Friday, July 6, 2012

(Semi-) wonderful news: free (city-owned) museum entrance til August 26, 2012

(Semi-) wonderful news!

Entrance to all (city-owned) museums is free in Milan until the 26th of August thanks to ENI (an Italian oil company): "Estate al museo."

Marvelous initiative. Gigantic kudos.

Important suggestion: next time, include private museums in the initiative, please.

The general public doesn't know, or care, if......More......

...a museum is city-owned, or private, as long as it's legit, so hard feelings are created. It's already hard enough to get some folks to put a toe inside a museum. Why create problems unnecessarily?

So, which museums are involved?

Museo Archeologico (only in Italian): a wonderful little gem, well set up in part of an ex-monastery courtyard dating to the Renaissance, itself nestled into still very visible bits of Milan's ancient Roman walls (Milan was the western ancient Roman empire's de facto capital from the late 3rd century A.D. 'til 402; go into the courtyard to see the Imperial period segment, still above ground...the polygonal tower--when open--offers a medieval chapel with frescoes...go into the basement to see the exposed Republican era remnants of walls). While there, don't miss the opportunity to go into the little adjoined church, San Maurizio. It's a Renaissance marvel, completed carpeted with frescoes.

Musei del Castello Sforzesco (in English): the castle grounds are open a bit earlier and later than the museums, and are a lovely place for a stroll, while the museums are varied and fascinating: from sculpture to painting, from furniture and decorative arts to paintings, and there's even a collection of ancient Egyptian art. Don't miss the "Arte antica" exhibit on the ground floor, with its entrance next to the princely courtyard overlooked by a delicate Renaissance era loggia and a short portico at the end. The museum, laid out wonderfully (except for the installation of Michelangelo's "Rondanini Pietà" at the end) by the architectural studio BBPR in the 1950s, whisks you under one of Milan's medieval gates, past remnants of its ancient Roman and Longobard past, directly to a beautiful and fascinating trek through its medieval and Renaissance periods, principally through sculpture (but there's also an interesting collection of arms & of Milan's principal and renowned exports during the medieval and Renaissance periods). It also gives you the wondrous opportunity to meander through the castle, itself...don't forget to note the wall and ceiling frescos (Leonardo da Vinci's "Room of the planks" with its fictive bower needs must have been a marvel), or to go into the ducal chapel with its restorative blue heavenly ceiling (and an exhibit plunked down into the space, screwed into the floor, and ruining the experience of the space, a VERY BAD museological choice...what WERE they thinking?!).

Museo del Novecento (in English): art of the 20th century up to about 1966, it concentrates on Milan's important contributions to the international art scene in that period. A valid new museum is always a welcome addition; though it has some serious flaws, go anyway.

Museo del Risorgimento (in Italian): a delightful little museum, even for folks not particularly enamored of the Risorgimento, Italy's finally successful bid for political independence. Curiosities abound: the coronation mantle worn by Napoleon when crowned the King of Italy in Milan, the medieval bell hammered so hard it bust during Milan's "Five Days" of rebellion in the spring of 1848 against the Austrian Hapsburg empire (the battle and bid for independence was successful, the heady period lasted a few months...until they were betrayed by a Savoy ruler and general, afraid to lose his own shirt, back into the hands of the Austrians...the Milanese were NOT happy campers, and he barely skeedadled with his life, after making the announcement from the balcony of a mansion still visible on via Manzoni. see HERE and HERE), Garibaldi's shirt, one of the first ever Italian flags to have survived, and paintings more interesting for their historical than artistic value.

Museo di storia naturale (in Italian): late 19th century structure with interesting exhibits and some dioramas in a lovely park with a few things for kiddies nearby (a little carousel, a mini-train ride, sometimes a pony ride, etc.). The park was laid out for the general public during the Hapsburg reign using lands that had been confiscated from monasteries. The once Neo-classical geometric layout was changed to the meandering English style in the late 19th century, around the time of an important industrial arts exposition in this very area.

While you're in the museum mood, don't snob the private museums, such as the Museum of Milan (terrific collection of now historic paintings of old Milan complete with...yes!...canals) and the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum (an enchanting "time capsule" of Milan's recent aristocratic past, it's one of Europe's most important and best preserved historic house museums, to be followed immediately by a visit to one of the other museums on the historic house museum circuit in Milan, the Villa Necchi...this duo makes very clear the difference between traditional Neo-Renaissance and 1930s modern taste...a wonderful pair), just to name a couple of the wonderful, but lesser known, ones. Your museum entrance fee only helps to cover a very small portion of the general operating budget, let alone the enormous costs for mounting a special's only the price of a plate of pasta, after all! generous, and...


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