We landed in Milan with enough time to check out Milan’s famous shopping district, Quadrilatero d’Oro. We strolled in and out of shops for an hour before walking past the duomo and down to a small restaurant where we enjoyed Risotto al Milanese.
Vivian and I checked into our beautiful hostel called New Moon Resort. It has a contemporary style coming area with WiFi and dormitory style living with private bathrooms. Breakfast, Wifi, and linens are provided in this self-proclaimed next generation hostel. It’s not too far outside the historic center, either.We took an early tram the next morning we anxiously awaiting our Leonardo Da Vinci themed tour. Our tour guide, Andrea was very knowledgeable and spoke eloquently about Leonardo’s time in Milan. Did you know The Last Supper was commissioned in 1495 by Ludovico Sforza and took four years to complete?
At the time, Leonardo experimented with a wood technique on a wall. He mixed egg yolks and pigments to create color for his masterpiece. Sadly, the work faded due to humidity and underwent a 21-year restoration in 1977. In a bit of a miracle, the WWII bombings destroyed the two outer walls but left the north wall that contained the painting standing.
Leonardo’s aim was to capture the most poignant moment when Jesus reveals that one of his disciples (Judas) will betray him. Leonardo took over two years to find the right portrait for Judas, the main star of the painting other than Jesus. Leonardo found most of his character portraits in the streets of the local Market place. Unfortunately, a few years later, the dry plaster of the wall painting would begin to crack as it absorbed water. Despite the painting being damaged, the painting is still one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.
Next, we visited Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Ludovico’s wife Beatrice was entombed when she died giving birth to the couple’s third child. Da Vinci painted numerous works for the Sforza family when he came to Milan including portraits of the Duke’s mistresses. The church is a Gothic and Romanesque style church because Ludovico had Donato Bramante, his architect rebuild the center where the cupola is because he was unhappy with it.
Da Vinci also drew plans and even created a terra cotta mold of Ludovico’s father Francesco on a horse that was to be placed in the courtyard of the Sforza castle, which of course was built by the Visconti family dynasty. The French later destroyed this when they overthrew the Sforza Duke.
After the Leonardo tour, we went to the castle museum to see Michelangelo’s unfinished Pieta. Rodanini. Leonardo also painted a fresco on the ceiling in this castle where Ludovico Sforza lived, which we were able to see.
Just outside the castle lay a humongous park that contains a modern arena, used for track and sports and an Arc, called the Arc of Peace and similar to the Arc of Constantine and Titian in Rome.
Back in the center, we climbed to the terrace of the il duomo, which is the largest Gothic church in Italy. The terraces were packed with tourists but we admired the architecture and soaked up the sun. It’s not a trip to an Italian city without seeing the duomo!
Inside the duomo was just as nice as the outside, though not the best that I have seen. It was lavishly decorated with frescoes and oil on canvas paintings.
After the duomo and enjoying the piazza, we walked the Ambrosiana Gallery where we were exposed to famous works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Leonardo Da Vinci. We saw Caravaggio’s basket of fruit, an ornate painting with such detail you’d wonder if it was actually real. We looked at the sketch of Raphael’s School of Athens. In addition to the Greek intellectuals, he portrayed. He had Da Vinci pose as Plato, Michelangelo as Hereclitus, and Bramante as Euclid. Raphael himself also appears. Da Vinci’s self-portrait is currently on display in Japan so we didn’t get to see that, though.
Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus is housed in the library on the bottom floor of the museum
. The room is dimly lit. There are books, wall-to-wall from ceiling to floor. In the center of the room are twenty pages of this codex that was bound by the sculptor, Pompeo Leoni. This codex contains notes on mechanical science, mathematics, astronomy, geography, botany chemistry, and anatomy. It is written in Leonardo’s famous backwards writing.
I thought that if this man was able to master backwards writing without a single mistake or hesitation in his writing, he must be a genius, and he was. This was my bread and butter, the codex was the second most important thing for me to see in Milan, and I’m so glad that I did.
We spent the last few hours of the day window-shopping, and sometimes buying, all the way back to the shopping district. Following some apertivo by the duomo, and we called it a night.
On our last day in Milan, we went to the Navigli District, which is like a mini Venice. A canal runs though the area as the canals run through Venice. This one is fed by the Arno River. Browsing the shops became tiresome so we stopped for lunch before returning the heart of Milan. The saying goes you haven’t been to Milan unless you have visited the shopping district. We did three times. We finally began our journey home a little after five o’clock. Even though we were stranded in Rome overnight because our flight was delayed, we made it back to Viterbo on Monday morning.