Five days in Milan, Venice and Florence is not enough but it was enough for a wonderful detour on my way home from Greece. These three Northern Italian cities were once rich and powerful city-states and remain important cultural centers with strong local economies. Well, duh, it’s Italy!
I started in Milan because I got a cheap flight from Athens. Milan is mostly a no-nonsense business community but has its share of historical icons.
Duomo di Milano is Milan’s giant cathedral and can seat 7,000.
Leonardo’s Last Supper is painted on the wall of a beautiful Milan church. The Italians recently restored it by removing 12 layers of paint originally intended to keep the painting “fresh.” Those layers saved the original painting from deterioration.
Milan is famous for fashion. I loved the Armani Silos — a museum of Armani’s couture (clothes!) — partly because the fabrics and design were so beautiful but also because of how they were displayed. I returned to each of the exhibit rooms several times.
The lighting in the Armani Silos makes everyone feel like a professional photographer. Armani himself supervised all aspects of the displays.
The building housing the Armani Silos is very modern but evocative of traditional Italian construction and design. These two girls were happy to show how the museum is such a comfortable place to learn about the changes in fashion design over the past 50 years.
Of the dozens of amazing choices, the gown in the middle is the one I would pick if I was 5’10” and 96 pounds and fabulously rich.
Milan is also famous for its high end boutiques but I didn’t go in. 🙂
Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel is Milan’s most famous shopping mall. It was built to commemorate Italy’s unification in 1877.
The boutique windows were amazing.
Milan applies it fashion sense to its bread.
After Milan, I took the 2-1/2 hour train ride to Venice — clean, quiet and fast, a huge contrast to the Italian trains I rode in the 1970s. Arriving in Venice, I was welcomed by a young man from Bangladesh who works in Venice 8 months of the year to support his family at home. He hauls tourists’ luggage to hotels in a sort of wheel barrow thing because there are no cars in Venice. He was going home the next day so he was happy!
Maybe you have heard people say it feels like Disneyland. It feels like Disneyland. But I thought about how romantic the architects of Venice must have been and how their vision for this city was so timeless.
Here is a picture of Venice you have probably seen many times except that I actually took this one.
Here is a picture you probably haven’t seen — the inside of an S&M clothing store that had a sense of humor. Opening hours are “sometimes.”
Venice is tragically sinking and many of the sidewalks are flooding. I couldn’t help but think it is sinking under the weight of the tourists.
Peggy Guggenheim created a wonderful museum of modern art in Venice. This was my favorite — a Kandinski.
And then I got to see my wonderful friend Lise in Florence. Lise moved to Italy more than 30 years ago. She is an artist and studied for years to become a tour guide in Italy. Whenever I have visited Lise, she is always full of stories about the history and art of Florence. She also knows where to get the best cicciolata (Italian hot chocolate) and pasta.
Lise tells the story of how one of the merchant families got rich at the expense of another merchant family by putting opiates in their wine at an elaborate dinner. While the drugged family slept, the boat from China arrived with the year’s silk deliveries. The naughty family bought the whole silk shipment and got fabulously wealthy. They built a new palace — and every window sill is engraved with a message for the wise: “no dormire.” Don’t sleep!
We saw an amazing film at the Ferragamo museum (Farragamo shoes that is). It was part Bunuel, part Boticelli and part I don’t know what.
And my refugee friends are remembered wherever I go — Ai Wei Wei, China’s dissident artist, adorned Palazzo Strozzi in Florence with red life boats in their honor.
I am home….