Milan, Italy's second largest city, is not the first destination that comes to mind when a trip to Italy is planned. It can be cold and damp in winter and hot and humid in summer.
We went for three days in May when the air was warm and the newly-cleaned cathedral sparkled pure white against a clear blue sky. Milan is a vibrant, bustling city of business, banks, fashion and design, but on this holiday weekend, the pace was slower and the mood more festive than usual.
Friends, who were born and grew up in Milan, invited us to spend the May Day weekend there with them. Even though they have lived in Pisa for eight years, Milan is still their town. They have an apartment there and most important of all, family. Driving with them through the beautiful mountain scenery and down into the Po Valley toward Milan lessened our sadness at leaving Pisa.
We saw most of the major sites, including the famous cathedral; the Sforzesco Castle and museum; the Vittorio Emanuele II Shopping Gallery; the Basilica of San Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milan; the Design Museum and the Brera Art Gallery with its many Italian masterpieces. We walked in the Public Gardens and in the streets of Montenapoleone, where the rich and famous shop. We had lunch at an outdoor cafe and dinner at a wonderful local restaurant. We couldn't get reservations to see daVinci's Last Supper nor were there any good tickets to be had for the opera at LaScala.
We did see our friends' grade schools, high schools and the restaurant where they had their wedding dinner. We visited with their mothers and had dinner with their friends. At one of the dinners, I talked about how open and friendly Italians are and how easy it is to make friends in Italy. I was surprised when all of the Italians at the table disagreed. "Italians are very attached to their own towns and especially to their families," one of them explained. "When you move to a new town, the people there are always courteous, but it's difficult to make friends." Our experience was different, they thought, just because we were real outsiders who are in Italy for only two months a year. "People are curious and so they want to get to know you. In the process, they become your friends." It's an interesting perspective and seems to be a case where being a foreigner in a foreign land is an advantage.
Seeing Milan through the eyes of people who love the city may have unduly influenced me, but I thought it was great city. If you want to see Milan through my eyes, click here to see more photos.
Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor