Milan in a day (and a bit)
Milan very much felt like a whirlwind after the sleepiness of Manarola. Italy was still not over it’s heatwave and we again experienced temperatures in the high 30s. We really felt it after the relief of the cool seaside breeze we had just left behind.
After walking from the main station to our Air BnB in the lovely area called Isola and then up about four flights of stairs (they seem to have an aversion to lifts here in Europe), we were once again exhausted. All the same we had a short rest and got our exploration shoes on and headed into the central part of the city. We were in a bit of a daze, but still managed to check out a beautiful big park, fortifican and of course the famous Milan shopping district – including Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II the worlds oldest shopping mall. Complete with he first every Prada store. 2000 Euro handbag anyone?
Later we headed back to Isola and found a great little bar called Vinyl. I think we managed to stumble across the Thornbury of Milan. The area had a real hipster feel to it – complete with beards and tattoos. It’s funny, we keep managing to end up staying in areas that are a little bit like home. Sometimes we look for something that’s a bit less touristy, but this time it was just luck (we’d really just booked the place because it was close to the station). After a few drinks we had probably one of the best meals of the trip so far at a restaurant called Stravagario Bistrot. Definitely check it out if you’re in Milan.
The one bad thing about our stay in Milan was that our Air BnB didn’t have aircon. Usually it wouldn’t have been a problem, but it was so unusually hot, it made it very difficult to sleep.
Having about had out fill of churches and old/religious art – we decided to check out some different attractions in Milan:
The Monumental Cemetery: This cemetery is huge and has the most amazing array of different graves, tombs and statues. Some very opulent, some modest – but all fascinating. Many of the graves have photos of their inhabitants which was also really interesting. It’s a great free ‘attraction’ if you can call it that. You could spend an hour there (which is about what we managed) or you could spend a day.
Casa Museo Boschi di Stefano: This has been one of my art highlights of the trip so far. Maybe it’s just because it was so different from what we’ve been seeing, but I just loved it. The museum (again another great free Milan attraction) is the bequest of a Milan couple. When they died, they left their entire art collection (mainly 20th century Italian art) and their whole apartment to the City of Milan in 1974.
Every wall of this amazing space was filled with art. As you move through each room, you also move through time. The style of painting, as well as the furniture changes as you go. I loved so many of the rooms, but particularly liked the one dedicated to Mario Sironi. It’s one of the things I love about travellling – discovering new artists. I’ll certainly be adding him to my list of favourites. (You can view an online version of the museum here – but it’s not not nearly as good as the real thing.)
PAC: At this contemporary Art gallery, we saw an exhibition on contemporary Chinese painting. I think it’s important to experiencing cities as they are when you are travelling – and a contemporary Chinese exhibition seemed very fitting and not all out of place in our experience of this multicultural city.
Actually I have to say, Milan reminded me quite a bit of Melbourne (in a very Europen kind of way). The mish mash of fashion, the great food, the art and culture (but more modern than places like Rome and Florence).
Civic Gallery of Modern Art (Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna): This gallery was right next to PAC. On the bottom floor they also had a contemporary painting exhibition. This one was international. They things that was most fascinating is the way the exhibition had been designed. The walls and floors of the very old building that houses the gallery had been covered up to display the art, but were covered with photos of what usually lay beneath. So strange seeing the contemporary art on such an odd gallery space.
On the upper levels was the permanent exhibition. This included a lot of Italian art and sculpture, but also a number of lesser known works by famous artists such as Van Gough, Picasso, Cezanne and more. It was a little bit sad as the gallery was kind of on the tired side and had no aircon. I hate to think how the heat must be affecting the paintings.
We finished off out stay in Milan with one last session at Vinyl. Our dinner was with apparitivo at a local bar/restaurant. You buy a cocktail and then have access to an all you can eat buffet of little nibbles: Focaccia, crostini, couscous etc. It’s a great way to eat cheap in Italy. I wish we had of cottoned on to this earlier. We will be back in Italy to finish off our trip though (Venice and back to Rome), so we may still get our chance.
Italy has been amazing. We have loved every minute off it – even through the heat, sore feet, bad backs, blisters and other ailments. We can’t wait to come back. As we speak, we’re sitting on a train whizzing past glimpses of Lake Como as we head to Zurich for the next part of our adventure and hopefully some cooler weather.