I am staying with an airbnb.com host a little outside of Milan, in the city of Gorgonzola. I have my own room and I get to play with Matteo and Mery’s golden lab mix as much as I want to which is great! Plus, Matteo lets me use his bicycle whenever I want, which is great! I used his road bike on Saturday to bike into Milan from Gorgonzola. The trip takes about half an hour by metro but it took me a little more than an hour by bike, plus some extra time to figure out where I was once I made it into the city. I managed to make it to the area around the Duomo right around noon. I downloaded the Trip Advisor Milan city guide to my iPhone and decided to follow the City Highlights Tour. The first stop of the tour was, surprise, the Duomo. Apparently, the Duomo is the fourth largest Christian Church in the whole world! Although it was certainly large, something about the architecture made it seem as though it wasn’t THAT big. The outside and inside of the church were equally impressive, I really enjoyed all of the paintings on the inside. Still, I have seen my fair share of churches so I didn’t linger for too long. The next stop on the tour was Milans main shopping gallery right by the Duomo, the Vittorio Emmanuele Galleria, which I honestly had no interest in because it was packed and everything there is expensive. I checked out the architecture of the gallery building and then moved on towards La Scala Opera House. Before going inside, I ate my peanut butter and jelly, apple, and chocolate outside, then bought a student ticket to visit the Theater Museum.
La Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, so it was cool to see the opulence displayed in the main corridor and to see the stage from one of the boxes. The interior design of the place makes you feel like no expense was spared. The actual museum was fairly disappointing though, because nothing was very well explained. There were tons of famous musical instruments and costumes used by fantastic opera stars, but without a description accompanying them it was hard for me to comprehend the significance of the items and artwork. My favorite part were the opera costumes from the last 100 years. I think an audio guide or a guides tour would have been useful to understand what everything was.
The next museum I visited, the Museo Poldi Pozzoli was so much better because included in the ticket price was an audio guide which explained the art and the historical items in this house museum. Pozzoli was a very rich Milanese art patron who never married and so when he died he donated his entire home and art collection to the state. During the air raids of 1943, his home was badly damaged, but the majority of the art collection was kept elsewhere and thus preserved. The art collection, along with surviving furniture is now displayed in the house which underwent extensive restoration. As you move through the museum, you not only learn about the art but also about the mindset and the values of the man who collected the art. Pozzoli especially enjoyed Lombardy art from the 15th and 16th century, so his collection provides a great overview of Northern Italian art. Although this museum did not include as many masterpieces as some other that I’ve been to, I really enjoyed the commentary provided about the artwork and the way that the audio guide also caused me to identify with Pozzoli and his reasons for treasuring each piece of art. Great museum staff is always a plus as well, and in the museum one of the older Italian men doing security made sure to show me where the best pairings were and how to pull up the commentary on his favorite piece of furniture, and ivory chest engraved with ancient maps of Italy’s main regions. This Museum was also fairly empty, quite, and peaceful, a nice refuge from the city and my favorite attraction of the day.
A short walk down the street led me to Via Montenapoleane, the designer street in Milan. All of the major high end fashion designers in the world have a shop on this street, so it was interesting to see their window displays. Still, since I wasn’t in the market for buying and the street was fairly crowded, I left the area pretty quickly. The Trip Advisor recommended a coffee stop at the Armani Cafe, which I also decided to pass up. Armani has an entire emporium in Milan consisting of a clothing and accessories store, a cafe, a hotel, and a bookshop. The bookshop had all sorts of creative titles so I decided to stop in there because they were having a sale! There were all sorts of books on fashion, design, branding, sales, marketing, management, and style. I decided to get three different books which were all only five euros each! That’s my kind of shopping!
The next place I went was to the Brera Art Museum, which is perhaps the most famous art gallery in Northern Italy. I was extremely disappointed after having visited the Museo Poldi Pozzoli I questioned why the Brera Gallery was so prestigious. Sure, they have works by the most famous Italian masters, but they provide no commentary or information about the art other than the title, artists name and approximate date. On top of the already expensive admission price, you need to pay 5 Euros for an audio guide which explains a small fraction of the paintings, or you can buy the museum guide for 15 euros. I’m increasingly disappointed by art museums which are more like the circus – in that people go, look at the art, say oh that’s cool, and leave without learning much. It seems like the most prestigious galleries have the most responsibility to educate the public about artistic expression and style but they fail the most at doing so. Instead it’s the smaller, less famous museums which often cause me to think and to learn much more. I think this is an issue that museum directors need to address, because if they don’t many people will never understand why some of the most famous paintings are so famous, other than because they look nice. My experience to the Brera Gallery was further tainted when I exited the museum only to find huge chunks of ice falling from the sky in the middle of July. It was hailing for around 20 minutes and raining for a few more during which I took pictures of the spectacle and walked around the ground floors of the palace where several sculptures take up residence. When it was safe to leave, I walked a few blocks to see the Castello Sforzesco. The castle has been rebuilt several times, and I wasn’t too impressed with the structure so I decided it was time for dinner. I backtracked towards Brera for some lasagna and vino. The neighborhood around Brera is well known for good restaurants and quaint streets removed from the main tourist circuit. After dinner, I went back towards the Opera House to stop at Grom for gelato. (yes, the same Grom as in Florence and Venice) I was super disappointed because they didn’t have strawberry anymore (apparently it was a season flavor only available in May and June :/) so instead I got half stracciatella (chocolate chip) and half cream. It was still yummy but not as good as strawberries and cream!
A little after 8 I got back onto the bike and navigated my way back to the bike trail which runs between Milan and Gorgonzola. The trail is really nice because it is exclusively for biking and walking/ running and it runs along a canal for the entire way. Again, it took me a little longer than an hour to cycle back. The dog sure was excited to see me when I got back!