Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A VERY Short Trip to Milan

King Vittorio Emanuelle II (1820-1878)
More about Italy's #1 citizen later

Sorry for not posting the last few days, we experienced technical difficulties at blog central.  Monday, midway through trying to write this 459th post to the blog, I was informed that I had somehow run out of space for pictures on my free account.  It took over two full days and $20 but we are back up and running at more than full strength!

Paul and I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday to catch the 6:30 a.m. Alitalia flight to Milan.  The purpose of the trip was to scout the Bolzano at Bergamo game.  The flight arrived ahead of schedule (Alitalia - We Try Harder?) but was a little cramped due to no, I MEAN NO, leg room!

First order of business was picking up our rental car at Europcar.  The lady said that we had a choice of a Fiat Panda or a Fiat 500.  My heart soared, the Fiat 500, in production until about 30 years ago, is THE car of circus clowns everywhere and I have always dreamed of driving one.  I asked "Vecchio o nuovo?", i.e., if it would be one of the old 500s or a new ones that began production last year.

She looked at me and said "The old ones are too small for you, it is a new one."  So close...

At the wheel of my first Fiat 500

Much more spacious than my dream car, but it was really good to drive around the greater Lombardy area.

What is that thing?

Milan is very proud to be considered the Economic Capital of Italy as well as one of the world's Fashion Capitals.  I guess this artsy thing in front of this transportation center fits in with both titles.

Where are we?

These people were a little lost so they pulled out a map that when fully unfolded must measured out at being at least a huge five foot square!

I think they were tourists.

Joggers, They Travel in Packs

I love that the guy on the bike is driving right through them.

"Leonardo", do we really need his last name?

I hope those are really balloons.

Cyrano, is that you?

After parking our car in the Centro of Milan, we had about two early morning hours to sight see.  Our first stop was the Duomo/Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II area.  As we were about to enter the Galeria, we were suddenly greeted by this small group of entertainers promoting God knows what.

Bella Donna

This member of the troupe talked to several young children who were mesmerized by her.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Named after the extremely popular King of Italy.  From 1861 to 1878 he reigned over, for the first time, a united Italy as we know it today and is considered the "Father of his Country".

The Galleria is the home of some amazing places.

Every major Italian fashion house has a store here, unfortunately on Sundays they don't open until noon by which time we were back on the road to Bergamo.

Completed in 1877, it includes the Townhouse Galleria, the world's second only SEVEN star hotel.

Avoid Bad Luck AT ALL COSTS!

The Galleria was the brainchild of architect Giuseppe Mengoni to be used as a showplace for modern Milan.  Tragically, he plummeted to his death from scaffolding at the Galleria just weeks before his 14 year tour de force was completed in 1877.

Long standing Milanese tradition claims you can avoid Mengoni's bad luck by grinding your heel into the testicles of this mosaic bull on the floor of the Galleria located at the central cross of the Galleria's four massive hallways.


But just in case...

McDonald's is the only non-high end business in the Galleria.

Milan's Gothic Duomo

I'm in the Piazza del Duomo amid a frenzy of flying buttresses, 135 spires, and a staggering 3,200 statues!  This is the largest Gothic church in the world and the fourth biggest in any style in Europe.  It was commissioned in 1386 to hold 40,000 worshippers, the exact number of Milan's population at that time.  It was not completed until 1812, a labor intensive 426 years later!

The Beatles on the Piazza del Duomo

La Scala Opera House

Just outside of the Galleria's northern entrance, it is the world's most prestigious opera house.  Officially, this is Milan's "Teatrale alla Scala", it opened in 1778.

Just a cool archway on Via Dante on the way to...

Milan's Sforza Castle

Built in the late 1300's as a military fortress, it was beefed up in 1450 by the Sforza duke in anticipation of a Venetian attack.

If you click on this picture to enlarge it, look at the lower right hand corner to see a wedding in progress.

One Tough-Ass Carabinieri Striks a Pose!

I think he was trying to impress his superiors with an eye on being picked to ride his noble steed in one of this summer's two Palios in Siena.

The Massive Entrance to Sforza Castle

A sturdy Turret don't you think?

St. Ambrose, the Patron Saint of Milan

St. Ambrose served as Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397.  He was one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the early Catholic Church.

