Mirinda had her presentation to the board today (the actual reason we’re in Milan) so I set off for all the things my wife finds boring when indulged in for too long.
My first stop was to be the National Museum of Science and Technology where, I heard, they have a full sized sailing ship. I discovered, to my absolute delight, that it also has a full size submarine as well. But first the Metro.
And what can I say? Its pretty much exactly like every other underground train system in the world. There are swish new trains and old clattery ones, both of which I enjoyed today. The signage is very good and the price a reasonable €1.50 per journey. I thought it was an excellent way to get around for me today.
I had to change to a second line in order to reach the museum and eventually emerged at San Ambrogio. I walked towards the building emblazoned with the words Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately the door I found very easily turned out to be the exit. The lovely woman at the desk put me straight.
Mind you, as accurate as her instructions were (turn left at the lights then left again) the front door was a lot harder to locate than the back door. Still, find it I did and I entered the wonderful world of science and technology.
The first thing you realise is the size of the place. The collection is housed in an old monastery (16th century) and spread over quite a bit of acreage. The main building houses a lot of stuff about energy and materials and da Vinci. It also features an underground exhibition on how iron was made.
There an excellent exhibit of a hammer forge and water wheel as well as a 19th century condensed ironworks…but this was but a taster of the pleasures to come.
Imagine my delight when I discovered this:
It’s an actual, real life, submarine! You can go inside but it’s a separate ticket obtained back at the ticket desk which is miles away so I contented myself with just walking around it.
It’s massive. It is the Enrico Toti (S506) and was originally launched in 1967. It was never used in a war situation rather it was designed to just roam around the Mediterranean, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
It is quite odd because Milan is nowhere near the coast. It also has a resident cat. A stray was discovered near the sub so it was christened the ‘last captain of the Toti’ and allowed to live there. I didn’t see it today.
Next to the submarine is a shed containing a whole bunch of steam engines. Trains on tracks with a few carriages. A trainspotting paradise.
You can even climb into one and check out the gauges and stuff. I had quite a bit of unexpected fun.
But then it was onto the main reason I was there. The schooner Ebe. I reckon they must have built the building around it because otherwise they’d have had a ridiculous time building it inside.
It is massive and glorious. It seems to overpower the space. It is superb. My favourite thing in Milan so far.
There is also the entire bridge from a luxury liner but, sadly, it was being used for a private function while I was there so I could only see it from the outside. Still the Ebe more than made up for anything lacking.
Having spent a goodly amount of the morning and start of the afternoon, among the wonders of the museum, I decided it was time to head off for more esoteric displays. Once more onto the Metro, this time going beyond Duomo, to the Museum of Contemporary Art off Palestro. The museum is directly opposite a public park…but more of that later.
The building that houses the very small collection of modern art was, at one time, the residence of Napoleon while he stayed in Milan, the capital of his self proclaimed Kingdom of Italy. Apart from an oversized bust, there is nothing of old Bony left. There is, however, some pretty odd art. I can’t actually think of anyone but Karen who would really appreciate it.
My favourite piece by far was one made of couscous. That’s right, it was made entirely of couscous. You smell it quite strongly as you enter the room it is in. In the centre of the space is the model of Ghardaia, a town in Algeria. It is to scale and is slowly cracking and returning to the big pile of couscous that it once was. It is quite extraordinary.
In another building of the gallery is an exhibition called ‘Ya Basta Hijos de Puta’ by Teresa Margolles. It highlights the plight of transgender prostitutes in Mexico in particular with reference to the violence and inhumanity of the drug cartels. It’s very powerful yet simple. A lot of it is quite hard to take and makes you wonder why the wholesale distribution of class A drugs should suddenly make people completely lose any empathy they may have had for the human race.
The artist is also a forensic pathologist which gives her access to some pretty gruesome facts. She collects the “…last crumbs of life, the remains and the traces that violence leaves on the bodies.*” The stark truth is hard to take but terribly sobering. We have no idea how hard life is from our security of the first world. These poor people, frightened and alone, live the only way they can and are indiscriminately butchered by fellow humans who have absolutely no remorse, feelings or basic humanity. It’s sickening.
The whole thing left me in need of something life affirming. Fortunately the park across the road was alive with the happy cries of children, people lying under trees and a bar. I decided to wash my thoughts in a couple of ice cold beers while sitting outside among other thirsty patrons and an inordinate quantity of dogs. It proved that there’s room for pleasure outside the hell that is other places.
Eventually (and happier) I headed back to the Metro for the short trip back to the hotel where I had a lovely shower, a bit of a rest then half an hour with Mirinda before heading out to dinner at the wood fired pizza place in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II which I spotted yesterday. (Mirinda was having dinner with the board…as you do.)
I make it a point to always have pizza, beer and ice cream at least once every time I’m in Italy and I figured tonight was the ideal opportunity and it was an excellent choice. I started with some perfect white asparagus in lemon sauce followed by an equally perfect pizza, a couple of beers and pistachio ice cream to finish.
Given I was on my own, I was treated like a visiting prince. I was even given a beautifully chilled glass of lemoncello to finish off the meal. And that was before I tipped the waiter.
I then sat in the Piazza Duomo for half an hour watching the world of tourists slowly go by before finally finishing up at the hotel. It was the end of a perfectly successful Gaz Day.
* This quote is directly from the museum handout.