By the end of our trip we will have visited Milano three times! I visited here twenty-five years ago and loved it then. I still do! It is a big, smoggy, busy city. And yet filled with a warmth and culture different from other areas of Italy. The old saying has been that the north of Italy (read Milano) has been the wealthy industrious heart of the country, and that the south (read anything south of Milano) has been more laid-back and, let’s say, less than wealthy. It’s not meant as a compliment to the Italian southerners. But one thing I observed while in Milano is that they work hard. Long days, long weeks, busy, busy, busy. I have to admit that the lazy man in me really enjoys the kicked-back nature of the rest of the country, the “I’ll open the store when I feel like it” freedom and independence. But the efficient American in me really admires the industriousness of the Milanese. Maybe there’s meant to be a balance here…
Back to Milano. We stayed with our friends Juan and Talissa Gil. Juan is a Santa Barbara native who ended up in Milano in the photography business where he met Talissa who was a model at the time. They have four kids close in age to our kids. They are amazing hosts! Imagine cramming your family of six into your bedroom so that another family of five can sleep in the kids’ room. Add to the mix Rachel (their wonderful au pair) and Leah sleeping in the other room. Shake in a regular stream of friends and business associates passing through for dinner or a conversation and you have an idea of what our stay was like. Being a family of five, we make a major impact upon whomever we visit. They made a big sacrifice to put us up, or put up with us as the case may be. We ate together (Talissa is an amazing cook!). The kids played together. I helped out with the business. We went on a double date. We even got to celebrate Christian Gil’s fifth birthday along with twenty some-odd Italian five-year-olds. Wild! Thank you Juan and Talissa! We look forward to taking you two out on your next visit to Santa Barbara.
We spent a good deal of time in the area around the Duomo in the center of Milano. Now, just about every Italian city worth its weight in pasta has a Duomo, but Milano has “The Duomo.” This place is huge! It is primarily gothic in design, but because it took so stinkin’ long to complete its construction (several hundred years), it has a few renaissance touches. The sides and roof of this structure are littered with thousands of icons and statues. The inside is cavernous with columns that just may rival the size of the columns in Karnak Temple from Egypt. In fact that’s a lot of how it felt inside, like we were in an Egyptian hypostyle hall. There are beautiful stained glass windows all around, and yet it was always dark inside. It’s really quite breathtaking. Megan says that it is her favorite of all the duomos, maybe even better than St. Peter’s in Rome. I agree. It’s very cool!
We spent an afternoon exploring the museums, courtyards and gardens of the Castelo Sforzesco. It’s where the ruler of Milano lived back when this was a medieval city. A real castle complete with moats and gigantic walls. We then wandered through the Galleria with it’s cavernous glass covering. At the center of this very prestigious mall/business center you have Gucci sitting kitty-corner to an elaborate McDonalds. Around the corner form the Galleria and just behind the Duomo we had lunch at a local panzerotto shop called Luini’s. Basically these are delicious folded pizzas, kind of like a calzone, and the closest thing you can find to Italian fast food. Leave it to Milano to figure this out!
We tried twice to reserve viewings of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper but were thwarted on both attempts. Ever since the “Da Vinci Code” you basically need to get reservations several months in advance. But not to worry. We also visited the Leonardo da Vinci museum. It is a fine science museum highlighting models of several of Leonardo’s sketches. It also has a nice replica of the Last Supper in it, and you can take pictures here! I figure that if I want to see the real thing I’ll just have to go on the Internet or rely on my dark photos from twenty-five years ago.
With the wonderful history and architecture to take in and the fun and hospitality we enjoyed with the Gils, we have nothing but good to say about Milan. And that without even having a stitch of ancient Rome in it! How did they do that? We love it!
The Duomo and The Last Supper