Saturday, 29 September 2012

A visit to Monza

Monza is famous for not being Milan, for being the home of a Formula One race track, for having a Royal Palace and for its

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main church, the Basilica of San Giovanni Battista being the home of The Iron Crown of Lombardy which is a coronet with a nail

Iron Crown of Lombardy

supposedly from the original cross inside it. There are many other religious items in a well laid out museum attached to the Basilica. My favourite item in the museum was a Hen and seven chicks


made in gold plated silver foil and said to represent Lombardy and its seven regions. It dates from around the 7th century. The age of some of the items was quite astonishingly old.

The church has a fine bell tower, bright

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stained glass and frescos

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and paintings covering every surface.

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The frescos were under restoration when we visited and so only a very limited area were on display. The Peacock lectern was of a

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striking design different to the rest of the church, we have not been able to find out anything about it.

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Monza town is a typical Italian town which is not very busy and only on the tourist trail when motor racing takes place

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It is full of interesting traditional buildings

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and the main street becomes pedestrians only at passegiata time

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Of course there are lots of churches, the Church of Santa Maria in Strada is on the left

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and all of the major buildings

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seem to front onto large squares.

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One other attraction in Monza is the Royal

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Palace which was built around 1780 but is now undergoing a major restoration programme – hence it is a building site. The park surrounding the palace is supposed to be a thing of beauty but it has definitely seen better days.

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The pond in particular has a problem

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in that it is infested with fairly vicious terrapins which have been dumped in the pond and now seem to be left to breed unchecked.

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We also saw a Red Squirrel in the park which reminded us of how few we see at home.

Monza is a nice town and the museum attached to the Basilica is well worth a visit.

Returning Home

Our journey home was very easy. The bus took us back to Bergamo airport, the flight was on time and seven hours after we left Milan, we opened the door to a cold house on a dark autumn night. We very much enjoyed Milan and know that we will have to go back there again in the not to distant future to see those things we missed this time.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Milanese Buildings old and new

Milan is full of fine old buildings and a number of modern monstrosities. Our hotel was close to one of the central railway stations and our

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first opinion of buildings in the area was not very favourable. But on the walk into town,

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we passed buildings which externally and internally more resembled what we imagined to be representative of grand Italian architecture. Above is a bank,

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here is part of the interior of the central railway station

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this very wide building is linked by an arch with garden on top,

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and this is one of the entrances to the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

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which is impressive inside (and full of top of the range shops) and has the symbol of the

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Italian state in the centre of the floor.

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This gate, the Porta Garibaldi built in 1825, was one of the original gate entrances to the city and miraculously has survived the planners and the war.

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Many of the streets provide the type of vista which one expects in an Italian town,

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narrow streets with tall houses

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and ornate balconies.

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I always get great pleasure from old buildings and how they relate to other old buildings around them.

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Here is the Palazzo della Ragione which built in the 13th century.

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On one side of the building is the Scrofa Semilanuta (aka the Wooly Sow) which is an old symbol of Milan and on the other side is a statue of Oldrado da Tresseno who was a 13th century politician and also a Mayor of Milan.

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The Duomo is as impressive as we imagined it to be and the square in front is large.

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Pat stood in a very similar spot in 1964 and also had her photograph taken then.

Duomo Detail

The carved detail around the Duomo is amazing and you get a very good close up view from the cafes on the top floor of the department store la Rinascente which is next to the Duomo.

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The stained glass windows inside the Duomo are bright and a pleasure to look at. Unfortunately when we were there, the rear of the Duomo was closed off and we could not get a good view of the three major windows at the end of the church.

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Many of the old houses have large ornate doors leading to internal quadrangles

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and the views through the doors are very picturesque. One can go through some of the doors into the quadrangle and this one was

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particularly interesting with its light sculpture above the central tree.

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The use of “trompe d’oeil” is common in paintings and we found a church where it had been used to give the impression that it was larger than it was and of a particular cruciform design which the land upon which is was built would not allow.  Santa Maria presso San Satiro (dating from the late 1400s onwards) is built on a plot of land not large enough to enable it to take the usual cross shape with the choir in an arm at the top of the church.

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So the architect (Donato Bramante) used  “trompe d’oeil” to create the impression of depth at the choir end of the church.

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These photographs show that it exists but its true effect can only be appreciated when standing in the church.

Mistakes in Building Design

The town planners of Milan can demonstrate however that they are able to make the same mistakes as planners all over the world.

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For unfathomable reasons, they allow

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monstrosities to be constructed next to buildings of character. Will they ever learn?