I love to cook...and, of course, eat. I knew before I went to Milan that one of the high points would be our visit to "da Peck". It was described in many ways but ultimately I understood it to be the "high temple of gourmet food". Located about a block from Piazza del Duomo on Via Victor Hugo, the building is a very stylish sandstone structure with somewhat art deco ornamentations but the real show is inside. Unfortunately, they do not permit photographs of the the displays or the interiors which is really a shame. The quality, preparation and presentation was just incredible. I wanted to try everything...which would have definitely destroyed the trade deficit. The prices are not for the faint of heart but this is truly a rare experience. The variety and beauty of the food can not be properly described.
We did have a a very nice lunch at Peck (properly not Peck's as I was informed by a taxi driver). We were able to pre-select our choices from the display cases prior to ordering and keep the cost reasonable. It was worth every euro.
Favorite thing: As I have said, Milan is a world class center for design but this is not a recent development. As you walk around the streets of Milan be sure to look up, down and around the corners. This building was located on Via V. Hugo next to the Peck. It seems to be an apartment or office building but what stuck me was the magnificent art nouveau iron work railings.
Once an unstructured space between Castello Sforzesco and the Magenta district, Piazzale Cadorna has become a new port of entry to the city. Now it is dominated by the ugly mass of the Cadorna station where thousands of commuters are disgorged into the city each morning.
In 1998, the railway company and Milan City Council commissioned Gae Aulenti to reorganise the area. The operation rationalised the road system with traffic dividers created by water tanks, and created a vast pedestrian area for train passengers partly covered by aluminium and glass structures joined to the station facade.
The attractive 'forest' of red pillars, the water that flows from the beams of the platform roof, and the transparent covers bring to mind a 19th century covered market. They are part of a courageous an interesting architectural project initiated by the city and crowned by the majestic sculpture of Claes Oldenburg and Coosije van Bruggen. It is an enormous steel needle 18 metres tall wrapped in a highly coloured glass resin that gives a new vital identity to the square and around which the life of the square revolves
Situated in via Festa del Perdono 7, The University degli Studi of Milan is a very recent institution, of which it was solemnized a short while ago (1994) the 70th year since its foundation.
In spite of its ancient importance as political and economic centre, Milan never had an University like those of other Italian towns (in Bologna the University was founded in the 13th century, the University of Pavia, near Milan, dates back to the 14th century), but in the past centuries some advanced Institute acted there: Schools of Philosophy (1500) or of Surgery (1600) and the humanistic "Palatine" Schools (from 1600).
In 1924, August 24th, it was subscribed the agreement of the birth of Università degli Studi of Milan, which was composed by four Faculties: Laws, Humanities, Medicine and Surgery, Sciences.
Favorite thing: Designed in 1783 by the architect Piermarini, these Public Gardens, covering 160,000 square meters, includes the two Carcanine and San Dionigi monasteries which overlook Corso Venezia. In 1857, the typical Italian gardens were enlarged by Francesco Giuseppe to encompass the Dugnani Palace Park. In 1787, thanks to a further land transfer from the Elvetico College, the Boschetti (little woods) were formed. The park contains a small lake with geese and fish, a hill of pretend rock, rides, a miniature train, bumper cars, refreshment stands and the historical bar bianco (white bar), offering yoghurt, milk and other fresh treats. Admission is free.
A famous Italian product coming from Milan is the traditional Christmas sweet cake called Panettone.
Panettone contains candied orange and lemon zest and dry raisins and is served accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine.
Favorite thing: Crossing the Vittorio Emanuele Arcade from south to north, you come out in the famous Piazza della Scala. On the far side of the square you can see La Scala Theater and opposite us is Palazzo Marino, today Milan's City Hall. The monument in the center of the square portays Leonardo Da Vinci sourrounded by his pupils. Galeazzo Alessi was commissioned by the 16th century Genovese merchant Tommaso Marino to design the palace. One of its more striking features is the vast inner courtyard with an unusual decorative scheme of human and animal head sculptures surrounded by carved garlands and geometric patterns.
