Look up! Milan

Look! Up there! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman…stunning architecture in Milan? Is it just me, or does it feel like you’re constantly looking up in this city?

One of my favorite examples of Milanese architecture is the award-winning Bosco Verticale, a remarkable “vertical forest.” You can’t avoid turning your eyes skyward for this bit of internationally recognized wonder.

 

 

The duo of residential skyscrapers, inaugurated less than three years ago, features thousands of live trees and plants in a botanist-approved ecosystem. Identifiable from across the city, this green marvel is a welcome sight in a concrete jungle.

 

 

Speaking of architecture, have you been to the Duomo di Milano? It’s probably on your itinerary, and if it is, do try to make it up to the terraces. You’ll have to trust me on this one. ;)

 

 

Mere steps from the duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Walk into the high-end mall for a great view looking up and into the fashion scene. (This is not to be confused with Rome’s Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele, which has a great view looking down and across the cityscape.) Everywhere and all around, you can’t help but admire the Italian aesthetic.

 

 

The galleria, built in the late 1800s, is among the world’s oldest malls. It’s also a tribute to Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, who unified Italy under a monarchy that lasted under a century.

Fun Fact: The first-ever Prada store opened here in 1913. It still stands center stage.

 

 

While luxury-loving fashionistas might prefer the galleria, art and history buffs might head toward the original painting of Leonardo’s Last Supper, housed within the Santa Maria delle Grazie – an age-old beauty that stands guard over a world-renown painting that few probably realize lives in Milan.

 

 

I mentioned last week that the beauties of Milan are often inside. Let’s take a peek inside the church, shall we? Its humble exterior belies beautiful Renaissance interiors.

 

 

Do those domes remind you of anywhere else? A bit of the Blue Mosque, perhaps? No, just me? Ok, so the mosque domes are definitely more elaborate, but they don’t shelter a da Vinci masterpiece, saved from WWII bombings (that ravaged over half the city) by monks and sandbags.

Inside the unassuming walls of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, beyond multiple control doors, resides Leonardo da Vinci’s original L’Ultima Cena, the Last Supper. And it’s not actually a fresco. Though referred to by many as such, experts will tell you what the painting in the church’s convent refectory isn’t. Frescoes, traditionally painted on wet plaster with water colors, require quick work toward completion. Leonardo, however, painted Il Cenacolo on stone, over the course of several years, with tempera paint. And when you see it…well, it’s much, much larger than any of the countless reproductions you’ve ever seen.

 

 

Little of the The Last Supper’s original paint remains, and some restorations have detracted from its original details. There’s currently a da Vinci exhibit at the Vittorio Emanuele if you want to take your time studying the famous art up-close. (Hey, another excuse to return to that beautiful galleria!) Alas, you’re only allowed 15 minutes (booked, often months, in advance) before you’re ushered out of the cool, dark chamber. On your way out, you realize the Last Supper stands across a lesser-known painting of “The Crucifixion,” seemingly in better condition that its famed counterpart.

 

 

Back outside, a courtyard view poses for a photo, welcoming you to study its graceful lines.

 

 

If you need to hop on the Metro, a ten-minute walk will take you to Piazzale Cadorna and its colorfully recognizable knots, a symbolic sculpture of Milan’s industry, Metro lines, and city emblem.

 

 

Or, a 15-minute walk in the same direction will take you towards Castello Sforzesco, where former Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza commissioned da Vinci to paint frescoes in several castle rooms.

 

 

Look up! Err, down the street. But up at the foliage. A pseudo tree tunnel shades restaurants to appease your hunger, and a path towards other views of Milano that draw your eye ever upward.

 

 

Stay cool this hot August,
Caroline