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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Milan (Italy Day 6)

Today I was off again to do my own thing.

Although we're in the mountains in the middle of beautiful nowhere, we're not far from the train station in Voghera, and from there it's a short fifty minute ride to Milan. The family friends here are sooooo kind and sincere. They embody the image of Italians I've always had in my mind. Loving, jovial, generous, and family oriented. They were eager to help me enjoy their beautiful country and helped me look up train schedules, offered to drive me there, and gave me a list of "must sees".

Once I got to the train station I was on my own, but not nervous in the slightest. In fact I was super excited! I love adventures, especially in big cities! And this isn't the first foreign city I've navigated on my own. I even found myself understanding Italian, which must be thanks to my french and spanish. I can't speak it, but understanding it was definitely a help! The train ride was beautiful and from Stazione Centrale I took a taxi the Duomo, bought a map off the street, and made my way to the most incredible Cathedral I have ever seen. Milan's Grand Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo.

This Gothic Cathedral Church of Milan took five centuries to complete and is the fourth-largest church in the world. It is GORGEOUS. Yes it really looks like this in person. Can you believe it?! I can't even describe the emotion of standing in front of it. It has definitely made my Top 3 list of favorite churches in the world. First, the LDS San Diego Temple, this one second, and St. Patrick's Cathedral (NYC) third. I spent a good portion of the morning inside the Milan Cathedral taking pictures (no flash allowed so they're a little dark) and doing a listening tour. My favorite part was sitting in front of the prayer candles (set up in front of pictures of saints or Jesus) and sharing in the quiet moments and prayers of those around me. I'm not Catholic, but I love this ritual. For Catholics, the lit candle is a reminder of baptism and the way that they share in the life of Christ through the life of the church. When you leave the burning candle behind it is to remind that our souls never leave the presence of God, in company with His Saints. The candle serves as an offering to honor the saint and give glory to God. It is an accompaniment to the prayers offered as well. It was so peaceful, spiritual, and inspiring to sit with strangers from all over the world with one common knowledge: God lives and loves us.
Inside was marvelous. I can't even imagine the blood, sweat, and tears that went in to building this stunning structure.
The Travulzio Candelabrum was my favorite piece. A gothic-style early 13th century work of art by an anonymous Anglo-Norman master. It is shaped as a menorah, as a symbol of the passage from the Old Covenant (with the Jews) to the New Covenant (with the Christian Church).
There was even an active confessional that people were rotating in and out of.
I forgot to charge my camera battery the night before, but luckily I had my phone as back-up. Really all I wanted were church shots anyways and the battery lasted for all of it! From the Cathedral I walked to Piazza Castello Sforzesco a castle that used to be the seat and residence of the ruling family of Milan and now houses several of the city's museums and art collections.
There was an exhibition called That's Butterfly and it's mission is to spread the knowledge of Italian Opera worldwide through the creative process that follows the five essential steps of an Opera: Libretto, Partitura, Scenografia, Voci e Costume and Rappresentazione. An artistic and cultural masterpiece inside the musical masterpiece. Art in art. And if you look closely, you'll see proof I was in Milan! ;)
I left the castle and entered Parco Sempione, Milan's 116 acre urban park located between Piazza Sempione and the Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco). Formal gardens, monuments, fountains and a great view of the Arco della Pace. Not to mention the delighted screams and giggles from children playing tag. I laid down in the grass and dozed for an hour with a handful of other people. It was the best! Afterwards, I walked by the La Scalla Opera House (Teatro all Scala), one of the leading opera and ballet houses in the world, and pretty too! I meandered all over town, gazing in shop windows, browsing bookstores, and stopping to buy some tennis shoes (if you're going to get tennis shoes anywhere, Italy is the place!). I took the Metro back to the train station and was reminded again of how much Europe puts the U.S. to shame in means of making tourist life so easy. It's hard enough for an American tourist to take the subway in NYC, let alone someone from another country! Not so in Italy (or London) where every language is available to navigate the ticket machines and finding the right train. Thanks guys!

I have to admit I'm getting kind of sick of pasta (gasp!). I still love pizza. But tonight I had McDonald's for dinner. True Story. I needed a burger, and I am not ashamed! At least I didn't eat it in the middle of the Duomo like some people! I ate spaghetti at a real outdoor cafe for lunch, and waited until I was back in the mountains before chowing down on a Happy Meal.
And oh, what a happy day. ;)

1 comment:

Carolyn Quebe said...

All right, we gotta hear more about Italy.