Towers in Bergamo old town
A long weekend in Milan and surroundings
This year we decided that instead of waiting for spring to arrive in northern Europe we could make our way down to Italy and catch a few days of spring time already in February. Said and done, we bought flight tickets to Milan
in Italy at a time of the year when we would freeze our butts off if we had stayed at home. February isn't exactly warm in northern Italy either, but it sure is better than Sweden.
Emma was able to take more time off from work than Ake could so Emma left for Italy a few days before Ake. Emma does not enjoy travelling on her own so she had company with her sister Anna.
When we were making plans for this trip we knew very little about Milan. After some checking on the Internet we found out that one of the highlights of any trip to Milan is to visit the church Santa Maria delle Grazie
and see Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting The Last Supper
. We had a hunch that we probably should book in advance to be allowed to see that painting. So to be sure to get tickets we
City wall and old town
logged onto the booking website already in January, that is almost two months before we left for Milan. After some looking around we realised that every single ticket available for visiting The Last Supper had been booked. That is, every ticket every single day was booked out! Getting tickets to see The Last Supper is just as difficult as getting a ticket to a very popular rock concert. You have to know the date and the time when they are released because two hours later they are all gone. They limit the tickets for seeing The Last Supper to only like a hundred or so each day. That is because the painting is very fragile. If they allowed more people to come and see it the humidity in the room would increase and that would damage the painting.
It's a pity we failed to get tickets to see The Last Supper, but fortunately Milan has other things to offer tourists.
The first day in Milan Emma and Anna mostly walked around town. Since they were waiting for Ake to arrive they didn't want to start seeing all the tourist sights. If you know Emma and Anna you will
Front facade of the Duomo
know that they were quite happy with this arrangement. One day in Milan without Ake = many hours of shopping! Well, they also made sure to enjoy the fine weather.
The second day they left Milan for a day tour to Bergamo
. The main tourist sight in Bergamo is the medieval old town with its 17th century city wall. Emma and Anna spent a day there walking around and enjoying the town.
When Ake arrived in Milan we all together started to take a better look at the sights in town. First we went to the Cathedral, or Duomo
as it is called locally. The Duomo is in the centre of the town and totally dominates its surroundings with its sheer size and central location. We went in, walked around for a while but were not really impressed. We found the inside of the cathedral to be a bit drab to be honest. However, what Milan Cathedral lacked indoors it more than compensated outdoors. There are statues on the facade, there are dramatic towers and spires on the roof and fascinating gargoyles all around. Walking around the cathedral on the ground looking up at the statues and spires truly was
Spires on top of the Duomo
a breathtaking experience. But it was even better to get up on the roof and see the spires close up. On the roof you get a new perspective of the church and many structural details, such as the spires and buttresses, can be viewed more clearly than from the ground.
In front of the Cathedral is a large square called Piazza del Duomo. On one side of this square is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
. It is a shopping mall built in mid 19th century. But it is more than just a shopping mall - it is also a piece of art. The combination of vaulted ceilings, the glass roof and the beautifully aged paintings on the walls makes you feel like you have been warped 100 years back in time when you enter the mall. We are sure that it is a deliberate choice to keep the mall as close as the original idea as possible. For instance all the shops in the mall keep a very low profile when it comes to displaying their presence. They avoid big flashy ads in the shop windows and in brand logos they skip the usual bright colours in favour of a more elegant
Details on the facade
and quiet choice of colours like black, green and gold.
Near the end of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the Castello Sforzesco or Sforza Castle
. It is a castle built in 15th century. Today the castle houses several museums. We did not linger for very long in the castle. We were not into going to museums this particular day and the castle in itself we walked through in 20 minutes or so.
After our brief visit to the Sforza Castle we went to a large street market in the south of the city centre where we spent the rest of the afternoon.
The highlight of the last day we spent in Milan was the visit to the church San Bernardino alle Ossa. When you enter this church you first thought is likely to be that it is just another church among many in Milan. It is nice enough but nothing really spectacular. And it would have been if it wasn't for a bizarre little side chapel, the side chapel that gives the church the addition "alle ossa" to its name. We don't speak Italian but a quick look at Italian Wikipedia tells us that "bone" in Italian is "osso" and
Gargoyle on the facade
, to the best of our knowledge, "ossa" means "bones". The walls in this chapel are covered with various human bones. There are skulls, femurs, collar bones, ribs, tibias and you name it and its there. It is totally bizarre to see all these human remains displayed like art all over the walls. But at the same time it is something that appeals to all of us. Emma and Anna are through their jobs both interested in anatomy and Ake just is a bit morbid and thinks human skulls are cool.
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