Saturday, 30 April 2016

Sforza Castle

There are two more important places in Milan that I did not show you last week. First is the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to buy tickets there, since they have to be booked months ahead. The second important place, where Leonardo also worked, is the Sforza Castle. It used to be located in the outskirts of the city, guarding it from one side. Todays it is of course in the city center.

The castle was heavily destroyed over centuries, last time during allied bombings in 1940s. It is beautifully renovated now.

Next to the entry you will find a round-shaped fountain.

The walls of the castle are high since it used to be a citadel. The entrance is possible by one of the gates - this one is called the Tower of Filarete, after the first architect who worked on the castle.

The inner courtyard is square, with towers in each corner, both on the left ...

... and on the right.

In the middle comes of course the Filarete tower. I assume that all these wholes in the walls were used to shoot to attackers. The fact that they are located also in the inner courtyard suggests that the tower was meant to be the last line of defence.

The castle has also some smaller side courtyards, demonstrating a strong protective focus.

The castle was built by the powerful House of Sforza who used to rule Milan for centuries. One of the prominent members was a wife and mother of the first builders, Bona of Savoy. One of the tower is named to honour her.

But not all the inner courtyards are ascetic. Some are really nicely ornamented, making me think more of a palace than a castle. I can understand now better why Bona Sforza (grand-daughter of Bona of Savoy), who grew up here, reconstructed the Wawel castle in Kraków the way she did.

Nowadays, inside the Sforza Castle you can find numerous museums. They include the Museum of Antiquity, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museum of Musical Instruments and an Armory.

They have also sculptures by Michelangelo.

Let's leave the castle on the other side. First we need to cross the moat.

And then we land in Parco Sempione, one of the largest and nicest parks in Milan.

The building in the back is a triumphal arch called Arch of Peace, which used to be part of the city walls of Milan. It is topped, of course, by several bronze horses. 

Parco Sempione is one of the favourite places where people of Milan spend their free time. They play football, eat, laugh. And they dance. The new and the old, the protection and the joy are all intertangled here. I must say that I really liked this place.

I hope that you have enjoyed the time that we have spent in Milan. But we do not leave Italy yet. Watch out for some new adventures.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Old Town of Milan

I am happy to show you today the beautiful city of Milan. When I have arrived at the main train station I was not impressed - I have heard so much about it but the platforms looked like any other train platforms in the world.

It is only when I entered the main hall that I understood what this all fuzz was about.

The main train station in Milan was built in the 1930s under the supervision of the fascist dictatorship of Mussolini. It is huge and definitely meant to impress. The walls are decorated with sculptures, paintings and mosaics. This is the entry to the ticket office.

The station was rebuilt a couple of times over the last eighty years so it is quite modern, with elevators and escalators. Still, it keeps its majestic style.

The life of Milan centers nowadays around the Piazza del Duomo or the Cathedral Square. It is surrounded by some nice buildings, housing the most exquisite fashion brands.

In the back, you can spot the Victor Emmanuel II Gallery. It is an amazing place - the little streets are covered by a glass roof that transforms them into a gallery.

Let's enter inside. If you have a wallet packed with credit cards, you can enter one of the shops.

For example this Prada boutique ...

... or the Louis Vitton's one.

I am afraid that the only option for me would be the McDonald's just outside this lane.

By the way - have you noticed the roof? Yes, it is hard  not to notice it.

But did you also look under your feet? Here comes the white cross on a red shield. No, it is not for Denmark or Switzerland. It is the coat of arms of Milan.

Now I wonder how many of you noticed the name of the Piazza we just crossed. And yes, the cathedral of Milan, dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, is also here. This is one of the biggest that I have ever seen. No wonder, it took almost six centuries to be completed. It is the fifth largest church in the world and the largest in Italy.

The cathedral is basically in the gothic style. It is beautifully ornamented with hundreds of statues and reliefs. Unfortunately it is strictly forbidden to take pictures inside the cathedral.

If we take just a few steps on the left of the Duomo, we will find a building that looks very modest. But do not judge the book by the cover. It is the world famous theater and opera of La Scala.

Inside, it is much more impressive.

There are in total two thousand seats, most of them in individual balconies, each of which has six places.

Below the main stage comes the place for the orchestra.

The building houses also a small museum, where you can see sculptures and paintings of famous singers and composers, ancient playing instruments and some magnificent costumes used in the spectacles produced by the La Scala. This one is from Aida opera. You can see why Milan is considered a capital of fashion.

I hope that you have enjoyed this walk through the Old Town of Milan. Let's now catch the underground because there is one more place in Milan that I want to show you.

Saturday, 16 April 2016


Last week we arrived with the Rhaetinian Railway to the Italian town of Tirano. Since the journey took over four hours, I propose that we spend a nice afternoon strolling through the streets of this nice town before we move on to our main destination in Italy. First, let's go to the basilica of Virgin Mary.

On our way, you can spot houses located high up in the mountains. They look totally isolated but in fact they are connected to large vineyards on the sunny slopes.

The basilica in Tirano was built to commemorate the appearance of Virgin Mary to a local farmer at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

The main altar is pretty dark.

But most of the people are centred around a chapel on the left side, where a statue of the Madonna from Tirano is located.

The basilica is beautifully decorated. You can see it on the ceiling ...

... but also on this amazing organ. It actually stands on the marble pillars and is not attached in any way to the walls or the ceiling of the basilica.

The basilica is located next to a roundabout.

Can you spot the red item in the back? And yes! This is the Rhaetinian Railway we just took. It crosses the streets of the town just like that. All cars have a red light then.

Of course when the train crosses the roundabout it does not really make a circle like the cars.

No way to miss the biggest attraction in town.

Alright, let's now move in the direction of the Old Town.

We need to cross the river Adda.

The Town Hall is rather modest.

Most of the streets are narrow, like in the Middle Ages.

The parish church of Saint Martin was built in the tenth century and fully renovated in the seventeenth century.

Tirano used to be surrounded by fortified town walls, built in the second half of the fifteenth century. The walls included fourteen towers with gates to the town. One of them is the Porta Poschiavina, facing in the direction of the town of Poschiavo.

It leads directly to a small bridge over the river.

The bridge is small, just wide enough for a horse.

Tirano, like many Italian towns and villages, has a large pool of emigration. They even have a monument dedicated to the emigrants.

I hope that you have enjoyed this stopover on our way to one of the most interesting cities in Lombardy.