Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Milan, the Cinderella of Italy

Yesterday, AGAIN, I had to stick up for Milan, even while talking with Milanese...and their oh too impressionable guests.

Milan isn't like Rome.

Milan isn't like Venice.

Milan isn't like Florence.

Milan isn't even like Naples, or Palermo.

Milan isn't like any of the other marvelous towns in Italy deserving of visits (Mantova, Como, Turin and Verona come immediately to mind, not to mention--and I won't, so as not to embarrass myself--the important cities I still haven't visited, either).

No other city in the world is like these cities, so why should Milan have to be like them, in order to be found attractive and interesting?

I think not.

Milan is Milan.

Not liking Milan because it's not like Rome is like not liking bananas because they aren't like apples.

They're both fruit, but.... I think you get the point....More...

Milan has its own marvelous good points (I talk about my favorites in this blog) and difficult bad points (enough people complain about the city, I don't need to do that...usually), just like any metropolis.

You just try enjoying Florence from, say, March til December, and you'll know what I mean.

Furthermore, it's not just my opinion.

Milan is on the NY Times list of the 41 most interesting places to go in 2011:

I am openly partial. If you come to Milan, I highly recommend a visit to the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum at Via Gesù 5 in the centrally located fashionable shopping district of Montenapoleone (

First off, I work there, so now you know.

Secondly, it's one of Europe's most important and best preserved historic house museums. That's the fancy way of saying it's like an authentic time machine jumping you back into the late 19th century to snoop around the private home, packed with Italian Renaissance art and furniture, of a wealthy Milanese aristocrat...fascinating for scholars looking for particular pieces to study, but, because of the home environment, also lots of relaxing nosy fun even for those not usually attracted to the idea of going to a museum.

Thirdly, there are information cards in all the major European languages and Japanese in all of the rooms and--by golly, folks, it's true--audio guides available freely as part of the ticket price in Italian, English, French and Japanese. (Hey, practicing your skills in any of these languages? Come test yourself, and have fun at the same time!) The audioguides are fun AND informative, too (the fact that I helped write them doesn't influence that comment one little bit!). There are even activity cards (only in Italian, though) for parents to help them explore the museum with their small children.

Need more convincing about coming to Milan for at least a few days?

Here's my article dispelling some popular, but erroneous, myths about Milan:

Here are a couple of links to my past "Understanding Milan" posts:

Milan has lots to offer visitors, from those interested in history, art and architecture from antiquity to the present to those fascinated by urban development and modern "stuff" of all kinds from design and fashion to rock and roll...though for the modern stuff you'll have to hunt up the info using some of the links in the left hand column of my blog, because it's not high on my personal scale of interests (to say the least).

And now, our random thought from Marcus Aurelius for the day:

"I do my own duty; other things do not distract me." (Book VI, verse 22...though it really fits today's post, I swear it was randomly chosen!)

I snapped this shot of a detail of the Villa Romeo-Faccanoni with you in mind on the 19th of February, 2011, around 12:30 P.M. If you want to know more about the villa, see my recent post:



Margaret said...

In the US, Milan holds its own as a fabulous place.

Star said...

I'm so glad to hear that. I think that it's better known in the U.S., though, as the best Italian city for fashion and design, with little awareness of its own particular artistic and architectural beauty and history.

Lots of people have heard of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper," for example, but I'd bet few know that it's in Milan, and of those that do know, even fewer still that the fresco is in a refectory (monk's dining room) facing an important example of an Early Renaissance fresco (so it's an excellent way to see immediately why Leonardo--one of the protagonists of the High Renaissance--was so innovative), and that the refectory is attached to an important example of Milanese Early and High Renaissance church architecture and decoration, sponsored by the Sforza dukes, that shouldn't be missed, either, in order to understand better the ambiance in which Leonardo was working, and Milan's important role in the birth of High Renaissance architecture (does the name "Bramante" strike any bells?).

Milanese museums have some of the world's most well known masterpieces.

Then there's San Lorenzo, a church, probably once part of the imperial palace, with architecture stretching from the Paleo-Christian period (a fancy way of saying late ancient Roman Empire, when it already had "gone Christian") to the late High Renaissance (the dome had collapsed after an earthquake).

Finally, there's Sant'Ambrogio, in which almost the entire history of Christianity, as we know it today, can be traced from the 3rd century A.D. til the 1940s (and without Sant'Ambrogio, who built the original church, and for whom it was later named, Christianity today could very well be a very different thing, indeed).

These are just a few tastes of the artistic and historical richness of Milan that visitors expect from Rome, Venice and Florence, but--at least I think so--not from Milan, and so I try to explore the well known and the everyday beauties of the city, hoping that more visitors come, and really enjoy it, as it deserves.

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