Fourteen Months Abroad – Milan, Italy

April 27.-This morning about 9:00 o’clock we gladly left the turbulent, disagreeable station at Genoa, arriving here about 1:00, and are stopping at Hotel Victoria. On leaving Genoa there was again much noise and confusion in the station. Such crowds of people and piles of baggage! It was another tiresome journey. It seemed as though we would never reach Milan! On the arrival of our belated train, which we had been impatiently awaiting, we found it was full and were compelled to take seats in a Turin car and change at Novi. There we had still further trouble. The cars were crowded and we were obliged to wait for a fachino to carry our baggage. At last one came and took us and our baggage to a Milan car. What exciting times we had both days !

After leaving Genoa we noticed curious shaped mountain peaks. There was a church and one house on one of the high, sharp peaks, with a winding road leading to it. We had lovely views of the Apennines. There were beautiful valleys and ravines and many tunnels, one (Rongo Tunnel) which we were fifteen minutes passing through—it seemed much longer. This was really going through the summit or ridge of the Apennines in the beginning of the valley of the Po. We crossed this river before reaching Pavia. This town contains the oldest university in Europe. We tried to catch a glimpse of it from the cars. Here we crossed the Ticino river—a branch of the Po. We seemed to be a long time crossing it. The lands were flooded ; wheat was covered by water and trees stood in water. Vegetation was back-ward. We felt that we had said goodbye to the land of beautiful roses and flowers. We shall never forget the Riviera, which “is a strip of land extending 323 miles along the coast of the Mediterranean at the foot of the Maritime Alps and their off-shoots.”

Along the way there were fields of what seemed to be yellow buttercups. An English gentleman from Dutch India was in our car. He had with him his little son whose mother was a native of Sumatra. I felt interested in the little boy. We are in a noisy location in the heart of the city, close by the cathedral and stores.

Later.-We hastened before lunch to see the great Milan Cathedral. We walked around it and looked at the interior. High Mass was being held, with good music. The priests were dressed in red robes with gilt trimming. We have seen a number of young girls (perhaps ten years of age) wearing white veils on the street and also in the cathedral. We are told that they have just been admitted to their first communion. The cathedral bells chime beautifully, but not so frequently as in Antwerp. I bought souvenir mosaic brooches of a man on the street.

April 28.—Milan, capital of Lombardy, is on the river Olona in the midst of a fertile plain which stretches from the snow, crowned Alps to the Po.

From our train we could see in the distance this magnificent cathedral, before the city itself was visible. It was a striking picture. We walked around it this morning and were present at a part of the high mass. This afternoon we have been to see the beautiful and spacious Victor Emanuel Galleria, with its glass roof and finely frescoed dome. This building is filled with elegant stores and restaurants and is larger and perhaps richer than Umberto I Galleria in Naples.

April 29.—We are having rainy weather since coming here. Today is the worst of all.

The cathedral is the great thing to see in Milan. We have again visited it this afternoon. “The many pinnacles and the throngs of statues (some 2,000 in all) are marked features of the interior.” It is said to be the largest edifice in the world wholly of marble.

Milan, or Milano, has a population of more than three hundred thousand inhabitants. We saw many Lombardy poplars on our way here.

April 30.—L. calls this one of the “great mornings.” We have again visited the cathedral, this time for a view. We first climbed to the roof to obtain a good view of the pinnacles and statues. Three hundred and twenty-eight more steps lead to the uppermost pinnacle of the spire. We did not ascend to that high point, but to the next place be-low it where the view was as fine as from the dizzy spot above us. The air was fairly clear. There were never-to-be-forgotten views of the snowy Alps “stretching through more than a semicircle, and the Apennines filling half of the remaining horizon.” Monte Rosa was the highest and most snow covered of all. Some other peaks were pointed out but not so easily identified as Matterhorn, Jungfrau and others. Mt. Blanc might possibly have been seen if clouds had not covered it. Besides the mountains there was a view of the great plain which surrounds the city and of the city itself. From the roof of the cathedral we obtained a faint conception of the immense amount of labor expended upon it. “The walk through the forest of pinnacles and turrets which rise above the columns, past buttresses covered over and over with arbesques and foliage work” was most interesting. The statues and statuettes of which we had a near view, and looked down upon, were amazing. On the exterior there are one hundred and thirty-five pinnacles and one thousand nine hundred and twenty-three statues, besides numerous bas reliefs. These numbers fail to give a correct idea of what we saw in looking down upon the cathedral this morning. The building, all of white marble, was be-gun in 1386 and was nearly five hundred years in building. Even the roof that we walked on is marble. The arched ceilings within are marble tracery, very fine and beautiful. The strangest piece of statuary is in the interior, that of St. Bartholomew, “the saint being represented flayed and carrying his skin over his shoulder.” When we descended into the interior a service was going on and we listened to choral music with organ. When we were in Rome we ascended to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s, the largest church in the world; today we have been high up on the Milan Cathedral, which is perhaps next to St. Peter’s in size. A statue, which is life-size or nearly so, crowns each pinnacle or point of this Gothic Cathedral. As we looked down upon them from the top, the lower ones seemed small, just as the highest ones appeared small to us from the ground when we looked up at them. A glittering statue of the Virgin adorns the summit of the spire.

