Saturday, April 6, 2013

Walking Milano

Our walk around Navigli last night in fine drizzling rain gave us picture perfect views of the streets along the canal in the fading light. A little show of sun just as it was setting to the west gave us a hopeful sign that the weather might be better tomorrow.

This district was in decline as traffic on the canals diminished during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Things have changed for the better since the 1980s when houses along the canals were renovated, artists started to move in and restaurants opened along the waterways. But it is still a bit rough around the edges.......

There is a huge black and white photo on the wall of our apartment of this picturesque Vicolo dei Lavandai - where in the old days the locals (women) washed their family's clothes with water from the canal.

Today it forms a lovely entrance way to the El Brellin Ristorante.

The Navigli was very buzzy tonight - great for people watching.  However despite our best efforts we couldn't raise enough of an appetite to repeat our lovely night of eating and drinking from last night - too much delicious lunch I'm afraid.

We woke to a cold morning today (5oC) but clear skies and a bit of watery sun occasionally. A good morning for our visit to the Duomo.

This is the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in Italy (outside the Vatican anyway) so our first impression of the interior was it's stupendously grand soaring size and the opulence of its decoration.

We were probably most impressed with the beautiful inlaid marble floor. It's mind boggling to think that parts of this building date back to the 1300s.

We did what all good tourists do and paid our fee to see the spectacular Duomo roof which allowed us an extraordinary close up view of all those very complicated to conserve pinnacles, spires gargoyles and flying buttresses that adorn this wedding cake of a building.

.....and great 360o views of the Piazza del Duoma below and views of the full extent of Milano beyond. Unfortunately it was not clear enough today for us to see the Italian Alps in the far distance as Alfred, Lord Tennyson was able to do back in his day.

This is a view to the south-west where the Navigli district is (20 minutes walk from the piazza).

We were very conscious of the beauty and age of all the marble. Although the building is constructed of bricks it is faced with salmon pink marble from the Lago Maggiore near the Alps in the north. The marble was transported to Milan via our Navigli canals. Apparently Leonardo da Vinci had a hand in improving the lock systems for these canals at one there are many connections here.

It's exhilarating to walk on the roof over the Duomo nave - high above the historic old town of Milano.

Rob took this great aerial shot of the Piazza below.

...where we later found a real life Italian political demonstration was forming..crowds of well dressed conservative looking people, banners, placards, music and passionate (of course) speeches.

Going by the well mannered crowd..I think it was an environmental protest..OGM (maybe genetically modified)....

and no weapons either..maybe?

From the Duomo we made our way to lively Via Brera (the Art and Design District) past the famous Pinacoteca di Brera art museum, then left at Via Pontaccio and left again at Via Mercato.  With all the small design ateliers set into into these ancient buildings and the pedestrian friendly walkways it reminded us a lot of our favourite Marais district in Paris - but a lot quieter on this laid back Saturday afternoon.

We chose this caffe lunch stop at the Piazza del Carmine fronting Santa Maria del Carmine. Just a salad for me and no beer. I want to enjoy a lovely dinner tonight at the Navigli!  There must be hundreds of these charming and historic piazzas around every bend in the road in the old city of Milano.

I wanted to find the Pasticceria Marchesi, in Via Santa Maria all Porta, one of the oldest and most famous pastry shop in Milan (established 1824).  We found it, and admired the exquisite merchandise and the bow tied dark suited gentlemen working behind the dark panelled wood counter, just as they have for the last 200 years. But we were even more impressed with what we found behind the shop.

These Roman ruins were only discovered in 1949 in a clean up operation after the war.  It is believed that these are the foundations of a really extensive palace complex built for the Roman Emperor when this city was designated capital of the Empire back in 286. The court was eventually transferred to Ravenna in 452 AD when Attila the Hun conquered this city. I wonder did Attila the Hun live here then?

It was quite a long walk back to the apartment after this.  Although it was well after our lunchtime by now we noticed that our favourite little bistro on Via Torino had attracted quite a queue of potential diners.  No wonder that Milanese madam in charge of the place has got so bossy!

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