Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Halloween in Milano

November 2, 2008

I can't believe it's already November! Time seems to be flying by so fast.... Only 1 1/2 months til I'm on a plane heading home! And while I've certainly been loving my time abroad, I think I'm just about ready to return to the good old US of A.
Anyway, happy belated Halloween! It was strange not really celebrating it over here, especially coming from Santa Barbara where Halloween is practically the biggest event of the year. Instead of costumes and candy, I spent the day in Milano with Gabi and Justine. It was actually a horrible day for sightseeing, or just being outside for that matter. The sky was an ugly gray and it rained off and on the entire time, but we made the best of it regardless!
When we got to the train station, it was pouring out so the first thing I did was buy a new umbrella (my old one broke in Munich!). It's so cute, and so me - it has bright rainbow colored segments just like one of those beach balls! Then, as we were trying to find our bus stop to get to a hostel (Gabi and Justine were staying over night), we saw a super nice Maserati passing us, and just as Justine and Gabi were commenting on how nice it was, the window rolled down and he yelled over to us "Dove andate?" We figured with the 3 of us it would be legit, so we told him the address of the hostel and hopped in! He turned out to be really nice, and we chatted on the way there. When we got to the hostel, we couldn't resist taking a picture with the car! After all, who knows when the next time is that we'll get to ride in a Maserati?
The hostel was a tad skanky, and there was some problem with the reservation of the group in front of us, so it took forever to check in. We had reservations to see DaVinci's Last Supper at 3:15, so we were kind of pushed for time. We grabbed a quick bite for lunch nearby and then hopped on the tram. We'd assumed that public transportation would be the best way of getting there, but we hadn't realized the tram would take 15 minutes to go 2 blocks, or that the Metro after that would be so difficult to figure out. So we ended up getting off the Metro at 3:10 and literally running the entire way there, bursting into the ticket office at exactly 3:15! Lucky for us, they still issued us our tickets and we went in immediately with the next group.
The viewing process is odd and very strict in order to slow the inevitable damage and disintegration of the famous fresco. Every 15 minutes, 15 people are shuffled through a series of rooms that are quickly sealed behind them to reduce humidity. When you finally make it to the grand finale, you have exactly 15 minutes to view the masterpiece.
Anyone with a decent bit of education is familiar with, or at least could recognize, DaVinci's Last Supper - or Il Cenacolo, as it is actually named. But thanks to the brilliant Dan Brown (please note the tone of sarcasm intended here) and his novel The DaVinci Code, this famous fresco is has grown to iconic fame. I, and I think any intelligent person, have chosen to ignore these ridiculous conspiracy theories of hidden messages about Christ, and blah, blah, blah, and simply tried to appreciate it for what it is: a masterpiece of Italian art by one of the greatest artists of all time. Since photos were obviously not allowed, I'm including one from the Internet.
If I'm being truly honest, however, I have to say I don't see what all the fuss is about. Yes, it's a great piece of art, but there are dozens of other versions of Il Cenacolo by a handful of other artists which are also quite impressive. Why is this one so special? I can't help but think it has to do with the artist, with DaVinci himself. I think many times we assume that a famous artist creates nothing but masterpieces, and thus anything with there name attached is great. Maybe I'm being cynical, but I wonder if this work would be considered less impressive if it had been done by a lesser-known artist. But then again, maybe the art and the artist are one and the same.Sadly, the evidence of time was very clear, despite the efforts of restoration. Pieces are wearing away, some already gone, colors are fading, cracks line the painting like the face of an old woman. As the attendant announced that our 15 minutes were up, I couldn't help but turn back for one more look. I wondered how much longer it would last, and thought of how future generations would be left with nothing more than a picture in a book of a long gone masterpiece, and I was grateful.
Back outside and less rushed, we were able to admire the beautiful brick exterior of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the Last Supper is housed, and laugh at all the tourists huddled together with their brightly colored umbrellas!
I think it's pretty obvious that Milano is no Roma; it's not a mecca of ruins, museums, churches, and ancient buildings. In truth, it really only has 2 can't-miss attractions - the Last Supper and the Duomo - and the rest of it's fame is fashion. So we hopped back on the Metro to get to the second of Milano's sights, the Duomo.
It was still dreary out, but the rain had stopped so we decided to climb to the roof of the Duomo while it lasted. Although the terrace is a lot less higher up than most churches, it's much more spectacular. It's like being in the middle of a marble forest of gothic pillars and arches and beams. Everything is ornately carved and full of intricate details.
We continued our ascent a bit further from the terrace to the actual roof, where we got a great view of the golden statue of Mary at the top of the highest steeple, illuminated against the gray sky. The views of the city would have been much better on a clear day, but we were able to see the glass dome of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II.
Back down in Piazze del Duomo in front of the church, we admired the famous gothic facade of a pretty pinkish marble. From the front, I found the church less impressive, but maybe that was because I compared it to the gorgeously intricate terrace and roof. The interior was a bit dull compared to other Italian churches. The lighting was very dim, but I could still make out the spiral details in the ceiling, supported by rows of massive columns. On either side of the center aisle they had hung paintings, but the lighting was not very good for viewing them.
Back in the piazza we wandered over to a fun display for the Rock 'n' Music Charity Concert - a huge neon pop-style art display of the Beatles walking down Abbey Road! Also amusing were the pigeons sitting on top of the grates emitting warm air, with their feathers all puffed out like balls of fluff!
Right next to the piazza is the huge arched entrance to the famous shopping center, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. We didn't go inside immediately but walked around the exterior, trying to find the world famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala. We finally came to Piazza la Scala, but found ourselves surrounded by 3 impressive looking buildings and unsure which was La Scala. The pillared one had a sign for a bank, so that was out, and on closer inspection, the long, plain one was a hotel, so we finally deduced that the illuminated white building, with posters saying Teatro alla Scala was the right one.
We wandered back into the Galleria, walking past the famous designer shops like Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and even a fancy McDonald's! The inside of the Galleria is absolutely stunning as well, with the glass dome in the very center. As we window shopped, we heard music growing steadily louder and were treated to an actual marching band performance as they made their way from one end of the Galleria to the other!
Since it was already dark and I didn't want to get home too late, I decided to head to the train station and make my way back solo.
In other news, school sucks as usual, and for once I don't feel confident at all about passing! I'm sure everything will work out, but I'm anxious all the same. I have mixed feelings about November; I want it to come because it brings me closer to the end of classes, my birthday, travels, and going home, but at the same time it brings paper deadlines, procrastinated reading, and finals. Hopefully it just goes by quickly.
November does bring some exciting things, too. For one, in just 3 days Americans are going to have a brand new president and decide on some very important issues! Please make your voice heard and go out and VOTE November 4th! This election is history in the making, so be part of it. From November 21-24 I'm going to Krakow, Poland to visit Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp of the Holacaust, which is sure to be one of the most moving experiences of my life. And then the last weekend of November I'm going back to Lucca to celebrate Thanksgiving! So I suppose there are some things to look forward to : )

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween!!!

Baci xx

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you got to see the Last Supper. Too bad they didn't have the know-how to preserve it from the time it was created. Once again, I feel as though I am almost there with you.