We began our day at the Marriott Milan with breakfast in the Executive Suite (Marriott Gold Elite status thank you). We met our guide Lorenza in the lobby at 8:45. Susan gets lots of credit for tracking down Lorenza over the internet, setting up our visit, and arranging through Lorenza to get tickets to seeLeonardo DaVinci’s “The Last Supper.” Lorenza was our personal guide for 4 hours, so we used her well.
She taught us how to find the subway and to use it effectively. WE bought an all day ticket, which proved to be very valuable later. We took the subway to the stop nearest the church where the Last Supper is located. The church itself began as a private project by several families who pooled the funds to have it built. These were the most prominent families in Milan at a time when Milan did not have a single monarch. So the families all agreed that each would have an equal area where they would have their private crypts and worship areas within the church. Then the family Sforza became the most prominent family, and they were not satisfied with equal space—they wanted more. So they arranged to build a large area of the church beyond where the original altar had stood for their crypt. They also arranged for Leonardo DaVinci to illustrate the Last Supper in the area where the monks who took care of the church ate daily. Unfortunately Leonardo chose a technique that allowed him to erase and re-do sections of the painting but that did not weather well over the centuries. We were lucky that we came after a 21 year effort using modern computer and scanning techniques to find Leonardo’s original colors and restore the Last Supper as best as possible.
We could take photos of the church and the add-on by the Sforzas, but we were not allowed to take pictures of the real Last Supper. It was protected by a series of automatic doors that would coordinate the entrance to keep down the humidity. In fact, they only allow 45 people at a time to view the painting for 15 minutes to maintain a low level of humidity. But we did have a replica that we could use. Ironically, after the Sforzas built the add-on to the church and arranged for the painting of the Last Supper, they didn’t end up being buried there because they fled the city when the Spanish and the French fought over control of the city.
From there we took the subway again toward Castle Sforza, but first we walked by the local train station where the Milan commuters would come in and admired the large needle art in the area. From there we walked to the Castle Sforza. The castle was part of the wall that encircled Milan in the early 12th and 13th centuries to protect it from invaders. As far as I can tell, it didn’t do a lot of good because all sorts of people took possession of Milan because of its favorable location and industry. But the castle itself was pretty impressive.
We took another subway to La Scala, probably the most famous opera house in Europe. La Scala began as a private opera house, a collective effort by several Milanese families to create a location where they could enjoy fine opera and other performances. Kind of like a private country club today. Each family had their own box and could decorate it as they wished. They could even have meals served in the box as they watched the action. In 1912 La Scala went public, making itself available to the general public. The old boxes, which had varied in size depending on how much the family had put in, were re-done to make them more or less uniform.
While we were in La Scala we could hear shouting and singing from the stret outside. Tehre was a demonstration complaining about the cutback of public funding in Milan as part of Italy’s austerity measures. This was being held in Leonardo square, which is right in front of La Scala. We ended up walking by the demonstration on our way to La Galleria, a covered pedestrian area constructed in celebration of the unification of Italy in 1861. (How ironic—while Italy was uniting the United States was fighting the Civil War in an effort to prevent a schism in the union). In the center of the Galleria there are emblems for each of the city-states that joined the union. One of the traditions for Milanese (and tourists) is to go to the emblem for Turin (Torino), which is a rampant bull, and step on the bull’s balls and spin. This is supposed to bring the spinner luck. Apparently Torino was first designated the capital of the uniting entities, and Milan wanted that honor. When Rome joined the union, it got the capitol, but Milan still doesn’t like Turin.
In the Galleria is the restaurant where the drink Campari was created. Apparently this restaurant has been designated a national historic site.
From the Galleria we walked out to the Duomo, which is more properly known as Marie Nascenti, the church that celebrates the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus. Lorenza says that the Duomo is the third largest church behind the Vatican and the church in Seville, Spain. It was constructed all of marble taken from a quarry near Lake Maggiano. Not far behind the Duomo is an area where a canal from Lak Maggiano ended, The canal allowed barges to rbing the marble down from the quary to the construction site. The buikding of the Duomo took over 300 years, which sounds like a lot until one looks at all the detail in the spires and the interior.
When we went inside Lorenza pointed out to us a light that was high up in the far end of the Duomo beyond the alter—this is to identify where they keep one of the nails that was used to put Christ on the cross. Apparently once a year they bring it down for public display, but it stays up there otherwise.
Within the Duomo we saw weird stuff. They had two former cardinals who had died and had been beautified on their way to sainthood. T