The economic and moral Capital of Italy, as Milan it is called, has 18 sister cities from all over the world: Belgrade (Serbia and Montenegro), Bethlehem (Palestine), Birmingham (Great Britain), Boston (United States), Chicago (United States), Dakar (Senegal), Frankfurt am Main (Germany), Krakow (Poland), Lyon (France), Melbourne (Australia), Osaka (Japan), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Shanghai (China), Tel Aviv (Israel), Thessaloniki (Greece), Tianjin (China) and Toronto (Canada).
It is also said that the English word "milliner" is coming from the name of the city.
If you really want to see the most elegant Italians, Milan, as the center of the Italian business and also the Italian fashion life, is definitely the best place to go.
Milan's inhabitants are usually called "Milanese" in English or "Milanesi" in Italian, but informally they are also called Meneghini or Ambrosiani, the last name coming from the patron of Milan, Saint Ambrose.
Favorite thing: Founded in 1618, the Ambrosiana Art Gallery in central Milan was created to inspire and encourage up-and-coming Italian artists. Over the years the large collection of art has grown, thanks to many generous private donations. Highlights include a wood panel painting by Leonardo da Vinci, sculptures, art collections, portraits and work by leading artists such as Botticelli and Caravaggio. The Bibliotecca Ambrosiana library is also housed here.
Favorite thing: There are several hundreds of Art Nouveau buildings in Milano, among which " Casa Donzelli" and "Casa Dugnani", via Saffi 9, built in 1902; here the Liberty style is evident above all in the upper part of the building: the facade is painted with various flowers on the last floor windows and with ceramic frescos reproducing sunflowers
Favorite thing: The seat of government in the city was originally the Palazzo del Broletto, where the municipal institutions were located. It became a noble residence during the rule of the Torriane and Visconti families, who gave it its shape that can in part still be seen, based on a system of two courtyards. Partially demolished to make way for the Cathedral nave, the building was refurbished after 1452 by Francesco Sforza. Used as the seat of power by the Spanish rulers, it underwent substantial modifications until the late 18th century, in particular the extensive work by Giuseppe Piermarini. Alongside the volumes of the Palazzo there is the Arengario, seat of the Palazzo del Turismo, with its two pavilions designed in 1939 (and completed in 1956) by the architects Enrico Agostino Griffini, Pier Giulio Magistretti, Giovanni Muzio and Piero Portaluppi. Feature of interest - On the first floor of the Palazzo, there is the famous 'Sala delle Cariatidi', in the location of the ancient theatre destroyed by fire in 1776. This hall is now undergoing restoration.
Favorite thing: Planned by Ferrante Gonzaga on behalf of the Spanish crown, the second circuit of city walls was begun in 1549 and completed in 1560. With respect to the Medieval walls, the new fortifications enclosed the new districts that had grown up around the radial streets. This basically military structure, one of the most powerful in Europe, consisted of massive curtain walls and fortified towers, while little emphasis was placed on ornamentation. One of the finest parts of the walls is Porta Romana, designed by Aurelio Trezzi, in which the traditional form of the city gate is given a sober decorative treatment. From the 18th century, the walls began to be converted for uses differing to that of defence, and in the 19th century they were finally demolished to make room for new districts of bourgeois residential architecture.
This little kiosk is located on piazzo Quattro Novembre, next to the tram stop and just across the road from my hotel. On the first night of my first visit I needed an early night, having been travelling for over 24 hours, and so dropped in to buy a couple of takeaways. It was about 9 pm on a sultry late May evening and the guys were hanging on the piazza with bottles and plastic tumblers just shootin' the bull.
The guy serving immediately recognised me (not me personally but...you know what I mean...the red nose, the rhuemy eyes...) and when I asked for "Due Birre Prego." he immediately delved into the icebox and offered up a brace of 66cl Moretti's.
For 5 Euros a brace this was exceptional value and I was tempted to join the guys and hang awhile myself but I was cream-crackered and just wanted to put my feet up with a couple of cold ones.
