Milan, Culture

Milan is in Northern Italy, there could be no doubt about that. I was hoping that it still would have the flavor and the sunny disposition of the rest of Italy but it seems to be from somewhere else, much further north. It has been raining since we arrived and I have been bundled up in all of my warmest clothes. The whole city is already dressed in the fall gear. All my light summer clothes are in the suitcase.
Milan is somber. Maybe it’s the rain that makes it feel so, but not only that. There are many stately and regal buildings around, the streets are cobblestone, shop windows display tasteful arrangements, but overall, there is something missing here, the je ne sais quoi that makes other Italian cities irresistible. I don’t know if it is the rain, but many streets remind of St. Petersburg – the same austere somber beauty, but no joie de vie. One thing is for sure – it is missing flowers and color. The colors of the buildings are distinctly Nordic, no terracotta yellows, no ochre, no orange, no reds. The balconies, adorning the facades, are bare and desperately need some flowers. The city, apparently, was heavily bombed by us in 1945, and many palatial mansions were destroyed. In their place, ugly concrete buildings were erected to fill the spaces between surviving mansions.
Yet, it is a big city, and any big city has a lot to offer, culturally. This city does too, but almost nothing was on par with other Italian cities.
We didn’t get to see Leonardo’s The Last Supper this time (we saw it on our first trip to Italy 30 years ago) because we failed to make a reservation 3 months in advance, but we went to the Castle – an imposing structure housing several exhibition halls, the Pinacoteca Brera – an art museum situated in a former convent. The convent itself is a beautiful edifice with a lovely courtyard adorned with a 7-foot tall bronze gladiatorial studmuffin – his perfectly shaped rear attracting many a glance from the entering tourists. Inside the pinacoteca, the collection was less erotic – mostly, depictions of Mary and Jesus. Forgive my irreverence, but there were so many Marys holding little Jesuses and so many bleeding adult Jesuses, that I was becoming callous to his suffering and, frankly, was jessused out.
A very pleasant visit turned out to be Museo Poldi Pessoli, once a private palace, bombed out by the allies, restored and turned into a museum. The collection here was small but varied, with both decorative and pictorial art, some medieval armor and weapons, some jewelry, some china, magnificent doors, a regal staircase, and a lovely fountain – all that makes for an engaging and worthwhile visit.
The last museum we visited was Triennale Design Museum that does not have a permanent exhibit but different expositions, all having something to do with Italian design. The three exhibits were on graphic arts, photography, and kitch. They were ok, but nothing special. Well, Milan is a banking and business and not a cultural center, and it never had its Medicis or its popes to accumulate art.
So, here is my verdict on Milan: it’s ok, but not great. Maybe, if it were somewhere in Germany, I would find it enchanting, but I have higher expectations for Italy. Kenny, on the other hand, begs to disagree. He stubbornly declares Milan to be one of the best cities he has ever been to. Well, he is entitled to his opinion.


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