Monday, April 8, 2013

Cold wet and chiuso in Milano

Today (Monday) dawned cold (7oC max predicted) and wet in Milano.  We also realised that being a Monday (Lunedi) in Italy - lots of places were going to be closed (chiuso).  We had very few incentives to get going early so it was after 11.00 before we braved the elements, waiting patiently in the rain on Via Valenza for the number 2 tram to take us to the Piazza del Duomo. From there our plan was to find our way to Via Dante, heading north west up towards the magnificent old Castello Sforzesco.

The pic below is of me heading out of Via dei Mercanti on to Via Dante thinking how wet cold and windy it feels in Milano today and how quickly can we get today's sightseeing over before we can get warm again! 

I am pleased at this point (below) because we can cross a big intersection using the Metro underground and get out of the cold and rain for a while. Those magnificent flowering Magnolias in the background reminded me that this is SUPPOSED to be Spring in Milan.

 It is all worth it(?) when we cross the Piazza Castello and see the Torre del Filarete - the entrance to this castle / citadel whose chequered 600 year history reflects all the drama and history associated with the evolution of the city of Milano, the region and the country as a whole.

The Torre del Filarete and much of the by then very damaged building was restored in the 1800 - 1900s.  However allied bombardment of Milano in 1943 severely damaged the castle once again. 

The extensive and expensive post war reconstruction of the building was justified on the grounds that the castle became the site for a number of civic museums........none of which were open today because Lunedi is CHIUSO. 

The gardens that evolved into Parco Sempione (at the north entrance to the castle) were created by the French rulers of Milan in the early 1800s.  The park had a big clean up in 1996 and is now popular as the "green lungs of Milano". The Arco della Pace in the centre of the pic below was constructed in the early 1800s to celebrate Napoleon's victories (just like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris). Today it was barely visible through the rain.

This is me (below) looking wet, cold, yet happy because we decided we'd had enough and we were going to find somewhere warm and dry for lunch.  But later somewhat dejected because our new favourite bistro in Via Torino was CHIUSO on Lunedi too!

We've spent our last late afternoon in Milano not doing much at all - dry and cosy in our apartment and getting ready for our train trip tomorrow.

Some random thoughts about Milano:
  • We visited Milano briefly in 1975 and saw Leonardo's "Last Supper" in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie...without the crowds, the queues and the pre-booking hype. That's why it wasn't on our to do list this time!
  • Is there more graffiti in Italy than anywhere else or is it just that no one is employed to clean it up?
  • We talked to a young man from Nigeria in Africa (who has lived in Italy for the past 10 years) in the Immigration queue at Malpensa airport and he told us that he found Italy to be a racist country.  In Milano we've seen very few people of colour engaging in mainstream or professional jobs/social activities etc. They definitely seem to be much more marginalised than we're used to.
  • The butcher shops and fruit shops in Milano are things of great beauty and a joy forever.
  • I have tried espresso coffee in Milano and I like it!
  • Mature, highly experienced, beautifully groomed Italians seem to work in all the service and hospitality industries in Milano. Unlike at home where usually the young, the unskilled, and often the marginalised work in these industries .
  • We know Italy's economy is shot but I do hope they never cut back on the absolute fortune they must spend to keep their trains running as beautifully and efficiently as they do!
  • I want everyone to know that Rob and I really have been changing our clothes each day. It's just that our Goretex jackets and waterproof boots are the only things we can wear on top that will keep us warm and dry in this weather.  (I am so thrilled that my new boots are not only good to walk in but are WATERPROOF too!)
  • There is a lot to be learnt about Older Gentlemen's Style on the streets of Milano - it comes down to careful grooming, beautiful shoes, well designed sunnies/spectacles and a stylish scarf.
  • It's noticeable how slim, beautiful and stylish many women are in Milano - but a lot of them smoke! 
  • That whole aperitivo happy hour phenomena is so popular it must be having a huge impact on Milano's dinner scene!

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