Saturday, June 27, 2015

Milano: spires and gargoyles on the roof of the Duomo

Today was the day we were actually going to visit the Duomo, after having admired it from outside. First, we went through the alpini checkpoint. Established in 1872, the Alpini are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world. They are everywhere around the Duomo, very distinctive with their cappello alpini with its raven feather.

Once inside I was struck by how dark it was. There are five large naves divided by fifty-two pillars — one for each week of the year — that support the cross-vaulted ceiling. The Duomo had lovely stained glass windows but not a lot of the gold that often decorates Catholic cathedrals. The construction was commissioned in 1385 with the first duke of Milan granting access to his marble quarries, granting tax exemptions and inviting architects from across Europe. Construction continued until 1813, with some final finishes — one of the five entrance doors — being added as late as 1965.

After exploring the crypt we took the elevator up to the roof. This was the highlight of our visit. It's amazing to walk among the forest of spires, and the view from the roof is unmatched. Since it was  a clear day we could see as far as the Alps and Apennines.

The Duomo is decorated with an amazing number of beautifully sculpted statues and spires. There are more statues on this building than any other in the world, 3159 in total. 2245 of these are on the exterior together with 96 gargoyles and 135 spires. It is said that if the statues were placed on top of each other, they would reach a height of about 5300 meters or 3.3 miles. It was quite breathtaking around the roof. I thought that the outside was more impressive than the inside.

Lunchtime and another tip from our Milanese friends. We had to take a short walk from the Duomo down one of the lanes to Luini where they made the best panzerotti. It didn't take us long to find Luini but there was quite a queue outside. In fact there were three queues that all led to the counter. There were daily specials and from what we could see, because it was packed, all kinds of lovely desserts. We ordered a baked mozzarella and tomato panzerotti instead of fried. A panzerotti is like a calzone but with softer dough. Most people just stood out in the street and ate since there were no seats inside but we found a little piece of wood sticking out of the wall where we perched our lunch. With the mozzarella dripping out it was incredibly delicious.

A walk around some narrow streets with some small interesting shops followed. Milan is considered by many the fashion capital of the world. From looking at the shops and the people watching I can safely say that wide pants are in, as well as beautifully ripped jeans for anyone of any age.

We were advised to go to Gin Rosa where we shared a salad with some special buffalo mozzarella from Paestum. This was followed by some delicious asparagus risotto. Our server offered us some limoncello to finish the meal and like everything at Gin Rosa it was excellent and a perfect way to finish the day.

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