We have some vacation time and are delighted to be in Milan with Joe’s parents. Here are some fun things we’ve been able to do while watching our budget.
Go Running along the Naviglio Grande (free)
This is not as nice a place to run as some of the bike trails and running paths we’ve encountered in other cities. It’s a little gritty and there isn’t a designated path for runners. Still, Leonardo da Vinci worked on this canal and you can go for quite a ways with few traffic interruptions. Milan used to have many canals, but most were covered up when they fell into disuse as railways and tramways took over. I found this website very helpful for ideas of places to run in Milan: The Best 5 Paths Where to Run in Milan.
Visit the Gallerie d’Italia (free)
This museum houses artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s in a grand old bank building and adjoining palatial house. The spaces alone are worth the visit, although some artwork especially caught my eye, like this painting, called The Return from the Fair, but which I will remember as Ducks Attacking Acolytes, by Mosè Bianchi, 1880.
Why are the ducks attacking the acolytes? Who knows. What’s important is that the acolytes have come prepared, bringing an umbrella, which can be used to fend off the ducks if necessary.
Go Window and Street Shopping (free)
Looking is free! Sit on a bench, walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II or one of the other shopping areas and watch the fabulous stuff go by.
If it’s hard to just look and not purchase, remind yourself that you have already maxed out on your 50 pounds of luggage and can’t add anything more, not even something that seems practical.
But still, maybe you’ll find yourself remembering a Bible passage. I thought of
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ Isaiah 52:7
Here are some things that cost something, but if you plan ahead, you can have some great experiences for not a ton of money.
Visit the Terraces at the Duomo
For 7 euros, you can take the stairs to the terraces on the Duomo and see the amazing forest of spires and statues atop the third largest church in the world. (If you need or prefer to take an elevator, you can do that for 14 euros).
And don’t miss going into the Duomo. Besides being in this holy place of worship, you can admire the beautiful architecture and see great statuary and stained glass windows like these:
The statue is a replica of the one on the top of the Duomo, so you can see what it looks like close up. The window illustrates John 8:6, “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” from the story where the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. Jesus tells them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The men go away, one by one, beginning with the elders. When they all leave, Jesus says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
This statue is also remarkable.
It’s Bartholomew Flayed, by Marco d’Agrate (ca. 1504-1574). The detail and rendering in stone of the flayed saint is amazing, and the artist is not shy about his ability. The inscription on the bottom states, “I was not made by Praxiteles but by Marco d’Agrate.” That’s sort of like saying, “This blog was not written by William Shakespeare but by Amy Richter.” In case there is any doubt.
See an Opera at La Scala
This takes advance planning. You can order two tickets per person (per credit card) online at a time and the cheap(er) seats sell out quickly, so set your alarm if you need to so you’re ready when they go on sale. Ours cost 50 euros, 40 cents each. We were second level from the top of the theatre and had only partial views of the stage.
But here’s all the great stuff that means.
You are almost eye level with the gorgeous chandelier that hangs in the theatre. No craning your neck looking up.
The acoustics are fantastic, so we could hear just as well as in the expensive seats. Also, partial view of the stage means great views of the other people in the audience.
I now totally get the painting by Mary Cassatt, In the Loge, at the MFA in Boston, in which the woman is perhaps not watching the action on the stage, but is seeing and being seen.
Go See the Last Supper
Another thing that takes advance planning, since tickets sell out quickly. You can buy them online directly (not through a tour company) and then they cost only 12 euro
Go See San Maurizio al Monastero (free)
This is no longer an active church, but is covered in frescoes, so many that people refer to it as Milan’s Sistine Chapel. A small chapel inside it has a cycle of paintings of Noah’s ark. Here’s the scene we’ve seen elsewhere.
The artist also did a painting of the storm and rising waters:
Entrance is free, but donations are welcome.
Go see the Chiesa di Santa Mario presso San Satiro (free)
This small building is the home of an active church. It’s tucked between two large stores in a shopping district. Besides being a quiet place to pray, it has a beautiful apse completed by Donato Bramante
that is an optical illusion.
Entrance is free, but offerings are welcome.
Someone said that time is true wealth. There is so much to see here and we are very grateful for the time to see it.