Enduring Legacy

As the city comes to life with the excitement of Expo, this month Hello Milano takes a look at the rest of Milan to see what changes the event has wrought on our museums, parks and public spaces.

For centuries Milan suffered in her land-locked status and ingeniously used the Navigli to sail off through the Po and on towards the sea. Monks were the first to build and exploit this route and the waterways were modernized by Leonardo himself. Along the Navigli now there are 75 thousand square meters of walkways, a scrubbed-up marina and a completely renovated marketplace; so canoeing to Venice is once more on the cards. The 20 million euro project, which has taken 18 months to complete, has also brought the ancient Ticinello canal back to life after 85 years, following a deep cleaning operation on the canal bed and reconstruction of the banks. Two ancient bridges are back in business; one dating from the 1700s, and an older, three-arch construction dating from the 1500s and known as the bridge of Taxes. Roads have been rerouted to create a wide-open pedestrian space around Piazza XXIV Maggio, preserve an historic oak located in the lower part of the square, and leave space for 17 new plane trees. The square borders the new, replacement, market which is now made up of 30 stalls inside a steel and glass structure, which is expected to host a mixture of familiar faces and new traders.

Great changes are also afoot at the Sforza Castel. An entire long wing known as the Spanish hospital, closed for centuries and reused as a warehouse, has been recently rediscovered and gloriously restored. It was constructed during the Spanish period of rule during the 16th century to house suffers from the deadly plague which struck Milan not long after Michelangelo’s death in 1564, and decorated with delicate frescoes and inscriptions designed to offer hope and succor to the dying, such as: “(He) ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Almighty Father”.

Ospedali-Spagnoli-Pietà-RondaniniThe recently restored Spanish Hospital and in the center the Pietà by Michelangelo

It seems now the most fitting new home to accommodate Milan’s Michelangelo, and discover the incredible pathos shrouded by Michelangelo in his last Pietà, so different from his famous first work in Saint Peter in Rome. In Milan, upon entering, visitors will approach the sculpture’s shoulders and see first what Michelangelo sculpted to be seen last, the back of the Madonna bent over her son Christ. There is a new emotional intensity, and one can feel Michelangelo’s sorrow as he worked on this marble grouping, thinking perhaps of his own immanent departure from the world. In fact the two figures, left unfinished, seem somehow embracing each other in a sort of preparation to climb into the sky.

Back down on earth there is a new café, the Calicantus Sforzesco, set in the Ducal Court, a little garden in front of the Sforzesco Museum for you to try. Contemporary and cosy it is open all day. In addition outside and all around the Castle there is a large new pedestrian belt with children’s play areas, and other spaces for events and grown-up activities.
Just up the road on via Manzoni another new café space has opened up at the Poldi Pezzoli home-museum, called ‘Terrace Pollaiolo” after the Dama del Pollaiolo whose profile became the symbol of the museum. An unmissable part of Milan’s cultural heritage, this museum was created out of the 18th century home of one of the city’s most prodigious collectors. It is the home of two beautiful Botticelli, a library of perfect Japanese netsuke and an awe-inspiring private armory. In a culmination of an ambitious design project which has been ten years in the completion, the winning design encloses the first-floor terrace to create a bright, airy modern café and restaurant. Striving to retain the air of this neoclassical 18th century home, the café is imagined to be its 21st century living room; albeit the kind of parlor where the latte’s and literature are for sale.

Inside the Expo site the largest remnant will certainly be the Italian pavilion itself, serving as a centre for technological innovation. The “Tree of Life”, sculpture situated in the Lake Arena outside the Italian Pavilion will also remain. This 35-metre long complex structure made out of woven wood and steel is intended to demonstrate the industrial excellence and creativity Italy is capable of, and follows a design inspired by an exemplary work of the Italian Renaissance: the floor of the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome designed by Michelangelo. Official sources are suggesting, rather breathlessly, that the tree could be considered as a new symbol of today’s Italy, with the country’s roots sunk deep in the fertile soil of her cultural heritage, trunk and branches reaching forward into a technologically creative future.

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