April in Milan

Submitted by Carol Faenzi

My fiancé, Lloyd Brooks and I recently spent a few days visiting this beautiful and sophisticated city in the Lombardia region of Italy.

There is a perception that Milan is strictly business and not as compelling a place to visit as other iconic Italian cities such as Florence, Rome, or Venice.

We could not disagree more.

The Duomo (Cathedral) of Milan dominates the center in an enormous piazza that would dwarf others in cities of the same size. Its ancient roots are in dramatic comparison to the modern goings on steps away.

The adjacent Galleria, known as the Living Room of Europe with a history going back to 1867, might be filled with high fashion brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton, but it also is home to the Libreria Bocca, the oldest bookstore in Italy.  The charming entrance drew me in immediately and the small space is a wonder in design. Books are stacked from floor to ceiling like art objects.  

Another enterprise with a long history in the Galleria is Camparino, a bar famous for its Negronis and other quintessential Italian aperitivi for over 100 years. The waiters, dressed in black tie and gliding through the place like swans, deliver your cocktail with a flourish that more than compensates for the relatively high prices. We became regulars while there, soaking up the cocktails, beautiful surroundings and enjoying a fascinating people watching experience.

Milan is, after all, the fashion capital of Italy, if not the world. I cannot imagine how many selfies were taken during the hour or so we observed the parade of fashionistas in front of our beautiful little table.

A highlight was a guided visit to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. The painting has suffered deterioration (it began during the Artist’s lifetime due to the technique Leonardo used that did not hold up), less than helpful restorations, plus nearly being completely destroyed during World War II.  In fact, the wall it is placed on, and the one opposite, (both in the monks’ dining hall), were the only walls standing after the bombing. The painting is miraculous. It has an ethereal quality and its details as pointed out by our guide, made me feel grateful to stand in its presence.

We also went to the top of the Cathedral, partly by lift and the rest up narrow passageways. Walking among the spires and being able to look down upon Milanese society in the Piazza gave us a perspective that completed our encounter with this structure. It is a magnificent church, inside and out. The gothic, architectural elements made by human hands over centuries is almost overwhelming to contemplate. This photo that Lloyd took of me standing in front of its doors is the best way to convey its scale.

This is a city that is not only full of history and art, but also of the joy of living. We will be going back.