Saturday, May 20, 2006

This is one of the uncovered sides of the Duomo, taken on this cloudy, humid Saturday afternoon. What you can't see in this picture is the incredible swell of humanity just below, in the Piazza del Duomo. It must be campaign season. There were many tents of political parties and candidates and volunteers handing out flyers.

This tent was of a party or candidate advocating an anti-immigration stand.

L'ultima Cena

Da Vinci's much-loved work "The Last Supper" is housed in Santa Maria delle Grazie. From its title, the Milanese concocted the word "Cenacolo" (chay-NAH-koh-loh) to name the building housing this incredible fresco.

No matter how trite you may think the image is, what with it hanging in millions of Catholic homes and the subject of countless parodies, the experience of actually standing before the fresco is captivating. I found myself unable to look away for even a second of the allotted fifteen minutes allowed each group of visitors. There is so much animation and expression that I never saw in prints of the image. And of course, what we were seeing was the fresco after an amazing restoration project that took over twenty years to complete, from 1978 to 1999. (And yes, the figure of John is so feminine, it's hard to buy the argument that it's the depiction of an 18-year old boy. At least, not any 18-year old boy I've seen on the WSU campus, ever!)

ADDED ON 5/21: The above picture is a stock photo of the fresco. Pictures are not allowed at the Cenacolo!!

Here are two good background articles on Il Cenacolo.

The first is from The other is from Wikipedia.

By the way, all over town there are posters advertising "The Da Vinci Code." From what I gather, there's a Leonardo exhibit taking place at the Castello Sforzesco. I'm guessing it was timed to coincide with the release of the film.

A pilgrimage fulfilled.

Note to Robin Rilette: I saw him first!!!!!

Oh my stars. I almost passed out. La Scala's been my dream visit since I was a teenage opera geek. Here I am, in the La Scala Museum with the bust of my beloved Puccini. There was also an opportunity for me to go into one of the legendary boxes to have a peek, but no pictures were allowed. The red velvet lining those boxes is so lush. Tomorrow night I'll be watching Massenet's "Manon", but not from the boxes, sadly. As expensive as tickets are here, they cover only ten percent of the costs. The Italian government finances the rest.

Even the stairway going up to the theater was an experience, with posters right out of opera history.

And below is a picture of our listeners Sylvia, Barbara, Beverly and John with the bust of another La Scala legend, Maestro Arturo Toscanini. He controlled every aspect of the theater's operation, including the choice of coffee beans used in the intermission beverage!

This palazzo flanking the Piazza del Duomo houses Milan's tourism authority. I found its expression of optimism, in English no less, quite charming.

By the way, I am just loving our little group of NWPR listeners on this tour. There are three sisters and the husband of one of them, another couple, a mother and daughter, and a pair of friends.

I know this isn't a great picture, but I wanted to show you my new friends right away (I promise better pictures and some details on the individuals later on). We're standing in the Piazza del Duomo, in front of the Cathedral, with the statue of Vittorio Emmanuele in the background:

Finally, the Duomo!

Our delightful Milanese tour guide Arianna took us on a a ride on the subway and taught us about the city’s public transport system, as we will be on our own this afternoon and tomorrow. We then headed to the Piazza del Duomo to begin our city tour. We were disappointed that the fa├žade of the world’s fourth largest (and possibly most ornate) cathedral was covered up for cleaning:

But there was an upside. We arrived while the Archbishop of Milan was saying Mass, with the choir and pipe organ in attendance. The interior of the Duomo is dark but even more ornate than the outside; with the choir’s voices resonating in that cavernous marble space it was spine-chilling. (Interior pictures not allowed, sorry.)

(BTW - I'll have some pics of Duomo details coming in a later post.)

Suffice it to say, Milan has been multicultural from the get go, having been ruled by the French, the Spanish and the Austrians, in the form of one powerful Duke or Prince after another. Finally, Milan was united with the rest of Italy under the reign of Vittorio Emannuele, who commissioned the building of a shopping mall—and what a mall it is!

I think it was Michael Palin who called Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele the Mother of All Shopping Malls.

The Galleria was a real favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Its arcades are domed and vaulted, its various arcades are elaborately tiled. You can't help but gasp at the enormous arched roof of iron and glass. (Tragic backstory: Just one day before the Galleria was inaugurated, the architect who designed the structure slipped from the scaffolding as he was inspecting the dome. He fell to his death.)

The upper levels have very detailed balconies, and what seem to be murals are actually mosaics. We were told the Milanese humidity (I can vouch that it certainly is humid!) would damage paintings, so the pieces were replaced with mosaic.

You know what's awfully incongruous in the Galleria? Right across from the Louis Vuitton and Prada boutiques, just to the right of this picture above, is – McDonalds! (I couldn't bring myself to photograph that, so use your mind's eye here, if you can stomach it.)

More pictures of the Galleria can be found at this site.