, not very Italian-like city.  On our next visit, we will stay a little further away from the very busy shopping and tourist district in back of the Duomo but we are looking forward to our next visit.

Tomorrow off to Mantova....

Jim and Diana

PS Diana wanted to mention that she was extremely struck by number of Japanese and Russian tourists in Milan....much different than our last visit 12 years ago.