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Posts tagged ‘Milano’

Magnificent Milano (Part 6): Stazione Centrale

It’s not often when you leave a city that you start snapping away with your camera, but with the stupendous scale and majesty of its liberty-style architecture, the Stazione Centrale of Milan makes for one hell of a farewell. Inaugurated in 1931, and heavily influenced by the onset of Italy’s Fascist age of might and power, the building pronounces Milan and Italy a true powerhouse of the modern age and a gateway to the advanced engineering which meant that Milan was connected through vast railway tunnels running North through the Alps, and along endless expanses of track traversing the Italian peninsula.

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It’s hard to know where to look. While passengers may be accustomed to concentrating on the departures board, Milan’s central station is itself a masterpiece of art which beckons the viewer to look beyond the travel information and up into the soaring 72 metre height of its great loft ceilings, and over the art deco lines and cubist sculptures which represent, in very Fascist terms, the will of the worker and the strength of Milan as Italy’s industrial capital.

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The station is mightily impressive. You have to traverse three huge entrance porticos before you even reach the 24 platforms, each bigger than the one before and displaying new feats of architectural engineering and decorative brilliance. What can be termed as “halls” are each double the size of your average city train station, and pack their punch in aesthetic excellence and awe-inspiring impact.

It made leaving Milan that sunny blue-sky day all the more difficult, but think how it must impress as a gateway to the city? Whether it be political propaganda or a testament to design, the Stazione Centrale is a true icon of its age, and seeing it was a magnificent end to our Milanese Odyssey. Arrivederci Milano… we will return to revel in your splendour one day soon.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 5): Città di Notte

I feel as though this is progressively becoming a one-man crusade to prove the beauty of Milan. Even the other day, when I spoke of our travels, my dinner companion piped up: “ah yes, Milan is ugly so they say”. No! I protested, as I proceeded to upload the pages of  The Daily Norm on my phone. And now that you’ve seen the famous Duomo in all its guises together with Milan in its sparkling sunlit state, I thought I would further demonstrate the beauty of this Northern Italian city by showing yet another facet of its elegant urban character: Milan by Night.

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I don’t have many photos to share – you know that cameras (or at least the photographer) can be a little shaky at night – but those I do have show something of the vivacity of a city which is emboldened after hours, as the city comes alive with thousands of sparkling lights, and its iconic buildings take on a new robust character which makes them pop from amongst their unlit neighbours. Milan is a city known for its intemperate rain showers, and this we experienced on our first night in the city. But the result was to scatter those street lights across every wet reflective surface making, to my mind, an even more beautiful pictorial celebration of Milan by moonlight.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 3): The Duomo, Inside and Out

Move aside Prada, take a seat La Scala. For when it comes to the true and undisputed icon of Milan, it’s the mighty cathedral, Milan’s Duomo which will always take centre stage. The ultimate celebration of the gothic style at its most flamboyant, the Duomo is a veritable forest of multiple spires, and a jewellery box of delightfully pearlescent Candoglia marble which is crafted into an entire cast and crew of saints, sinners and ghoulish gargoyles peppering every inch of the abundantly decorated facade.

We must consider ourselves lucky in this century to see the Duomo in its current state of perfection. For the gigantic structure, which is surely one of the most dazzlingly ambitious historical structures to have ever been built, took some 6 centuries to complete after its commencement in 1386. And happily too, it survived the WW2 bombs which made mincemeat of much of the surrounding area.

Outside…

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So not knowing quite where to begin with this enormous building, which is in fact the third largest church in the world, we spent almost a whole sunny day admiring the Duomo from all angles. Starting with the wonderful roof (which will have a post all of its own), we turned our visit on its head, following the great heights of the soaring cathedral with a protracted study of its beautiful exterior furnishings while waiting, somewhat agonisingly, in the freezing wind, as we queued to get inside. While it took some time to defrost when we finally made it through one of the Duomo’s great bronze doors, the visual feast to be discovered within was more than sufficient to warm us up again.

I have been in many a cathedral, but I don’t think I have ever been quite so dazzled as when faced by the sheer scale and magnitude of this cathedral. Appearing even bigger on the inside than it did on the out, I didn’t know whether to focus first on the elaborately patterned marble floor, the soaring forest of 40 great pillars, the soaring, vaulting ceilings far, far above, or the stained glass windows which are the most complex and stunningly coloured I have ever seen. A mere side chapel of this Cathedral is the size of the principal place of worship of most countries. And just one small panel of the great stained glass windows close to the altar was packed with more detail and narrative than you would find across the entire diameter of a finely crafted rose window elsewhere.

