Thursday, June 30, 2011
So this Thursday morning, June 30th, we'll cruise through the Mont Blanc tunnel, departing Courmayeur to spend a few days in Chamonix before heading further west, then north. Except for April, we have been in Italy since February and have loved it. The geographic and scenic and cultural diversities of the country surpass any other place I know. Italy has more World Heritage Sites than any other country--far more--and justifiably so. We have found it all endlessly interesting, diverse, exciting, moving. And that's just the historical and cultural sites and institutions. They are on the whole exceedingly well managed. The people have been friendly and good to us. The camping arrangements have been manageable, even off-season, but often excellent. The roads and driving are fine, once you get used to the local customs. The weather could have been a bit warmer in the south and a bit cooler in the north, but that's what you get traveling in February/March and then May/June. And the food and wine and the coffee...just superb. We have been here long enough to see the seasonal nature of the cuisine as well as its many regional diversities. (It would be nice if you could buy something other than Italian at the supermercato; but, then, Italian is the international comfort food, and it can be of very high quality too). Let's just say Italy has moved to the top of my most-favored nation list, for all those reasons and more.
Arrivaderci! No fotos!
Arrivaderci! No fotos!
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
We finished Milan and drove on late in the afternoon, stopping at a little town called Cavaglia, over-nighting in its large mercato parking lot. Alas, we noted upon leaving there was a sign on the outskirts of town that said no camping. Oh well.
Cavaglia is remarkable, totally remarkable, for having a
stone circle next to its civic center; this has got to be recent
and artificial; but no less impressive
Up the road a bit, at Pont St. Martin perhaps, a beautiful old
Above now, on the balcony overlooking, some of the Miage
Glacier moraine, Mt. Blanc proper on the right
And, a bit higher on the balcony, working my way back
toward Courmayeur, more of the moraine and the Innominata
Face of Mt. Blanc; don't be deceived: it looks like rock, but
it's all ice underneath, digging out a huge canyon of the future
The Grandes Jorasses, further on the massif; Le Geant on the
In the distance, from a refuge on the hike, one of Italy's many
great mountains, Gran Paradiso
Another day, another hike, another balcony, up the Val Ferret,
toward Switzerland: looking across at the Grandes Jorasses
And, from my favorite Refugio Walter Bonatti,
another look at Monte Bianco
Our day in Milan ended with a few more sights and La Scala, arguably the greatest of all opera houses. Arguably.
13th century city hall, in the merchants' piazza
Milan street scene
In the Galleria, adjoinging the Piazza della
Duomo; nice 19th century stuff; high-end
Still in the Galleria; Naples has something
very similar, but Naples is a depressed area
and there are practically no shops; not even a
Statue of Leonardo
In the La Scala Museum, a recent bust of
Arturo Toscanini, the great conductor and
interpreter (a foremost interpreter of Wagner
too); practically synonymous with La Scala
Verdi; synonymous with La Scala
My hero gets a bust here too, and his works
are regularly performed; but not as regularly
as those of Verdi, Pucini, Rossini, et al.
What I would have seen on the tour; it's an 18th century
theatre, actually smaller than what one might imagine; very
bourgeois; Wagner would not have approved...
The Museum is very well done, with all the
usual posters, scores, libretti, costumes,
musical instruments, relics, etc. Not to be
missed by the operatically-inclined
Next we visited Milan's oldest museum, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, noted for its Titians, Veronese, Carravaggio, for us especially its Breughels, the cartoon of Rafael's School of Athens, and, lastly, the largest collection of Leonardo's notebooks, the Codex Atlanticus.
First the silly bits: in this Adoration of the Magi, by Rene Sance,1527, note the
ultra-realism, namely, the dog pissing on the post
All through European painting, the convention is always to represent John the
Baptist, even as a new-born, in his skins; here he is as a toddler in skins
An Adoration with a band in the background; Rene Sance, 1527
Serious now: a Botticelli
Cardinal Borromeo, the founder of the Pinacoteca, was an admirer of Breughel
and acquired a number of the latter's works; here are a few...
Winter scene (probably with an Adoration or Ascension tucked in somewhere)
One of B's allegorical works
Another of Caravaggio's Fruit
Much else in the museum, but these gold copies of Hadrian's
Column and Anthony's (Marcus) Column impressed us
Finally, in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, among the thousands of incunibles and
other stuff, an impressive exhibition from the Codex Atlanticus, the largest
collection of Leonardo's notebooks; it's impossible not to be supremely impressed...
3500 sculptures are said to adorn its exterior
Nice martydom sculptures
Inside the feeling is one of great expanse and volume; the piers are enormous;
the feeling of expanse is hindered, however, by all the paintings hanging around
like so much wash
The windows range in age from 1405 to the 20th century
and are in very good condition; this is the oldest one
Vicki reading a window
Flight to Egypt
Sculpture of the flayed St. Bartholomew; I hope the model
One of the three huge apse windows; 19th century copies
of the originals
Some of the original inlaid marble floor, differentially worn
by centuries of thousands of feet of the devout and tour buses
Altar and apse; Baroque; note the little red light at the top
near the ceiling