Tuesday 19 September 2017

Travel Tuesday: Italy: Milano

Tutt and I visited Milan back in 2014 as part of our Italian adventures. We took the train from Verona on a Sunday and had a day trip. The city was really quiet; we took an open topped bus tour: we nearly fell out over it as we waited ages and, when it arrived, it seemed over-priced to me and I didn't want to take it - I still don't know if I can recommend it, but we did see a lot of stuff; and we went to see the Last Supper, of course, of which there are no pictures. It was a marvellous piece of art but I couldn't quite get over that it was painted essentially as a canteen mural. I think da Vinci would be tickled if he realised how famous it has become.

The most imposing structure in Milan is, unsurprisingly, its cathedral, which dominates an enormous main square like a twiddly, twirly, sugar-crafted palace.

The detailing on it is incredible. Here are a few gems I found.

We wandered through the world's oldest shopping centre, the beautiful glass Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which has all the fancy shops in it and is near to the only McDonald's in the world with a non-yellow sign: the arches are white to fit in with local regulations. You can still see it from the middle of the galleria, though. I didn't take a picture.

During the bus trip we were also told a lot about how Mussolini had done a lot of building in Milan, and some of this was pointed out. It's modernist in style but with overtones of Ancient Rome, because the Fascists used it as another tool to promote their ideals. I'd taught a lot about this so it was nice to see some of it in the flesh....stone.

The train station, too, was clearly completed in this era; it had carved fasces on the walls and "Anno IX" which suggested it was completed in 1932, 9 years after Mussolini seized power. The walls are carved with the names of famous scientists of the day, as well as pictures of all forms of transport.

We had a wander in the park after the bus trip, and then went to sit in a pavement cafe, drink Aperol Spritz and eat ice cream sundaes (both just me, I should say). The table next to us had one Asian gentleman, his young daughter, and five women all wearing niqab. I was interested to see that they were all wearing designer glasses or sunglasses, and on some the arms of the glasses went inside the niqab, while on others they were on the outside. It was really interesting to see people dressed like this: I don't see many people in the niqab in Britain (although a parent came to parents' evening with one on last year) and, when Tutt and I chatted about it, she pointed out that religious head coverings like this would be even less welcome in Paris. This made me think that perhaps wealthy Muslim women who favour the full face covering come to shop and peruse the designer collections in Milan rather than any other European capital of fashion because it is more accepting of such things. I don't know why that might be; but it's sort of borne out by the existence, at the station, of a refugee help point for Syrians. I tried to take a picture of the sign but the lady sitting at the desk got quite defensive and sent me off, and then glared at me suspiciously when I tried to take pictures of the architecture of the station, until I went away completely. I wonder why there was a refugee point in Milan?

I think Milan might be better visited on a weekday. It felt a bit like a ghost town on a Sunday, although everything seemed to be open. Probably if we'd planned to do a lot of shopping, it would have been paradise, but it was surprisingly underwhelming for just wandering. There were also some people at the train station 'helping' tourists to buy underground tickets and robbing them at the same time - stealing the change from the machine, sort of thing - which made us both a little jumpy.

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