Two ladies were with us on the spire, whom we had met in our boat on the Bay of Naples. The water being very rough that day I felt timid. They were most kind and sympathetic.

May l.—Yesterday afternoon different trams carried us around the city, outside the walls, a ride of seven miles. We were interested in the gates. The wall and a canal were frequently side by side, the wall being considerably grass-grown. Inside the wall were large horse chestnut trees in blossom. These seemed to extend along its whole length and in great numbers. We never before saw so many of these trees. Their huge size and great numbers surprised us.

We had a view of the Arch of Peace, intended to commemorate the achievements of Napoleon I. It was in the Milan Cathedral that he crowned himself the King of Italy, putting the iron crown of Lombardy upon his head with his own hands, and uttering the words, “Woe to him who touches it.”

The cabmen here wear blue coats, red vests, black glazed hats, and blue trousers trimmed with narrow red braid. There are no beggars. We have met them in every other city we have visited in Italy.

Later.—Since writing the above we have been twice to the cathedral-at the beginning of a service and at the close. The stained glass is a feature, some of the windows being very large and all very beautiful. There are no frescoes and they are not needed.

We visited the cemetery this morning; it is remarkable, but not equal to the one in Genoa, which some people say is the finest in the world. Many of the tombs here are large and costly, resembling small churches and chapels. Some of the statuary is worthy of Genoa. The sun was hot as we walked in the open.

We noticed, yesterday, when we were on the spire of the cathedral, that all the statues and lace work (one might call it) were as finely made as at the bottom. L. said he “should think it would take a thousand years to do it.”

A caged bird in a house opposite our hotel whistles almost continually during the day.

Afternoon.-This has been a busy day—too busy. We feel the need of hastening towards Switzerland, and have crowded things, of late. This afternoon, after lunch, we went to see the famous Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci. This fresco occupies the northern wall in the refectory of a convent; much remains of this old painting that is precious, notwithstanding the disfigurement due to dampness. The face of our Savior appears the same as in the old engravings, and the larger part of the other faces. I do not know how much they have been restored. After seeing the painting we visited the church connected with the convent—Santa Maria della Grazie. On the great altar were four busts (in solid silver) of ecclesiastics wearing mitres. There were other silver pieces. It was all very bright and shining.

While looking at the painting we met again the Misses Dons from Denmark—this being the fifth city in which we have unexpectedly met them.

We have also visited the Public Garden this afternoon. Children were playing around a large pool with a fountain in the center. Lovely flower beds were around the pool. We sat there and rested and looked at the pansies, daisies, cinerarias, rhododendrons, low pinks and other flowers. Farther on we found a cascade and a grotto with ducks swimming in the water. Here we rested again. Then we went to the Corso and sat down, and there on the edge of the Public Garden we saw the aristocracy of the place driving out in their fine carriages. Coachmen and lackeys, rich liveries and high-stepping horses made much show—a sort of Rotten Row in Milan.

While we were looking for the church of St. Ambrose, which L. visited alone, we took a peep into a “casermo” or barracks. A polite Italian officer kindly showed them to us. After dinner I called on the Misses D., who are quite near us at Hotel France. L. went on to see the cathedral by moonlight. He says the electric lights interfered.

In the Public Garden we saw more large horse chestnuts and beautiful evergreens, like those in southern Italy. One tree was the strangest we ever saw. Its branches all seemed like the snake cactus. A man told us the name was Pino Salvate. Some sort of pine, we concluded.

May 2.—We have been in the stores this morning. L. took the kodak for examination. We looked again very carefully at the exterior of the cathedral.

Now L. has gone on errands and I am to pack trunks.

Later.—The cathedral bells are ringing. They are fine and I enjoy hearing them. It is a lovely day. I have been out a number of times on the little balcony which leads from one of our windows. I look down from there on the busy streets below and see all that is going on. It is a place to study the city. Milan is a clean, pleasant city. It does not seem at all like other Italian cities. Even the poor people look tidy and well dressed. There is less poverty and it seems much less like a foreign city than most of those we have visited. We have not made pleasant acquaintances here as we have in many of our pensions and hotels, therefore we leave with less regret. L. returned to rest and I, after writing considerably, started out alone to make one more visit to the cathedral. A call today from our Danish friends.