Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Duomo Milano

The streets of Milan are much like the streets of any other city in Europe; busy, crowded, noisy, wide sidewalks along their edges dotted with small restaurant tables and large umbrellas, areas hedged off with mobile wrought iron panels or mobile planters. Europe is a sidewalk culture where people meet for coffee, wine, business or pleasure, where talk and conversation rule the air, no loud music blares, waiters watch and wait, knowing that when you want them they will see it.

Yesterday we walked a short distance along those streets, a mere matter of a few blocks, and the tall buildings gave way to the open space of the Milano Piazza Duomo, a massive central square, the living room of the city, sided all round by shops and restaurants, with the massive Duomo at the end, and the Galleria Emmanual Vittorio II calling from the opposite side. The site of the Duomo as you enter the Piazza is stunning, there is no other way to describe it, with its dozens of spires stabbing into the sky like needles on a fakirs table, its massive doors of wood darkened by nearly a thousand years of exposure, a building constantly alive with the faithful, and the faithful tourists who visit it by the millions every year.

The inside of the Duomo is as stunning as the outside, the massive columns rising up as pillars holding up the heavens, the stained glass windows admitting light in through thousands of shards, the dome sweeping upwards and galleries lying outwards. More than seven hundred years have the hands of men and women laboured to make and maintain this immense house of God. Artwork and statuary hang from the walls, reliquaries lie beneath the floor, the benches for prayer filling the centre in rows so long and deep they seem to be endless. It is a place of peace.

The peace within the Duomo is not the only kind of peace to be had in Milan. We left to explore the Galleria, finding ourselves in a small restaurant where we ordered risotto, eating it reverently, loving the wine and bread that made our simple meal complete. This restaurant is the one where I first had Risotto Milanese, as far as I can recall. It is the restaurant that made me desire to learn how to make this wonderful dish, the restaurant where Caprese worked its way into my vernacular, where the peace of wonderful food can be found.

Behind the Galleria, the statue of Leonardo Da Vince, a Milanese hero, stands guard over his own Piazza, staring across at La Scala, the world's most famous opera house. We decided not to go in; there were stairs and a busy street, and the Galleria was calling us to come back. We went back through, ultimately wandering our way down the Via Dei Mercanti, stopping for another glass of wine and watching people once again.

There was so much more of this in our day, drinking wine, eating good food, watching people. It was the kind of day you can have in many European cities. We had ours in Milan.

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