We’d rented an apartment in Milan, planning to give our stomachs a rest after a week of delicious but rich food although the excellent bakery just a few metres from our front door put paid to that. Unsurprisingly, the weather in Milan was very different from the Lakes, justifying my-pack-for-every-temperature tendency.
We headed off to the city’s cathedral on our first morning. Begun in 1386, it wasn’t completed until 1965. Six centuries of skilled craftsmanship were on display, much of it in the form of statuary and gorgeous stained-glass glowing as the sun shone through it, all supported by massive pillars. The walls, outside and in, plus some of those pillars are faced in marble from the Mergozzo quarry we’d seen just outside the village we stayed for four nights the previous week. A quick walk around the almost equally stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, just next door, decided us that coffee there would cost us an arm and a leg so we moved on.
Before we’d visited the cathedral, I’d spotted two interesting buildings one of which houses the Novecento Museum which was holding an exhibition of Aldo Rossi‘s work. Not a name I knew but he turned out to be an influential architect and designer who worked with Alessi in the ’80s, designing the coffee pots that anyone around at that time would recognise. By the time we left the museum it was sweltering although the Italian women in black leggings and skinny jeans clearly thought it was a late spring day, not to mention the tall, beautiful young man wearing an Aran polo neck sweater and managing to look elegant in 26° heat. We retreated to our apartment via the bakery.
Wednesday’s culture was the Brera Pinacoteca after a coffee in the Sempione, Milan’s most popular park, where I watched many lovely dogs out for a walk with their owners while H tussled with the gallery’s app which wanted to know everything about us apart from our shoe sizes. No entry without booking online so it had to be done although, unfortunately, there was less twentieth-century art on display than we’d hoped as that part of the collection is being rehoused. I did spot some elegantly understated pictures by Giorgio Morandi whose work I’d loved when we visited the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. After, slogging past a great deal of florid religious art we made our way to the botanical gardens attached to the museum which were a delight, full of birdsong as well as beautiful plants.
Having only managed the Rossi exhibition at the Novecento, we decided to go back to see the permanent collection on Thursday and I’m so glad we did. The museum specialises in twentieth-century Italian art, all beautifully displayed. The highlights for me were more of those stripped down Morandi still lifes plus several works by artists new to me including a rather lovely, moving three-part series by Futurist Umberto Boccioni called States of Mind: The Farewells, Those Who Go and Those Who Stay. My favourite piece, however, wasn’t Italian at all: Paul Klee’s Wald Bau (Forest-constructions) painted on canvas and plaster. I’m a sucker for Klee’s work and this one’s a little gem. Regular readers of these posts will know that I can’t resist a piece of showy Art Nouveau so we took a little detour on the way back from the Novecento to see the Casa Galimberti. Not nearly as over the top as Riga’s outrageously bonkers examples but satisfyingly excessive nevertheless.
We had time for a walk in our local park plus a coffee in its cafe, watching more adorable dogs enjoy themselves, before leaving for the airport. Our friendly cab driver played us Oh Sole Mio as a goodbye to Italy but the real soundtrack to our holiday was swifts shrieking through the air. The sound of summer. I love it.
And the books? Sadly, Tim Finch’s Peace Talks didn’t work for me. Written from the perspective of a peace negotiator, widowed when his wife was violently murdered two years before, it was probably not the best book to take on holiday. Emma Staub’s All Adults Here hit the spot with its story of Astrid who decides to be honest with her three complicated adult children after witnessing the sudden death of someone she’s known for forty years. The cover has puffs from both Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout which gives you an idea of what to expect.
Suitcases unpacked and washing done, that’s it for travelling for a while. Back to books next week…