An inner wall of the Sforza Castle

An inner balcony of the Sforza Castle

A Mossy Fountain inside the Sforza Castle

A VERY cool School of Art's Shield in the Castle

Like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.

This is one of the first things I encountered upon entering the Sforza Castle's very interesting Museum of Ancient Art.

Father Fidelis

At St. Francis H.S. back in the 1960's Father Fidelis, seen here, used to beat us just like this into giving more of our lunch money to the Missionary Fund.

Stained Glass and a Heraldry Coat-of-Arms

More Stained Glass and a Heraldry Coat-of-Arms

How could they weave a tapestry like this 600 years ago?

Now THAT'S a sun roof!

Michelangelo's Final Work
The Pieta Rondanini

Michelangelo died while still working on this piece that is unfinished, raw but yet still powerful.

This is easily the most important piece of art in the Museum of Ancient Art.

The Backside of Pieta Rondanini

This is Mary's back with Michelangelo's chisel work plainly visible

Festa della Donna

Our whirlwind visit to Milan occurred on March 8th, Italy's "Festa della Donna".  Originally in the 1960's this festa was a call for women's right to vote that has now become a day to honor the flower of Italian womanhood like these Milanese ladies out sunning themselves in front of the La Scala Opera House.

Speaking of flowers...

The flower of choice for the ladies on  "Festa della Donna" day is mimosa.  Here you see a dashing young man on his way to scoring BIG points with his special Donna.

Bolzano Giants 31 - Bergamo Lions 13

A re-match of the 2008 Championship game won by the Lions in black and gold, today it would be Bolzano's day.

When we arrived at Bergamo's stadium, about 50 miles from Milan, we found a calcio/soccer game about to start between Bergamo and, would you believe it, GORGONZOLA!

I LOVE gorgonzola cheese!

As it turned out they were playing the American football game at a stadium in a nearby village.  The only problem was that my Garmin GPS System did not recognize the name of the stadium and not one of the 7 or 8 locals that we talked to could give us correct directions to any stadium in town.  Most of the people we asked were older people with very few teeth who were just on a Sunday afternoon stroll/passeggiata on a beautiful day... or perhaps they on their way to to a Willie Nelson Concert.

By the time someone finally put us on the right track and we arrived at the corect stadium there was about 4 minutes left in the first half.

Three Gentlemen from Verona

A crowd of about 2,000 people showed up and many were from the other 50+ teams that play American football in Italy.  These three gentlemen play in the NFL Italy's Division II for the Redskins of Verona.  In NFLI Division II, no import players are allowed on the roster.

They were proud to tell us that their Redskins are a perfect 2-0 on the season.  They are 23, 21 and 20 years of age and I of course told them that their combined ages (64) were still less than Paul's.  Truth be told,my age is only three years less than their total.

After three practices in less than 24 hours on Friday and Saturday, getting up at 4:15 a.m. to catch the 6:30 a.m. flight to Milan, spending two whirlwind hours touring Milan's cultural center, driving the 50 miles to Bergamo, spending an hour trying to find the stadium, driving back to Milan's Malpensa Airport, catching the 9:00 p.m. flight back to Catania and finally arriving at Malibu at about midnight, I WAS TIRED!!!

Buona Notte!


Sisifo Felice said...

Coach, Milano already stole too much from my hometown to be allowed to claim being the hometown for King Vittorio Emanuele II who was a native from Torino.


George said...

I stand corrected!

George said...


I corrected the blog after confirming what you wrote, he WAS indeed born in Torino!

My confusion came from the entrance arch to the Galleria nearest the Duomo which says "A Vittorio Emanuelle II Milanesi" which I thought meant "To Vittorio Emanuele II A Native of Milan".

Again thank you for correcting my error.


Sisifo Felice said...

You're welcome.
You know, the rivalry between Torino and Milano is a very strong one.

Mr.X said...

be careful with what you write..some very acknoledged source claims the Duomo is baroque...

Laurie said...

Pieta Rondanini, how wonderful!

I also remember the mimosa from last year.

See you soon!

George said...

Mr. X,

What uncouth peasant does not know the difference between Gothic from Baroque for God's sake?

Mr.X said...

Jason Johnson.



DPLassen said...

Wow, the Duomo is no longer covered in scaffolding, as it was when I was there!
it's much more impressive this way.