I dropped by on my second visit and repeated the exercise. The guy serving gave me a big smile and repeated the delving bit. This time I sat on the kerb with my first one and even though my Italian wasn't up to conversation it made for a pleasant late evening half-hour just listening to the bull and watching the world go by - a couple of guys bummed cigarettes but I'm cool with that (always willing to promote bad habits in others LOL) and they were suitably appreciative (in Italian).
Chill place and the guy serving was really friendly ;-HIC!
Arriving into the city's central station late afternoon by bus from Linate wasn't the best introduction to Milan. The roads were traffic-clogged, the suburban streets grimy and just about every building we passed, and there were a few elegant ones, was unartistically multi-grafittied. The station building itself was pretty impressive but I just skirted it that day whilst searching for my hotel.
The hotel was fine though, with a friendly welcome and a good sized room overlooking the busy street, but my evening was marred by the waiter who ripped me off with an eight Euro cover charge after a naff pizza and a couple of OK beers.
I was cheered back up by a bit of craic with the guy at the beer shack on piazza Quattro Novermbre when I picked up a couple of nicely chilled Moretti's (BIG ONES) as my nightcap and then an early-ish night enjoyed with the window open ever so slightly to let the street sounds filter through. Being a country boy I love city street sounds and here there was the clacking of the trams, the murmer of voices and laughter from the guys around the beer shack and even the odd motor vehicle and scooter adding together to what was, for me, a cacophonous lullaby which (along with the couple of beers and a twenty-six hour journey) ensured a dreamless and restful sleep.
Wakening refreshed about seven-thirty a quick shower, shave and cigarette set me up for breakfast which turned out to be well worth getting up for - not so much for the food (which was good) but rather the very attractive woman serving ;-)
Then it was off into the city proper. I hadn't actually planned anything except that I needed to get to Bergamo that afternoon and so just took a wander (having checked out and left my bag at the hotel). The immediate area of the station is a bit scruffy, but in a down-to-earth manner, and the various building works didn't help any. I went down what was initially a promising tree-centred avenue but this sort of evolved in a run-down suburban area and so noticing a Metro station (Lima i think) decided to use that and see where I ended up.
Having bought a 24 hour ticket I simply got on the first train to see where that was going to take me. The easy-to-read line map above the doorway gave me a few options, including Duomo, but I liked the sound of Cairoli which was subtitled Castello.
Sure enough when I surfaced there was the castle tucked behind the statue and floral roundabout of the piazza and tempted by that direction I, as is my wont, headed the opposite way.
Fondest memory: At about 9 in the morning my fellow tourists weren't as yet out in force and so I caught a taste of the authentic street atmosphere. Locals were either just starting work, opening the various shops and other small businesses, or grabbing an espresso and a chance to read their paper before heading off to wherever they were heading.
Being a pedestrian precinct the only vehicle was a solitary street cleaning machine doing what looked like polishing the already spotless cobbles. On both sides of the wide avenue the six-story tenement-style buildings elegantly presented a uniform, yet diverse, frontage where each had its own character, some sandstone, some granite and others mainly red brick. Each had its own decorative flourishes: balconies, stone and iron; windows, variously louvered, plain and Greek-arched; butresses and protusions abounded and every doorway was an architectural gem in its own right.
The pavement terraces were in the process of being laid for the day and the market stalls stocked. I just had to sit awhile and absorb it all and the Majestic Cafe, with its welcoming proprietor, was the ideal spot to take an espresso as the lookie-lookie guy hurried past clutching his guidebooks and friendship bracelets on his way to the Castello.
A clutch of laughing women momentarily blocked my view of inside the cafe but they soon found themselves an indoor table where their laughter continued, echoing gently from the high beamed ceiling. The hissing of the espresso machine and the clink of cup on saucer added to the tonal backdrop whilst the passersby's conversations in their sing-song Italian ebbed and flowed, dopplered by their passage.
This really was a pleasant way to get introduced to the city proper and I already had my eye on which bar's terrace I was going to catch the evening bustle in later.
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