Sunday, June 19, 2011

A lovely Sunday in Milan: here my are!

What gorgeous (rapidly) hot and clear weather we had, today. Not a cloud in the BLUE sky. My desk is full of work and my calendar is full of deadlines, but I couldn't resist. Work and bad weather have been keeping me trapped inside for donkey's years, so, camera in hand, off I went right after lunch, and got back at almost 8 P.M., with plenty of light still reigning. Too hard to pick just a couple of photos, so I thought I'd take you along with me on my walk...More......

After finishing something long and enriching, I remembered that there is an odd thought-provoking sculpture in front of the provincial government building, so I decided to try my luck with the lighting. Got off the public transportation near the Duomo (couldn't resist the shot, though I have gazillions of them), and headed off back behind it.

The "promo" sculpture for the Paladino show at the Palazzo Reale (unfortunately) is still in situ.

Passed by the 16th century police headquarters, today the seat for the "Vigili" (street police). I've got an idea about how to talk about this in the future, so I won't spill my beans, here. I actually had wanted to check out the lighting on the sculpture of Cesare Beccaria in the piazza just out of sight to the left, but it already was covered in shade, so I didn't bother. I STILL don't have a decent photo of that sculpture. sigh. This author wrote his famous and influential "Of Crimes and Punishment" in the mid-eighteenth century, already against capital punishment. Amazing foresight.

"What's so special about this?," you ask. Apart from being a good back-side shot of the "curtain" of rather blecky (in my opinion) post-WWII architecture...perhaps by Caccia Dominioni, perhaps by Magistretti...on Corso Europa (the front side's no better), look more carefully at the bottom left...there's a fragment of the ancient Roman baths that used to be in this very spot. Out of sight just to the right is a little ancient church. Bits and pieces of antiquity peeking up like grass through modern tarmac. I love it.

Now we're already in Piazza San Babila (where rivers used to go under the ancient Roman walls) looking at Ponti's post-WWII building.

Still in Piazza San Babila looking at...San Babila. An Early Christian church, redone over and over and over again throughout the centuries till there's not much left of the real McCoy (the façade is late 19th century and the bell tower is from the 1930s!).

On Corso Monforte at the corner of via Conservatorio, an explosion of revived Art Nouveau mixed with Lombard Baroque by Alfredo handy dandy "Touring" guide to Milan gives the date of 1911, but the building bears the date of 1923, and it would be a bit odd to put the date on the building twelve years after it was constructed...maybe it was DESIGNED in 1911, but FINISHED in 1923. Oh man, another conundrum to follow up on...

...Conundrum, or not, its putti were too adorable to resist. Are you tired, yet? Courage! We're almost to the originally planned destination!

Tah dah!...Today's goal: the 2008 sculpture called "L'Uomo della luce" ("The man of light") by Bernardi Roig in honor of all victims of terrorism (of which Milan saw quite a bit in the years following the university student and left-leaning uprisings in 1968). This life-sized sculpture is located in the little piazza in front of the Via Vivaio entrance added by Giovanni Muzio (1940 ca.) to the provincial government offices in the adjacent historic structure (worth its own later post) on Corso Monforte. The first time I saw this sculpture, we passed it at night, and it scared me because I thought it was a real and crazy person with lights doing some kind of insane tight rope act, or thievery.

Not particularly "pretty" (though contemporary art doesn't really try, anymore, does it...another sigh...), and certainly getting pretty dirty, but maybe that was part of the artist's plan to emphasize the tough burden of trying to bring light to a hopelessly dark situation, soon doomed to failure (why? note that the beam on which the figure is walking ends abruptly). At first I thought it was a temporary installation, but it's been there for a few years, so I guess it's there to stay. Activates the piazza in a thought-provoking way. Just a few steps further down, something else thought-provoking caught my eye.

Had kept on going down via Vivaio, passed two panels of low relief art on this part of the province's seat that had just been completed and inaugurated prior to the worst of the WWII bombing raids in 1943 by US and UK planes smashing bits of this very building (and at least 25% of the city of Milan) into smithereens (what rotten luck, but if you play with fire...). Snapped a few shots, and keen looking from the other side of the fence rewarded me with the name of the artist faintly chiseled into the lower right of this one: Ivo Soli. Was just about to move on when, "Wait a minute.... Is that...? Could it be...? Yes, it is!"

Not just "damnatio memoriae," but literally rewriting history. Now reading "Italian laws entrust to the provincial government the task of the care of motherhood and childhood," if you look closely enough, the word "Italian" is an inserted bit of stone. The rest of the plaque is still whole. I'll bet you a cappuccino that it originally said "Fascist" (both ending here with the plural feminine "e"). There are instances of this all over town. Sometimes it takes the right light to see it because all that's left are the faintest of scratches, or darkenings, where the Fascist symbols and dating system used to be. Maybe I'll go into that another day, as that's a whole other can o' worms.

Still in via Vivaio, I passed the Istituto dei Ciechi (Institute for the Blind), where there is the possibility to immerse oneself, even if only temporarily, in a simulation of what it must be like to be blind: cocktails, dinner, business meetings and special events in the pitch black. I've heard it's an amazing experience, though it sounds a bit scary for me, but you might want to try it. Groups (in Italian, I imagine) are available: 02.7639.4478,

At the end of via Vivaio, on the corner of via Cappuccino, there is the fascinating Berri-Merigalli building by Arata (1911-1914). It's...

...fascinatingly ghoulish and Neo-Romanesque.

On to viale Piave and what could be a remaining nibble of the Spanish Walls (begun in the mid-16th century, they encircled Milan until they were torn down as useless in the period of peace under the Austrian Hapsburgs at the end of the 18th century...the city was less defensible, but it was also less able to defend itself against the Hapsburgs without its walls...they were some smart cookies). A few steps ahead, and... we are at Porta Venezia (because the street led to Venice). The gate and the taxman offices in the old Spanish walls HAD been, but were no more because the walls had been torn down, remember? Piermarini had started to build (but never finished) symbolic gates for the tax men, so the crumbling half-built pair of structures was torn down and replaced in 1827-38 by Vantini (this is the one on the left, with your back to the center of town). From here, it was quite a hike under the hot sun past the public gardens commissioned by the Hapsburgs from Piermarini for the city in areas confiscated from monasteries.

Finally having arrived in Piazza Republica, at the end where the train station USED to be (until it was moved farther down a bit, and is now the Stazione Centrale), here's a snap of some of the post-WWII buildings that went up in the area. I shot this just before I collapsed on the bus for home.

Are you as tired as I am? It was a lovely day, though, so I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.


Star said...

Sorry about so much space between the pictures...blogger is not really WYSIWYG. The few blank lines I had to insert to keep the text and photos from overlapping in the preview window sometimes went a bit overboard in the published version. Let's hope they fix this, ASAP. Thanks for dropping by!

etta said...

Yes, I am rather tired after such a long walk, but how many things we saw! You know that my favourite is Palazzo Berri Meregalli, disquieting but fascinating. I must admit that after so many weeks, I find that I like the horses in front of Palazzo Reale; I have doubts about the mountain of salt...

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