Itinerary: Milan, Milan Cathedral Duomo, Scala Theatre, Pinacoteca di Brera,
Milan: art, culture and history of this cosmopolitan city
Milan is the capital city of region Lombardy, a cosmopolitan and international town located in the northern part of Italy. It is also the most important financial and business center of the country and one of the world's leading cities for fashion: the worldwide appreciated "Italian Fashion" was born here. Milan is also home to many important national and international fairs and expositions like the successful Expo 2015. It is a modern and lively city, although Milan does not certainly lack historic buildings, important monuments, art galleries or cultural centers and events.
Let's start and discover Art - Culture & History and visit the most important buildings of this great city.
Our visit to Milan cannot but start from the Milan Cathedral, (pic.1) better known as "Duomo", that has always been the icon of the town. Placed at the very center, the Duomo is an impressive, 109 meters high white marble building. The third largest cathedral in the world, the Duomo is richly decorated with 135 spires and 3400 statues. From its top, the golden statue of Madonnina (the Holy Mother) overlooks the town. It is possible to visit the roof and enjoy a stunning view of the city center. The interior is disposed of five aisles sustained by 52 columns that help to foster a sense of solemnity and respect. On the walls, 55 colorful stained glass windows create beautiful light plays which let us feel the wonder of this church.
There are two other churches not far from the Duomo that absolutely deserves a visit: Sant'Ambrogio and San Lorenzo. (see location on the map below)
Church Sant'Ambrogio, (pic.6) made entirely with red bricks, dates back to the 4th century A.D. and it is considered to be the best example of Lombard Romanesque. A small court surrounded by an elegant four-sided portico introduces visitors to a finely decorated gate in stone and, finally, to the inside of the church. In the dim light, a mysterious air lingers everywhere and takes us back to the Middle Ages. Visit also the small but beautiful Crypt of San Vittore (5th century A.D.), one of the best-known examples of early Christian Art in Milan that is famous for its wonderful Byzantine-style mosaics.
Church San Lorenzo (about 5th century A.D.) is the most ancient building with a central symmetry plan in Western Europe. Built on an ancient Roman temple, this church shows a succession of layers of different historical periods, from late Roman Empire to Baroque. Inside there are many examples of early Christian arts, including an ancient, evocative crypt with Byzantine mosaics. Outside the church, a part of the arcade of the ancient Roman temple still stands. Today "Colonne di San Lorenzo" (San Lorenzo's Arcade) has become a popular venue for young people and students who gather in the square behind its arches especially at night.
Other interesting ancient churches are Church Sant'Eustorgio, with its scenic Gothic tower; Church San Maurizio, well-known for its sophisticated decorations and frescos; Church San Bernardino alle Ossa, where there is a scary charnel house inside. (see location of these churches on the map below)
Convent of "Santa Maria delle Grazie" is a must-see: even the most hurried visitor can't miss Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece: "L'Ultima cena " (The Last Supper), one of the world's most famous paintings preserved here. Painted on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, "L'ultima cena" represents the scene of the last supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples. You should book your ticket in advance because of the high number of visitors. (over 400.000 in 2013)
Milan Castle, "Castello Sforzesco" in Italian, (pic.1) is one of the largest castles in Europe. It was built in the 15th century on Duke Francesco Sforza's order. In the past it was an important military citadel, today the castle hosts the Municipal Museums and some temporary exhibitions. "Pietà Rondanini", the famous statue in marble by Michelangelo, is housed here. A beautiful English landscape park, "Parco Sempione", connects the castle to the arch erected in order to celebrate Napoleon's victory in Italy, "Arco della Pace" (Peace Arch).
Do not miss the famous Opera House Scala Theatre (Teatro alla Scala) (pic.2) which is one of the most celebrated opera houses in the world. Built in an elegant Neoclassical style and heavily damaged during the second world war, "Teatro alla Scala" was quickly restored and reopened. Famous for its perfect acoustics, the theatre hosted great artists like Verdi, Toscanini, Wagner, Donizetti, Rossini. "La Scala" is intrinsically linked to the history of opera, as the first performances of many important operas like Norma, Otello and Turandot were held here. Every year many stars, politicians, and important personalities still attend its premiere that is one of the most important cultural events in Italy.
Coming to the museums, we must mention first the greatest Science and Technology Museum in Italy, (Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica Leonardo da Vinci). This museum takes up a surface of over 40.000 square meters and displays many reproductions of Leonardo's machines, as well as trains, ships, airplanes, industrial machines, even a submarine of the second world war, "Enrico Toti".
"Pinacoteca di Brera" (pic.5) is the main art gallery in Milan. Its collections mostly consist of Venetian and Lombard paintings. Italian painting of 19th century is also well documented. The most noticeable artists are Caravaggio, Hayez, Bramante, Lorenzetti, Mantegna, Lotto, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Pelizza da Volpedo, Fattori, Segantini.
Another interesting art gallery is Poldi Pezzoli, a private museum hosted in an ancient palace not far from the Duomo. There are paintings of Botticelli, Canaletto, Hayez, Pollaiolo, Raffaello, and other important artists.
Near Poldi Pezzoli there is the Museum Bagatti Valsecchi, one of the most important historic house museums of Europe. Detailed explanations are given of each piece of furniture in several languages while children have the opportunity to learn by playing games through a specific educational path.
Other museums that deserve a mention are Museo Storico Alfa Romeo, dedicated to this legendary Italian car brand; Museo del Risorgimento, focused on the period leading to the unification of Italy.
More about Milan: Milan: shopping in the Italian fashion capital
Some pictures of Milan:
The Milan Cathedral, "Duomo" (pic n°1); The Opera House Scala Theater - inside (pic n°2); Ballet "Giselle", Opera House Scala Theater (pic n°3); The Milan Castle, "Castello Sforzesco" (pic n°4); The Art Gallery "Pinacoteca di Brera" (pic n°5); Church Sant'Ambrogio - inside (pic n°6);