…and inside

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If the great propaganda machine of historical Catholicism intended to dazzle and dominate with the sheer theatre of its religious spectacle, this place had me converted. Like a mere supplicant, I felt lost in the scale and sense of awestruck enormity of it all, and by the time we made our way outside again, I had quite lost all sense of proportion. Happily a Milanese lunch, and a quick look at some of the nearby boutique’s average prices gave me the sharp shock I needed to bring me back to reality.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 2): Da Vinci’s fading masterpiece

Despite its bustling, cosmopolitan centre, its soaring modern skyline and fashion boutiques paving the way of global style, Milan is a city with a rich historical heritage equal to any other city in Italy, and with an artistic treasure to rival the very best. Far less accessible than the Botticelli’s and the Michelangelo’s it may be, but Milan’s offering is considered by many to be one of the most significant and symbolically loaded works in all the history of art: I am of course talking about The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci.

Yet this work, renowned though it is, has had a troubled past. Fated to bad fortune from the outset when Da Vinci experimented unsuccessfully with a fresco technique which started to deteriorate away from the surface of the wall within years of its completion, the fresco has fallen swift victim to both the ravages of time, and the additional disasters of war, including a near miss bombing and exposure to the elements when the buildings around the fresco found themselves in the direct path of the same air raid.

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All this means that a visit to see Da Vinci’s fresco is a unique experience. First of all, getting your hands on a strictly time-controlled ticket is almost like seeking out the very same holy grail which author Dan Brown will tell you the painting is subliminally intended to represent. With ticket in hand, you and a small group of other ticket holders will then be taken through a series of air-controlled vacuum chambers, each set of doors opening successively upon another, incrementally purifying the elements to which the crumbling fresco is exposed. Finally, you enter the main refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie, where the first sight of Da Vinci’s Last Supper feels all the more surreal by virtue of the effort required to get there.

The visitor controls ultimately make the 15 minutes you get to spend with the painting a pleasurable experience, just because the numbers allowed into the refectory at any one time are small indeed. This makes for an intimate encounter with one of the world’s most recognisable images. Yet no matter how familiar the subject, little can prepare you for the impact which the full scale image will have, nor the shocking state that the fresco betrays upon closer inspection.

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What we see today really is a mere shadow of what once was. The fresco appears so badly flaked that a gust of wind could shake half of it away like fallen leaves in a first gust of autumn. In places, nothing but a mere outline of what was remain. In others, the retention of more detail, such as on the folds of the tablecloth, offer a tantilising glimpse of the wealth of colour and composition that the work would have once boasted.

For me, the fresco feels like an allegorical narrative of something beyond the simple depiction of the last supper. The reactions of the protagonists feel stilted, almost mannerist in their exaggerated expression, suggesting that Da Vinci has attempted to go beyond the simple story of the last supper and is hinting at meanings beyond the surface. Yet beyond this surface there is very little to behold but a crumbling wall, as we are forced to see one of art history’s most significant masterpieces slowly deteriorate to dust. It’s why this painting should be a must-see for any art history buff, and prioritised before its condition worsens yet further.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Magnificent Milano (Part 1): Città di Giorno

It has become something of a trend to describe Milan as an ugly city. Tourists who travel there come away disappointed when they find a famous Italian city which is not filled with Renaissance palaces and cobbled maze like streets glowing calmly under a terracotta sunset; which lacks the romance of bridges reflected in a calm river, or the magnificence of baroque churches and grand old museums at every corner. However to visit Milan with the expectation that it will be like Rome or Florence or Venice is to miss the very unique charm which Milan holds above other cities. Yes it’s big, and urban and thriving. And yes it has a whole identity quite asides from pandering to tourists. But I would hesitate to call it “industrialised” as many do, and I would certainly never call it ugly.

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For me Milan is a city with a beauty all of its own. It’s big and bustling and oozes elegance from every corner. Its streets resonate with the sound of old squeaking trams and the clip-clopping of Prada stiletto heels. It’s a place which is characterised by the charm of Northern European cities, but the all the chic of the Italians. And chic it certainly is. For Milan is the capital of fashion, and its Quadrilatero della Moda is a district bedecked with lavishly decorated boutique shop windows and prices to make you faint, yet humbled by the charm of its private little ateliers and shiny cobbled pavements.

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Milan reminds me of Barcelona. It has the same spirit of creative energy while surging towards a future where the Italian capital, Rome, has long since lagged behind and which is evident from its skyline glittering with modern skyscrapers and measured but thriving urbanisation. Its history is evidenced by one of the most splendid and enormous of all Italy’s cathedrals, while its cathedral of transport, the Stazione Centrale, is the most impressive train station I have ever seen, with its lofty art deco interiors which soar hundreds of metres into the sky. Meanwhile Milan is a city which takes pride in its food, but not just in the traditional dishes such as its creamy saffron risotto and ossobucco. Milan is a place where food is crossing new boundaries of creativity as the city surges forwards to greater levels of gastronomic superiority… again, far in advance of other cities in Italy.

Our brief trip to Milan brought one day of rain, but also one of beautiful sun. These photos are a reflection of the city on that wonderful sunny day. Now who can call this city ugly?

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.