Wednesday, August 11th
We arrived in Milan at 10:00 in the morning. It’s a big city. Lots of banks. All the roofs on the houses are of red tile. Everything else was green. People
seemed to be stand-offish unless we said “grazie”…thank you. Milan stands for “the central place”. This was where Constantine legalized Christianity.
Our hotel, Hotel Star Ritz, was very nice and right in the middle of Milan. The photo below is looking outside our hotel window. Star Hotel Ritz
As we waited, I tried to translate the introduction to Mark as he tried to keep his eyes open. All in all,
he was still going strong on no sleep, although I don’t know how.
The perspective in the painting is mathematically correct. And you can see a tiny hole in Jesus’ right
ear, which anchored strings that Leonardo used to establish the lines for the perspectives. It took da
Vinci 3 years to paint it. Can you imagine? I can’t imagine being that focused on anything for 3
years! He painted it in a refectory because that is where monks and nuns eat and they were not
supposed to talk during meals. Da Vinci thought it would be good to give them inspirational art to
contemplate as they chewed in silence. And what better art than the Last Supper!
Visiting Italy in late August proved to be exactly as they said it would be…very hot and
muggy. But we found our way to the “Duomo”…the cathedral. The cathedral, dedicated to
Mary, was actually begun in 1387, took five centuries to complete and was finally dedicated
in 1966. This is one corner of the huge “duomo”. The statue on the square is of Victor
Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy.
The “duomo” was under construction when
we were there and we were not able to go in
(another reason we found it difficult to go to
Italy in late August…lots of closures.) But
the surrounding “piazza”…main
square…and undercover stores and café’s
were enough to keep us plenty entertained.
It was stuffed full of shops and professionals
We kept plenty busy looking at everything,
from the marble floor at the bottom…to the
architecture of the pillars and decorative
touches…all the way up to the top of the
We found it fascinating that they would paint
something like this inside this building…like
it was quite normal to do so.
One of our main reasons for visiting Milan was
to go to the Brera Museum. So we took off in
that direction. We had a “Europass”…train
pass, but still had to buy “Metro”…subway
tickets. This was convenient to do though
because every “tabacchi”…tobacco store sold
them, and tabacchi stores were on every
block. And so were the “vespas”…little
Walking along, we just had to stop and stare
at the different types of architecture,
paintings and exterior color schemes. Not to
mention the formal gardens.
On the way, getting in and out of the
subway, the escalators wouldn’t work until
you got on them. Then sensors would start
the escalator and whisk you to the top. We
also discovered that Jeremy has some
While we were warned repeatedly about thieves, we didn’t have any problem in Milan. We did see quite a few beggars. Mostly women, wrapped up in
horrible, dirty, rags, bent over on the ground with their hands stuck out from under their rags. It was a pathetic sight and makes my heart wrench
every time I think of it.
We discovered new artists at the Brera Museum, which sits on
the second floor of an art college. But mostly we wanted to see
the original of our own painting, IL BACIO. Il bacio translates to
“the kiss”, and is the rather large painting we bought to sit over
our fireplace in the livingroom. When I asked the attendant at
the front desk what floor our painting was on, she seemed
surprised that we would even know it and seek it out
specifically. It seemed smaller than our painting, but that was
probably due to the other massive paintings in the gallery. It
also was less intense in color than the one we bought for our
home, due to the age. But it was still cool to see it and to find
out what “il bacio” stood for and how to pronounce it…”ill baah-
chee-oh”. And to learn more about the painter, Francesco
F.Hayez was born in 1791 in Venice and died in 1882 in Milan. He studied in Venice, then Rome and then Milan
where he was appointed a professor at the Academy of Saint Luke. He painted frescoes in the Vatican. He was
renowned as a great historical Romantic painter. And was greatly admired for his portraits. One of his students
was Giuseppe Bertini. He painted “Il Bacio” in 1859. It is said to reveal the principal components of Romanticism.
We walked around for awhile and discovered that many things were closed for “siesta”. This is what
Italians do when it’s too hot to work in the stores. And it was HOT! We finally found a café open and
munched on goodies and drank Cola-Light. As Mark paid for the Cola-Light, we then realized that the
munchies were not free. Everything seemed to be very expensive in Italy. At least it did at first, until
we figured out their routines.
Then we went to Santa Maria delle Grazie to see where Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper.
We reserved our tickets before we even left the United States. Only 20 people can visit the painting
for a maximum of 15 minutes. The guide lined the 20 people up at the door and you are ushered into
one room…when they close the door to the previous one. You go through 3 more rooms before
entering into the refectory where it is painted.
The painting suffered through the years, beginning with the experiments of da Vinci himself. He used untested chalks and pigments that began to
deteriorate as soon as they were applied. And in 1943, a bomb nearly destroyed the refectory, but the northern wall where the painting resides was
braced and sandbagged and seemingly miraculously, it survived. The good monks that the painting was created for also decided to cut a doorway into
the middle of the bottom of the painting in 1652. The doorway removed the painting of Jesus’ feet that Leonardo had placed one on top of the other in
preparation for the nails of the cross.
Once you see The Last Supper, you realize it is all worth the time and trouble to get there. It took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. I never
imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be able to see something so famous and precious. The sheer size of it is enough to open your mouth in awe
and made me gasp out loud when I first saw it.
Once our 15 minutes was over, we looked at the Gardens in the church that were being restored and then went to find something to eat. That is where we
learned “chiuso per ferie”…closed for holiday. Seems everywhere we went, “chiuso per ferie”. But we were warned that Italy closes its doors in late-
August, so we kept searching and finally found a place to eat. Mark had excellent spaghetti bolognese and I had “insalata mista”…mixed salad. There are
no salad dressings in Italy, only wine and vinegar. But it is such a light and refreshing taste, that we have decided to make it part of our lifestyle as well.
And of course, all the hard, crusty bread you could eat. And all the wine you could drink.
We walked around a bit more and noticed the architecture of the buildings and what happens to buildings and a city when there is too much pollution.
Then we discovered another Italian enjoyment, “gelato”…ice cream. We walked around while eating gelato and then back to the hotel to finally put Mark