Milan and design. They go together like Dolce and Gabbana. Milan is the center of creativity in Europe, and when an American client invited me to meet them at the Macef International Home Show in Fiera Milano, I was beside myself with excitement. I bought a pocket Italian-English dictionary, practiced ‘grazie’ in front of the mirror, and I was ready to go!
After meeting the clients at Grand Hotel Verdi, Tess, my colleague, and I walked towards the exquisite Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a glass-roofed arcade with marble floors that was built in 1867. There are high-end stores, restaurants and cafes inside the galleria.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Our destination was the magnificent Duomo di Milano, an elaborate Gothic cathedral on the main square of Milan. Building this vast cathedral started in the 5th century, generations of kings and popes changed the design a couple of times that it took more than 400 years to complete. Breathtaking statues and intricate stained glass adorn the cathedral.
Unfortunately, the Duomo was undergoing renovations and cleaning when we visited, scaffolding obscured its glorious façade.
We rode an elevator to reach the roof top of the Duomo. There are pinnacles punctuated by a grove of spires, topped with statues overlooking Milan. The intricate marble design was astoundingly mind-boggling.
Armed with a map, Tess and I decided to look for Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The famous painting is in the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie, a church built in the 14th century. Taking photographs was not allowed inside the museum. I noticed this wrought iron floor candelabrum in one of the church’s chambers.
My feet were already blistered by the time we arrived at the Castello Sforzesco, a castle built in the 14th century. The Castello houses several museums---works by Michaelangelo, Mantegna, Bellotto and Canaletto are displayed at The Museum of Ancient Art.
a park behind the Castello
At the far end of Castello Sforzesco is the Arch of Peace constructed in early 18th century. This arch was Napoleon’s idea to celebrate his victory but after his Waterloo, the arch was left unfinished until 1838.Arch of Peace
Tess with the doves at the piazza
We met a lot of Pinoys in Milan…waiters, domestics, exchange students, wives of Italians and tourists. Our hotel manager enthused about the Thrilla' in Manila when he learned that we're from the Philippines. For a minute, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized he was talking about the Ali-Frazier boxing match in the 70's at the Araneta Coliseum. I remember my father going gaga over that match. Like Filipinos, Italians, I realized, are crazy about boxing.
We also chanced upon a Ferrari launching at the piazza where Tess was star-struck by F1 driver Michael Schumacher. She panicked and asked me to take his picture---alas, I didn’t know who Michael Schumacher was, didn't recognize him waving in front of me! I was busy admiring the cars and the drop-dead gorgeous Italian men all around.
with our Pinoy waiter and his boss
It was a short and memorable visit---my first taste of Europe. Shopping was out of the question because it was extremely expensive! After roaming the luxury shopping areas of Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Via Sant Andrea, and drooling over the windows at Fashion Quadrilatero, we ended up shopping in Benetton’s outlet store! How can a peso-earner shop in an expensive city like Milan???? Sigh.
Tess and I comforted ourselves by drinking espresso at Zucca, and dining al fresco-Milan style.