Second Day of Exploring Italy...

Trip Start May 03, 2008
Trip End May 07, 2008

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Once again, we got up super early. boarded the subway, and headed into the city. Breakfast again was brioche and fruit, and again was delicious. We headed toward the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazia to see if we could get tickets to see Da Vinci's Last Supper. ("Cenacolo Vinciano") We were in luck (it reserves to sold out months in advance, but there was a cancellation!), and got two tickets for the afternoon! Then explored the church, which was amazing. However, we were witness to the exact reason why Europeans think Americans are terrible. While we were in the church, which is still functioning, there were people praying, it was very quiet and somber (no photos allowed, be respectful, you can't even enter in shorts or tank tops). There was a priest in an open confessional hearing confession. As one confessor left the confessional, a group of four American tourists walked up to the priest, and asked him loudly, in English, for directions to the Last Supper. We were grievously embarrassed.

Then we headed over to the Basilica de Sant'Ambrogio, a church begun in the 4th century, and then rebuilt in the 11th. There was a service going on when we arrived, so we explored the courtyard and the neighborhood, and then returned when the service was over. In the courtyard you can see in the latest restoration, many old pieces of sarcophagi that were found were simply plastered into the walls. Hey, this looks cool and old, let's brick it into the wall! Odd. Then inside there's a glass reliquary in the crypt containing the preserved and quite visible bones of Saint Ambrosius and two 3rd century martyrs. There were also other glass coffins in small chapels throughout the church, and for a 50 cent Euro piece, they'll light up for you!

Then up to the Brera Art Gallery, which had all kinds of amazing works, Andrea Mantegna, Rubens, Caravaggio. Lisa studied many of these paintings in school, but there is really no comparison to being in their presence, to see the lines, the brush strokes, to be able to sit and soak them in. No reprint can really convey the weight of them.

Lunch by Cadorna Station--margherita pizza, panini and precce. (A 4 Euro sweet bread, which was really good.) By this time the amount of walking we had done the previous day was catching up with us, and we relished sitting by the odd but strangely beautiful fountain at the station that is like giant twin rain gutters pouring water into a pool below. Then we had a picollo pesca gelato (small peach) on the way back to Santa Maria delle Grazia, and went in and saw the Last Supper. They only let 20 people in at a time, for 15 minutes. It was really kind of breathtaking to see it in person. If you stand at the far end of the room, the perspective lines from the partial frescoes on the side walls combined with the angles in the architecture, make the image extend back into the wall. The perspective lines in the painting match these almost exactly.

Then to the Castello Sforzesco Museum, which had all kinds of fascinating stuff. Sarcophagi, a fresco by Da Vinci, and the Pieta Rondanini - Michaelangelo's last and unfinished work. He had changed his subject part way through the work, so Christ's legs are finished, but his torso is only roughly carved, and his and Mary's faces are just barely sketched into the marble. It's a fascinating peek into that process.

Back to the hotel for a nap, again about twelve hours after we left it, and then dinner at the Happiness Cafe just a short walk from our hotel. A huge steak, grilled veggies, chianti, and a margherita pizza that made us never want to eat pizza made in America again. It was so fresh and delicious - you could taste the basil in the sauce, the crust was thin but soft, just cooked enough - we could go on and on about the food!

Then back to the hotel, for a bit of a rest, and then, once it was midnight, it was our anniversary! In Italy!
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Where I stayed
Marriott Grand Milan
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