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Looking around Do you know that kids show 'Go outside' with the woman and her collie in the biplane? I took her message very much to heart.

Killing time in Milan

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 16 June 2015 | Views [193]

The weather forecast that day said rain and even maybe lightning, but as is the universal rule of weather forecasts, they were wrong. The sun shone down through the occasional cloud down on to the pastel coloured streets of Milan. But the stagnant humidity oppressed us as we wandered around. It is hard getting used to the heat after coming from windy Edinburgh, especially at night whilst trying to sleep. It is also strange getting used to sleeping in a dorm with 4 other strangers. The two girls in the bunk beds opposite got up and packed up their rucksacks and 6:30 am and woke me up, so by the time we left the hostel to find breakfast I was already tired, hot and grouchy. We first went back to the nice piazza and the canal to look for somewhere to have breakfast. We couldn’t really find anywhere in the light of day, so we decided to catch the tram into the centre.

I showed off my Italian language skills by buying us the tickets for the tram and then immediately humiliated myself by not noticing that the sign at the tram stop “passo per d’uomo” that my friend had mistaken for directions to the Duomo in fact meant “suitable for walking”. So we got on the wrong tram, and it wasn’t 20 minutes into the journey when we got to Repubblica that I realised we were heading back to Centrale and in the completely wrong direction. By the time we got to Duomo my stomach was rumbling madly and my caffeine cravings were too much to bare, desperate and longing to have a cup of tea and a some carbs in front of the Duomo I sat down at a decent looking café. Unfortunately I made the wrong decision. The café sold no food had a cover charge of €1.50 and the espresso cost €3.50. But it was too late, an overpriced coffee and a fag would have to do. From where we were sitting the beautiful façade of the Duomo was covered by a huge H&M advertisement of a very effeminate man in blue sunglasses with long brown hair and glossed lips that hid a scaffold.

 Despite the price of the coffee and the lack of food, relaxing in the square put me in a much better mood. The cathedral from the outside is truly magnificent, beside the unnerving display of advertising. The sheer whiteness of the stone and intricate statuettes and carvings that adorn every corner are beautiful. The white stone, illuminated by the sun and juxtaposed against the other more subtle 19th century buildings, makes it stick out like a chalky mountain piercing through the piazza. After gazing at its beautiful façade we decided to take a look inside and then climb up to the terrace. Always eager to save money whenever we could we decided to climb the hundreds of stairs, rather than pay extra for the lift, which although I regretted almost immediately, it’s a tactic I’ve stuck to in every cathedral terrace I’ve visited since; it gives the visit an feeling of accomplishment. The Duomo entrances are guarded by soldiers in chipper little Robin Hood-esque hats, with huge brown spotted feathers sticking out of the back that made them seem completely unthreatening. The inside although nice, with a huge vaulted ceiling, gothic pillars and statuettes and stained glass windows , didn’t make much of an impression. At the time we visited they were setting the Duomo up for something, I assume a venue for the Milan Expo 2015 and so a lot of the cathedral was covered in plastic panels, metal stages and speaker systems, so not as serene as you’d expect a cathedral to be. But it is the terrace that really makes the Milan Duomo really special.

The roof is a tangle of arches and towers, looping and jutting out of the roof, each intricately carved with floral patterns and saints. As if the centuries old gothic art wasn’t enough the terrace also has a few modern art sculptures dotted around, they all look like big plastic blobs but they are interesting nonetheless. Its slanting roofs and narrow walkway, arches and small steps give it exclusivity, like you’re in a special zone once reserved for builders only. There are different stages and levels which give it a greater dimension than most cathedral roof top walkways. Looking out over the dusty Milanese skyline framed by blue skies makes you feel more like a pigeon than ever. The pigeon is surely the spirit animal of the tourist. Regarded as vermin by most locals, they congregate by all the cities greatest buildings, waddling around in circles and bobbing their silly heads identically, looking at everything but not seeing much of anything at all. Con men and anyone offering food can command them in the palm of their hand, literally in the case of the Piazza Del Duomo, and they all cluck and coo in a cacophony of endless noise. Everywhere they go they are treated with apathy or disdain, but they’re just sad eyed doves desperate for attention and approval.

The roof is so beautiful I couldn’t resist sitting down to sketch a little. Meanwhile my friend went to take some artistic shots from higher up on the terrace. If I had known that the terrace was strictly one way traffic and the main part of the terrace gets very busy I would not have separated. After half an hour of waiting by the exit, trying to think what I would do to find her with no network on my phone and no wifi to contact her and repeatedly making awkward eye contact with the staff checking tickets (to stop people who’d only paid 7 euros from sneaking into the lift, which most tried to do) my friend finally appeared round the corner through one of the many arches we made our way downstairs and out of the Duomo. We only had a day in Milan but my friend told me the only good thing to see was the Duomo (and the Last Supper but that was closed on a Monday- as most things are in Italy) so now that that was done we could waste some time.

A part of me wanted to go window shopping outside Gucci and Prada in the Emmanuelle II shopping centre but my friend said it was pointless, and she was probably right. So we decided to check out a place our other friend, who is meeting us in a few days time, had somehow discovered from an online article. It was a café across the city designed by the film director Wes Anderson. Now being a Wes Anderson fan I felt obligated to go and see it. It was in a place called La Fondazione Prada which apparently is an old Prada factory in a really residential area of the city about a twenty minute walk from the Lodi T.i.b.b metro station. It was unbelievably humid and frankly we were tired and had no idea where we were going. There were huge plain white billboards with “la Fondazione Prada” in huge black letters all along the road, so we assumed we were in the right place. After asking for confirmation that we were, we eventually found the building, a strange fortress type thing with black gates and small neon lights on the side that said “la Fondazione Prada” almost invisibly. Inside it’s even odder. There was a square ticket booth selling tickets for I have no idea what, perhaps an art exhibition? There are posters for sculptures and yet no sign of them. There are the weirdest most mind boggling toilets you’ve ever been in with huge heavy grated metal walls, floors and doors that all blend together so it’s impossible to find your way in or out. And there is the café, which though cute with its pastel colour theme and jukebox, is just a cute café. If it was in the centre of the city I can imagine that it would be pretty busy, I would certainly go there regularly if I was one of those hip Milanese dog owners but it really isn’t worth the trek across town. To this day I have no idea what la Fondazione Prada really was.

Tags: la fondazione prada, milan, milano duomo, wes anderson cafe

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