We have settled into our usual routine-last Tuesday after our hectic travel day from Valencia, we slept late, stocked our larder from not one but both supermarkets nearby-never know who might be cheaper. We have decided the slightly smaller once that is 5 minutes away is no more expensive than the one that is 12 minutes walk. In Valencia we didn’t buy the basics (olive oil, coffee, etc. until later our first week which meant we didn’t use everything up, so here we got all those basics on day 1….probably means we will run out here 😢. The picture above is of our place-our apartment is the one in the upper right with the shutters closed-typically they are open but wanted to be able to point it out to you.
On Wednesday we headed into Milano proper-it is about a 25 minute train ride although due to our ineptitude with working the automated ticket machine it seems to take us longer. We aren’t sure what the issue is-sometimes it will take our credit card and sometimes it won’t and of course since we never seem to have small euros, it doesn’t have enough change. I’m sure by the time we leave here we will figure it all out.
In Milan, we explored the area around the duomo-the cathedral using Rick Steve’s audio guide available for free on his app. We have used it other places and been pleased as we were here.
Milan’s cathedral is a bit different than most Italian cathedrals in that is is wholly a gothic structure whereas most here are of multiple styles with a lot including renaissance architecture. In addition to the entry charge, there was an hour long wait which ended up being in the rain.
It is a huge church, third largest in Europe and the decorations are intense. Something like 123 steeples each decorated to within an inch of its life…including inside corners!
We then walked across the piazza to one of the world’s first shopping malls-the Galleria Victor Emanuel.
It is high end shopping at is finest-Armani, Versace, etc. but it has Dining too so we sat and had a delicious lunch of two traditional dishes from this region -saffron risotto (in a Parmesan shell and ravioli with beef and caramelized onions. Mighty tasty.
It was still raining but we walked by L’Scala-since we aren’t opera buffs we didn’t go in or buy tickets before heading back to the station for the trip home.
On Wednesday we explored our village of Paderno Dugnano. It is spread out and doesn’t have the romantic village ambiance that one hopes to find but it does have everything else we need. It of course has a church and apparently some feel the need to protect their concrete yard art.
On Friday, our AirBnB hostess, Cinzia (that’s her I’m talking to) invited us to join her as she visited the market. It is literally at the end of our street! Beautiful vegetables-who knew that there were both spiny and smooth artichokes.
We bought delicious tomatoes, cheese and some pork chops…and olives, always olives and eggs so fresh they still had feathers on them!
And then Cinzia asked if we would like some of her ragu for lunch…you know us, we never turn down a free meal-and this one was big enough that we got two out of it! And delicious too….we at least made the salads!
Of course we’ve been cooking too.
Those are pastas cut like calamari we put in some fresh store made pesto. Yum.
While in Valencia and doing my research on Milan, I learned that getting tickets to The Last Supper should be done months in advance. Oops. I got lucky and we got two of the last four tickets available in April! So we headed into Milan after lunch at home (trying to watch the Budget!). We wandered the neighborhood around the monastery housing this masterpiece if Leonardo da Vinci and of course you never want to see art without a beer first!
We visited the church at the Monastery which was expanded by one of Milan’s kings during the Renaissance by Bramante- he added the dome and apse.
We then were ready for the big event. The king had intended for the refectory to be repurposed to serve as his family’s moseleum. For some reason which I can’t discover it wasn’t. Anyway he hired Leo to decorate one end with the beginning of Christ’s passion and another painter, Giovanni Donato da Montorfano to paint the end of The passion- Jesus’ crucifixion at the other.
Being the crazy guy he was, Leo didn’t want to paint the wall in the Monk’s dining hall using the proven technique of fresco (paint on plaster) as that led to relatively dull colors apparently. Instead he painted on a dry wall. Unfortunately within five years the paint had started to peel, so you can imagine what it would be like now over 500 years later. There were a number of “restorations” over the years some successful and some not so much. So nobody really knows what if any of Leonardo’s paint is left, but the genius of his composition and his idea of having the painting be of the moment when Jesus announced that someone at the table was going to betray him remain. His painting extends the room and even has its light coming from where the real windows are.
In order to protect the painting, groups of 25 visitors go through two dehumidification chambers and then are allowed 15 minutes in the space.
Unlike the small calendar versions I’ve seen over my years, the real thing is huge-15 feet or so long by 29 high. It showcases Leonardo’s expertise in creating depth using perspective drawing which was one of the new things during this period in the art world. Old Giovanni at the other end may have been smart enough to stick with using a fresco but compared to the Last Supper, his painting is pretty flat.
In addition to the restorations that changed Leo’s masterpiece, some fool decided that going around this wall to reach the kitchen was too much trouble and added the door just below Jesus. In copies made by other art students shortly after it was unveiled, Jesus’ feet were visible. If you want to learn more about this incredible work, just Google and you will find lots of information including discussion as to whether that is an effeminate John at Jesus’s right hand or if it’s Mary Magdalene. Where was TMZ when we needed them?
I’m writing this on Monday, April 16 on the train to Bergamo, a small town about an hour from Milan. It is Greenville, SC’s sister city and I’ve wanted to visit ever since I lived there….and ate in its namesake Italian restaurant there…which is also where I was introduced to a French 75 cocktail.
Anyway, have a good week….I’m sure we will!