Europe | Italy | North West | Milan – Easter in Milan
Milan. Another city, another country, another language. Back in France, I had been mixing up my s’il vous plaits and por favors, and my mercis and gracias. At least Italian has similarities to Spanish, but there’d be times when I’d find myself saying “Yeah, I mean oui, I mean si!”
The train from Nice arrived at Milano Stazione Centrale after what seemed like an eternity. The train was quite full, perhaps with the Easter crowd, and there wasn’t much to look at outside the train. On the inside I had to contend with two American students conversing with a German for the whole way, discussing the finer points of existentialism.
I’d known that there wasn’t really a lot to see in Milan, compared to say Florence or Rome. This suited me quite well as I was a tad exhausted from three weeks of walking around cities. And so I spent a deliberately slow time walking around the central part of Milan.
The main square in the city, the Piazza Duomo, is where everything worth seeing seems to be. The large square is dominated by the Duomo Cathedral at one end, started in 1308 but only finished 600 years later. The cathedral is topped with 135 pinnacles, each with a statue perched on its very end. What a view they must have, eternally guarding the city.
I usually like the interiors of churches more, particularly this one. The cavernous interior is supported by a dozen or so massive columns, and on this Easter Sunday a church service was being conducted in Italian. Shafts of sunlight were piercing through small openings in the roof diagonally into the dimly lit interior giving it a soft and mysterious ambience. The glow from the magnificent stained glass windows also added to the atmosphere.
Right beside the Duomo is the imposing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a large covered shopping arcade four storeys high and built in the 1860s. Just behind this is a small square with a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci. It made me smile when I overheard a five year old enquiring about the statue to his mother. On hearing the answer “Leonardo”, he replied “Di Caprio?”
The world famous La Scala opera house is also just nearby, where tickets are scarce during the opera season. I also visited the Castello Sforcenza a few blocks away, a huge 15th century fortress built by the Duke of Milan at the time.
Milan is more well known as a fashion capital, and I strolled down to the fashion district where all the big couture names have stores. As it was a Sunday, the shops were closed, not that it bothered me a lot as I didn’t particularly need to know which shoes I just had to have next summer. I had an interesting time window shopping, looking at the various samples of clothing displayed with their prices. Most of them were in the three figure price range, some were four.
One particular item of fashion caught my eye. For a mere six hundred euros, I could own an Alviero Mantini suit covered with a multi coloured map of the world, complete with Africa on the crotch! I couldn’t see what was on the back, but with my geographical knowledge and imagining the map continuing behind the trousers, I’d estimate the country on the back of the trousers would be, oh, New Zealand. I was glad to know that if I was lost in, say, Zimbabwe I merely had to stare at my crotch for a while. Or if I wanted to find my way from Wellington to Christchurch, I could ask a local to take a look at my ass.
Can be done in a day
Milan has its share of things to see, and if fashion and shopping is your thing then it might be worth checking out. But despite all this I found Milan to be a city lacking in charm, seemingly preferring to be driven by its status as a commercial and fashion capital rather than any desire to be a cultural one.