old art, new art and another world in Milano

Duomo of Milano
garden at the Trienale
After waking up before 6am to make my way to the train station, I nodded off for a nap on the train ride to Milan. To cut costs, I took an intercity train, which stops at all the major stations and thus takes 4 hours to get to Milan from Pisa. I managed to get enough sleep to make my neck hurt like crazy later, which was a success. Once in Milan, I walked to the Hotel Garda since it was only a few blocks from the station – luckily my room was ready so I was able to check in. After dropping my bag, I took the metro to the Duomo station and emerged into the city center of Milan, buzzing with people; beggars, thieves, tourists, restaurant owners, businessman, every kind of person imaginable. Since this was my second time to be in Milan, I knew where I wanted to go, so I set off down the street towards the Castello Sforza. On my way there, I stopped in Decathlon, the Italian version of Sports Authority or Dick’s Sporting Goods. I purchased some biking shorts, protein mix, and granola on sale, stuffed all this into my backpack and continued on towards the Triennale Design Museum.

Milan is known for being at the front of fashion, technology, business, trade, and commerce in Italy as well as a worldwide power city, similar to New York or Paris. The Triennale was established many years ago as a conference of the best architectural and interior design achievements by Italians each year. Now, the design museum features many of the most famous designers from the past 20 years, as well as provocative contemporary design pieces with messages about consumerism, production, quality control, and the history of design. I met up with Shirin, another au pair in Pisa with me, to visit the museum. The name of the permanent exhibition is Design: The symptom of Influence. The museum is one of the most unique museums I have ever visited. I particularly liked the extremely creative displays and the ways in which designers choose to convey their messages. In one room, we pressed a button and a timer started down from 30 seconds. At the end of 30 seconds, a piece of aluminum with the designer’s name on it show out of a shoot with a loud bang like a gun going off. The meaning of this display is the seemingly infinite possibility for production. There were thousands of the aluminum sheets in the room, calling attention to the significance of waste products created by industrialism. The designer utilizes reclaimed and recycled materials, and thus this exhibit was his message to people that we must find a sustainable way to support the thousands of designers employed by the masses pattern of consumerism; an interesting concept especially in a city packed with stores from all over the world.

Before leaving, we visited the Triennale gardens, where San Pellegrino was having some sort of elite invite only event for the release of their new flavored natural waters. We managed to take some photos and get some free water, but we couldn’t manage to get a visor or a free lunch. Instead, we ate at a café on our way to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, one of Milan’s most famous museums of old Italian, and specifically artists from Lombardy. The museum was first started in the 1600’s and continues to provide visitors with quality art experiences today. The most famous artists represented include Tiziano, Boticelli, Rafaello, Caraveggio, and Leonardo da Vinci. The museum appears to be quite ugly but on the inside there is a beautiful courtyard with old sculptures, and many of the interior rooms house stunning stained glass windows. The end of the museum was dedicated only to Leondardo da Vinci, in particular, pages from his Codex Atlantis were on display. It was an interesting museum, but not unique enough to be considered one of my favorites.

After spending time in the Museum, Shirin and I decided to walk to the Navigli district, which I had heard about when researching things to do in Milan and was very excited to go visit. The Navigli is a system of canals from the 13th century which are still fully functioning about 30 minutes walk from the city center. As soon as we reached the entrance to the canals, it felt as though we had left Milan and were now visiting a different city in a different country. The speed of everything slowed way down – people walked slower and talked slower. Artists and graffiti was everywhere. We ventured along the canals, which have been compared to Venice, but are really nothing like Venice but still delightfully unique. I stopped in at the Prince Café for an apertivo and a full buffet of happy hour food which I turned into dinner. There was fresh fruit salad, watermelon slices, chicken and rice, mini hot dogs, beans, sausage and peppers, zucchini, pasta, and much more. I sipped a Jamaican mojito and indulged. The apertivo hours in the Navigli are the best deal going; for 9 euros you get a drink and an all you can eat buffet. After eating, we walked around the majority of the district, stopping into art stores and boutiques as we walked. I would highly recommend a visit to the Navigli district for anyone visiting Milan – there is something for everyone all wrapped up in a beautiful area!

We walked back to the Duomo and I took the metro back to my hotel. We took “una pausa” literally, a little break, until 11pm when we met up to go to Corso Como, one of Milan’s most famous streets for nightlife. On our way there, it started pouring down rain! Rain was NOT in the forecast… so we had to stop and duck under buildings along the way. We took advantage of a break in the rain to get there quickly and ducked into a bar. Our favorite bar on the street ended up being a place called Pitbull, where there were a lot of people in their mid 20s hanging out. We met some people from Italy, China, and Switzerland and had a great time. We stayed out until the bars closed, then collapsed in our beds from exhaustion. It was a great Saturday day & night in Milan!


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