Sunday, December 26, 2010

More taxis in Milan (this is turning into a fixation) and the first "Porta Nuova"

More taxis in Milan...this is turning into a fixation...they also don't need blue skies to be interesting, or to show aspects of the city...I'll get back onto other kicks when the weather improves (should be next week)...More......

Here, a taxi is exiting out of one of Milan's oldest still standing gates, which is very hard to photograph because it faces north, and is in a position to get neither morning, noon, nor afternoon light well, so a cloudy day, with evenly distributed light, is just as good as any.

To enjoy the gate and the walls, here are a (very) few necessary words about Milan's history and urban development for those, who have not (yet...grin...) had the patience to read some of my back posts.

Because of a central position between east, west, north and south and the relative ease of movement on the nearby rivers and lakes(ancient highways), the area around Milan was populated in the 5th century before Christ ("B.C.") by the Celts (yes, you read right, the Celts, in this case, the Insubri). Life puddled along until the early 4th century B.C., when other Celtish tribes, who had OTHER invaders pressing at THEIR shoulders in the vast area to the north of the Alps, started pushing their way in.

Then a couple of centuries later, Hannibal (you know, the one famous for having ridden elephants over the Alps) tried to expand Carthage's power, irritating the heck out of an up and coming, but still relatively small tribe, the Romans.

Bad move.

The Romans got their act together, building alliances and, when that didn't work, breaking heads. It was touch and go for awhile, but they finally sent Hannibal back home with his tail between his legs (aided by a recall from his fellow nobles jealous of his power and prestige...bad move, guys...), and Milan had its collective hands spanked for siding with that dark handsome stranger.

Another couple of centuries later, and a lot of boot-licking diplomacy later, Julius Caesar (yes, THAT Julius Caesar) pushed Milan even farther along the road to full Roman citizenship because he needed to protect his back on this side of the Alps before heading to conquer the ancient French and Germans on the other side.

Either he, or his successor, Augustus, built Milan's first stone city walls in the late 1st century B.C., or the early 1st century A.D. ("Anno Domini"/"The Year of Our Lord") around the ancient Celtic center and the one the Romans built flanking it (nothing like an imposing example of who's really in charge).

Those walls ran in a kind of circle running through Piazza Missori towards the south and via Filodrammatici/Piazza della Scala on the north (look them up in Google Maps), and the space for houses, gardens, streets, fields, garbage dumps, warehouses and stalls lasted through a few more centuries of upheavals (let's just say, had I been a life insurance agent, I would not have issued a policy for anyone becoming emperor) until Diocletian (THAT Diocletian) appointed Massimiliano assistant emperor in 287 A.D.

Having been general on this and that side of the Alps, Massimiliano established his capital in Milan, and slapped on two lumpy additions onto city's circle of walls. (Here are some bits believed to be of this wall--waste not, want not--used a few centuries later to build a Romanesque church, itself now engulfed in later structures.)

One of these additions used to run down today's via Montenapoleone (Milan's "Rodeo Drive"). (Well, a few yards UNDER where the street runs, today, anyway.)

THIS medieval gate and circle of walls--FINALLY HERE WE ARE BACK AGAIN--runs a short block beyond, encompassing bits of the city grown up in the meantime. The gate and walls were put up--in typical cantankerous Milanese style--in the mid 12th century A.D. AFTER having taken a sound beating at the hands of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Hohenstaufen, nicknamed "Barbarossa/Redbeard," and having promised him never to rebuild the city's defensive walls.

So much for that promise.

Pole-vaulting across centuries of turbulence, peace and growing Milanese power (being in the middle of roads of commerce does have its advantages) we arrive at the absolutely fascinating Visconti family, which managed to become the (first unofficial then official) Big Cheeses in town, and slapped the (still original) Gothic sculptures by Giovanni di Balduccio and his workshop onto this very gate...a pretty obvious hint of who was then in charge.

Who knew a taxi ride could be so exciting?

For a great blog on taxi driving in New York City:


NYC taxi photo said...

oh cool is this a Fiat? a Fiat Panda?

Star said...

It is a Fiat - good eye! --, but I think it's a more recent model of the Multipla. The earlier ones had a pretty ugly bulge where the windshield hits the hood, but that disappeared in the last couple of years. The Multipla sits up a bit high (higher than a car, but not as high as a SUV), and are very comfortable. Welcome back!

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