We have walked by and photographed the Duomo (Milan Cathedral) all week so today it was time to investigate further. The piazza in front of the Duomo was originally completed in the 14th century and the Duomo itself took about 6 centuries to finish and apparently is in a constant state of renovation or repair.
When it was started, it could hold the entire population of Milan (40,000). It still is a seriously large space. The interior is 11,700 square meters. The highest point of the nave is 45 meters high. You look up and you feel like you are connected to heaven itself!
Even today there is scaffolding up, but very artistic scaffolding that has a screen hanging from it with a picture of the real façade of the Duomo printed on it. Of course, you can still tell that it is there to hide the work being done to preserve the marble exterior. The detailing on the outside of this white/pink brick covered with marble is breathtaking. There apparently are over 3,500 marble statues, 100 gargoyles and so many buttresses, pinnacles, pillars and arches that the exterior looks like the ultimate wedding cake. On the very top of the highest spire or pinnacle (109 meters high) is a golden Madonna who has become the symbol of Milan.
Olivia opted to go up to the roof (there are stairs, over 200 of them, and you have to come down as well as go up) to see more of the remarkable details up close and to view the city from a new angle. The stairs are hundreds of years old, not always level, and some are very well used (slippery) marble. In the end, the trek was worth it and the view was amazing!
Oh to be in my 20’s again with young strong legs! As I write this blog Olivia has gone to the exercise room in our hotel!
Before lunch we managed to find an antique picture store where I was able to purchase one map of Milan from the 18th century and three drawings. The three drawings had some quite interesting depictions of the area around Via Larga, where Givoanni Grancino’s workshop was. One of them clearly shows a canal system. I had not realized that Milan had a series of canals that were the main transportation routes for bringing in supplies like marble for the cathedral and wood for my violin. Apparently this canal system of Milan was three times longer than the waterways of its tourist magnet neighbor, Venice. The152 kilometers of historic shipping canals were constructed by the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci. Railroads, trams, and automobiles spelled the commercial end of the Milan canal system. What remains of them are falling apart and experts are fighting to save one of Italy’s lesser-known treasures. One of the pictures that I purchased for the CMSM actually shows the canal street scene one street away from Via Larga where my violin was made.
After another tasty lunch just down the street from the Ferarri test drivers (no, I did not sign up! I left my stiletto heals at home!), we walked to Milan’s Opera House and waited in line for a tour of the Museo Teatrale Alla Scala. We just had to visit this world-class opera site and the experience of simply sticking our heads into the main theatre was well worth it. Hopefully next time we come to Milan there will be a classic opera on stage!
Leaving this museum we stumbled on yet another one, the Gallerie D’Italia, housed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings of the Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi and Palazzo Brentani. There we viewed some of the approximately two hundred works from the 1800s. Newly opened in November 2011, today we were the ONLY visitors and had the whole Palazzo to ourselves (plus all the security detail that kept their eyes on us, or Olivia’s legs). Amongst all these works we found more pictures of these early canals in and some amazing architectural details that gave us a hint at what it must have been like to be wealthy enough to own such a place. You can actually take a virtual tour of the exhibit at the Gallerie D’Italia website.
Tomorrow, our last day in Milan, Olivia and I will join Claudia Benetello (who has translated “Peggy’s Violin” into Italian) and her friend Raoul Picciotti to see the oldest and only remaining canal, the Naviglio Grande. This canal takes its water from the Ticino River and was constructed from 1177 to 1257. It is about 50 km long. And the area around is quite the cultural centre. We will attend a concert there to check out yet another possible performance venue for Peggy’s Violin.
And also tomorrow we will be right in the heat of the moment as our hotel and Via Larga are situated right at the finish line for the Giro d’Italia, where we will be cheering for the Canadian cyclist, Ryder Hesjedal, who is currently in 2nd place. No Canadian has ever won or come close to it. The finish line is at the Duomo.