Ah, here we are again! For my fourth blog, I’d like to reminisce with you good people of the internet about a trip I took to Milan last year. Sigh! It was a really good trip!
I’d never been abroad by myself before, but after constantly hearing it broadens the mind, and suchlike, I decided I wanted to make good on what had been a years-long desire to visit Italy, by going to the city with the highest density of English speakers in that country. So off I trundled, and despite the terror of being in a foreign country where I knew nobody and could just about get by in the language, it was a really great time!
Milan is an old city, with as rich a history as any other of the renaissance centres of Italy, though because of that rich and varied history, the city doesn’t look like Florence, or Lucca, or Bologna. Instead, what struck me most when I arrived was how much the city reminded me of London, with a lot of big, stone buildings that makes the experience almost like a walk down Whitehall.
However, renaissance Milan still survives, not least in the Castello Sforzesco.
The Castello is now an art gallery and museum, but it still looks pretty awesome!
The city was an independent duchy until the sixteenth century, when it became a Spanish possession. Following the War of the Spanish Succession, however, it was ceded to Austro-Hungary, and during the eighteenth century – the Age of Enlightenment – rebuilding has created the look we see today.
The centrepiece of the city is the Duomo, the Cathedral of Milan. Started under the Visconti Dukes of Milan in the fifteenth century, the white Carrara marble that fronts the church and gives it such a stunning appearance today was added for Napoleon Bonaparte’s triumphant entry into the city in 1805 for his coronation as King of Italy. Emerging from the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele into the Piazza del Duomo had a really stunning effect on me, I must say!
I met a Canadian chap in the Piazza, who was also travelling alone and was overcome with relief to meet someone who also spoke English! Ah, marvellous! The Duomo is free to enter, but remember that Italy is a staunchly Catholic country, and here the army were guarding the entrance preventing access to anyone inappropriately dressed – they turned one woman away in front of me because her skirt ended above the knee. Inside, the building is surprisingly dark, but I have no pictures because I couldn’t find anyone to buy a photography permit from!
There are more churches in the city than just the Duomo, of course. The most impressive, I found, was San Lorenzo alle Colonne, just a short walk from the Duomo.
The name comes from the columns that run in front of the church, which were brought there when the church was built in the fourth century from either a Roman temple of bath house. The Roman connection with Milan is actually quite strong – in the late third century, Maximian built his palace here when the Empire was split, with Diocletian ruling from Nicomedia (in modern-day Turkey). The ruins of the palace were discovered during the second world war bombing of the city.
Lots of history to be discovered here! I run a history-centric blog on Blogger, where you can read more about the history of the city if you’re interested!
Unfortunately I’ve not been back to Italy since – I suppose it’s a combination of nervousness and a distressing lack of funds. But it’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately, partially the reason for writing this blog, and I hope that I can get back there soon – certainly to revisit Milan, as a start!