Beautiful Handmade Statement Necklaces and other Fabulousness from Neena Shilvock - Inspirations and Designs From the Week Gone by
Hey folks, thanks for stopping by, nice to catch up with you again. This is a bit late as we just got back from a few days in Milan last night. Fed up of the weather and cold in the UK, we took a short four day break - all we wanted was a quick direct flight, guaranteed warmth and a few touristy things to do, nothing strenuous. A nice hotel, decent food and something to get dressed up for - we put all these wishes into a box, shook it hard and picked out........drumroll.....Milan!
The touristy bits were easy - as Milan is mainly industrial, there isn't too much that we wanted to see, just the Duomo, and the mural of The Last Supper painted on the wall of a convent and we were done! We did add an exhibition of the works of Frida Kahlo to our must see items and strolled around the posh designer shops in the centre of Milan as if they were museums - they might as well have been, at those prices!
The Duomo has no dome and is dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, took six centuries to finish and has spires ( Spiro??) and pointy bits galore. It is the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world. Statues of saints abound - around 3500 of them ( I didn't know that there were that many saintly people who walked the earth!), and the doors are carved beautifully with the Stations of the Cross. People walked up to the doors and touched the figures of Christ and Mary, and where they were constantly rubbed one could see that the doors were made of bronze that was tarnished a dark green/ black. Much of the cathedral was being cleaned and refurbished, and I'm sure when they get around to the doors, they will be dazzlingly beautiful. It's a pity that they have been allowed to tarnish so badly in the first place. There are over 130 spires, and a nail allegedly from the Cross hangs at the apex of the vaulted roof. People mill around the square, taking selfies and the bars and restaurants serve up expensive food and drink, that cost a fraction of the price elsewhere, away from the Centro Storico.
Just across the square was another Temple - this time to conspicuous consumption - The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It has a barrel domed glass roof, a beautiful mosaic floor, paintings and frescoes abound and the air smells expensive with loads of posh shops in it. Everything in the shops at first glance seemed to be made for anorexic, rich waifs. Mike showed me a dress and said how beautiful it was - well, even one of my legs wouldn't get into the whole dress. 'Just as well', I muttered to myself, clicking away. The shops were full of Japanese tourists buying handbags and headscarved middle eastern women, laden with bags buying the same designer goods that are probably available in the shops where they come from. Our hotel, which was a block away from the Duomo was full of Japanese and Middle Eastern tourists and the floor of the foyer was littered with shopping bags and weary women every evening. Mike and I were each in an ethnic minority of our own at breakfast - I am used to it, but he found the experience strange in Europe!
I took photographs in La RInascente - a department store just off the Galleria - everything was very very expensive, and once again geared up for the anorexics who walked past the fabulous food and chocolate shops without a second glance, making straight for the clothes. 'Just as well', I thought to myself again, clicking away without a pang of heartache for all the things I didn't buy!
Culture Vultures in Milano
The best part of our holiday was a visit to La Scala - the only tickets we could get at that late date were in the third row and a heart clutching 180 Euros each. I went against Mikes wishes and booked them online the day before we flew out, and I'm so glad I did. They had a modern ballet set to music on that week - I don't know Mahler at all, but the pieces by Mozart and Ravel were familiar. The ballet itself was spectacular, especially the piece choreographed to Ravel's Bolero - I was literally in tears by the end of it, I was so moved, bearing in mind I am not a person who cries at the drop of a hat - that twenty to thirty minute piece was worth the price of the tickets. The theatre itself is very beautiful inside, although it has a disappointingly nondescript exterior. The chairs are padded and comfortable, which is important if one has to sit still for hours at a time.
Frida Kahlo at MUDEC
I found out that there was an exhibition of curated works by Frida Kahlo at the Museum of Culture, MUDEC, so we schlepped across town to see it. The amount of pain this prodigious artist was in all through her life was difficult to bear, as it was all around us in her pictures and portraits. We were in awe of her accomplishments, lying flat on her back bound up in a corset, with a cigarette in one hand and paintbrush in the other, making meaningful art on a canvas suspended over her on a contraption of pulleys. Every brushstroke had a meaning ascribed to it and told a story - it wasn't just a pretty picture but almost a blogpost or diary painted in pictures, each one telling the story of what was happening in her life at the time and how she felt about it.
And then, on to the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie to see Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' - painted on the refectory wall. It was commissioned by Luciano Sforza, the Duke of Milan - because the painting was on a thin exterior wall, the effects of humidity were felt more keenly, and the tempera failed to properly adhere to the wall. It was covered over with a curtain, but that trapped humidity further and the painting has been restored several times, the last one taking 21 years, using modern paint and completed in 1999. Twenty people are allowed in at a time for fifteen minutes, and I bought tickets online to beat the queues. The painting depicts the consternation of the twelve disciples when Jesus tells them that he is about to be betrayed by one of them - it has a lot of significance on Maundy Thursday, which coincidentally was the day we ended up going to see it.
Jesus is the central figure and all the apostles, painted in groups of three, look shocked and disturbed. Judas has been painted with his head lower than everyone else, third to the right of Jesus, clutching a bag of silver. Some really crazy person decided to knock a door into the refectory wall, just under Jesus, thus effectively amputating his feet - the door is now blocked off. On the opposite wall is painted a depiction of the crucifixion by Da Montorfano, added to later on by Da Vinci.
As we had got to the convent too early, we spent some time wandering around Leonardo's vineyard across the road and drinking fabulous Italian coffee in a cafe'.
Spring is definitely in the air in Italy and as we sat in the bars on Viale Magenta I saw a number of young people wearing wreaths of laurel leaves on their heads. I wondered whether there was a connection to the Easter holiday.
I walked up to one of the girls and asked her the significance of the wreaths - they were all celebrating graduation day - she had graduated with a degree in business studies and the new graduates wore a wreath of leaves to the ceremony.
The girls had flowers woven into them, and the boys just had leaves and red berries. The world belongs to them and I wished her well!