Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Milan: Cosmopolitan and stylish

This October, I visited Italy on a group-tour package provided by one of the tour agencies in Singapore. My intention was to be in Italy to experience and to appreciate the architecture in parts of Italy as well as the natural landscape.

The first city that the tour group visited was Milan.

Milan is known to be the centre of fashion, business and finance. It's name is thought to come from the composite of the Latin words medio and planum, meaning "middle of the plain".

Duomo di Milan (Milan Cathedral)

Duomo di Milan
This is one of the largest Gothic churches in the world. In the Italian language, "Duomo" is a generic term for a cathedral church. The building of this giant cathedral begun in the 14th century under Prince Gian Galeazzo Visconti but was not completed until more than 500 years later. I personally think that it takes a lot of faith and vision to have the inspiration to build a work of great architecture for generations of the future, when one may not even live to see the final product.

I took a particular notice at the Central nave and the side nave of the Duomo. Generally Gothic in its architectural style, I marvelled at its pointed arch and the fine lace-work found on the building.

Duomo di Milan

While I do find the interior too dark during my visit, it has helped a lot to have the imagination to visualize rays of light beams entering the Duomo through the stained coloured-glass windows. Try this method of visualization and soon the Duomo became extremely fascinating.

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II
This is an ornate shopping arcade. It was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni in 1865.

I do not have a strong interest in shopping, yet the beauty of the architecture of this shopping arcade has made my visit to this arcade a very pleasing one. The overall facade and logo of the MacDonalds outlet in Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II had to be changed to a different colour scheme (gold on black) so as to match with the overall design of the entire arcade.

Facade of Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II, Milan/

The galleria has a floor plan in the shape of a Latin cross. Visitors to this galleria will find it of interest to notice the metal and glass roof. The roof is crowned finely with a magnificent central dome. I read that the roof was the first structure in Italy to use metal and glass in a structural way.

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II, Milan. Glass and metal roof.

While walking on the floors of the galleria, take a good look at the mosaics which decorate the floors. These mosaics depict the signs of the zodiac. The most popular signs of the zodiac appear to be that of the Taurus. There was a saying that if one were to place his or her heel on the genital area of the mosaic tiles depicting the Taurus sign, pivot at the heel to rotate the body thrice in the clockwise direction, one shall earn good luck. I did not try the rotation for good luck since I could not bear with the thought of putting the mosaic tiles to further damage.

The Taurus sign at Galleria Victoria Emmanuel II, Milan. 

La Scala Opera House (Teatro alla Scala)
I read that opera is one of the popular art forms in Milan. The La Scala Opera House is one of the world's most prestigious opera houses. The theatre is Neo-Classical in its design. It is said to have one of the largest stages in Europe. Due to time constraints, I could just manage a visit to the retail shop of the La Scala Opera House and many glances of its exterior facade.

La Scala Opera House.

Sforza Castle
This is a palace that is built in Renaissance style. The castle is based on a series of courtyards. Admission to the museums in the castle was not included in the tour package. That somehow made the castle less appealing to me. I tried to get myself entertained by walking about the bazaar that was taking place within the compounds of the palace.

Sforza Castle

Milan is a good place to start a tour of Italy with. Its cosmopolitan nature makes it similar to Singapore. Yet, Milan is clearly different from Singapore in terms of its general cultural preferences and outlook.

I did not get to visit the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan to take a look at the painting The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Missing a look at The Last Supper seems to be a good reason that would urge me to consider visiting Milan again. I learnt that reservations to see The Last Supper has to be made in advance. According to tripadvisor, it is essential to make reservations to see this painting. This can be done through a tour operator or via specified online site. I keep my fingers crossed that I will visit Milan again to see The Last Supper.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)

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