What was supposed to be a family weekend in Milan turned out to be a mom and son trip to northern Italy. I had a couple adventures planned but we mostly wandered aimlessly around the city. It was still summer and still oppressively hot so I didn’t want to overdo it- especially since we planned on walking everywhere! Our adventures started on the train up from Naples to Milan on a Thursday night, a walk to our hotel in a rainstorm, and arriving to find that our room didn’t have air conditioning… It was a very uncomfortable first night to say the least. BUT we survived and began our fist day in northern Italy joining a tour group to Lugano, Switzerland and Lake Como!
A peaceful morning walking around the picturesque town of Lugano, a little Italy on the border of Switzerland. And of course, we didn’t leave leave without some Swiss chocolate in our hands!
The Franciscan Observants’ church and convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli were built at the end of the 15th century on the southern edge of the medieval village, at the foot of the hill of San Lorenzo. Their dedication to the Madonna of the Angels is a reference to the small church close to Assisi, called the Porziuncola, that St.Francis (1181/2-1226), the founder of the Franciscan Order, chose as his abode. Construction of the convent began in 1490, and the church was founded in 1499 and consecrated in 1515. The Church degli Angeli is typical of the churches constructed by the Observants during the 15th and 16th centuries in Lombardy and Piedmont. It replicates what the Franciscan tradition defined as the “Bernardinian module.” In this concept, the church has no aisles and a division wall as high as the ceiling to separate the area for public worshippers from that of the monks. Chapels built by the nobility were arranged along one of the sides of the nave and beneath the partition wall; the area reserved for the monks on the other side of the partition was generally closed off by a square choir. The rooms of the convent lined side of the nave without chapel. The Church degli Angeli as a west-facing apse and the main body is divided into four bays by transversal pointed arches that leave the ceiling with ceramic tiles visible. On the other side of the division wall there are two square areas with cross vaults and a semicircular apse built in 1772.
The church is especially known for several important works painted during the mature period of Bernardino Luini (known of 1501-32), one of the most important artists of the Lombard Renaissance. One of these is the division wall frescoed in 1529 with Stories of the Passion of Christ. Its purpose was to provide visual support to the sermons given from the pulpit that used to be on the left wall of the nave. The Passion is narrated in seven episodes beginning at the top left. With the elimination of the rigid division of the scenes into squares adopted til then in similar works, the fresco takes into account Leonardo da Vinci’s precepts for the composition of “stories.” The left wall of the nave is the setting for The Last Supper which Luini painted for the monks’ refectory around 1529. This was detached from the wall and applied on canvas in 1851, entailing the loss of the architectural setting. It is a free interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper with the inclusion of Central Italian models.
Just as the sun started to get a little too warm for comfort, we all hopped back on the bus to head for lunch in Bellagio and a boat ride on the infamous Lake Como. The drive around here was stunning and I just couldn’t get enough of those mountains in the backdrop!! I can certainly see why the rich and famous are drawn to this area! The late afternoon brought some light showers and fog, but the views still continued to shine through.
*** While on the boat tour, we saw where John Legend and his wife had photos taken, for their wedding I believe, and we were told that- for just this place in particular- it costs about $10,000 AN HOUR to RENT!!!!! Yikes… We were also shown George Clooney’s villa, the villa used in Star Wars for the secret marriage of Anakin and Padme, and a villa used in the film Oceans Twelve. ***
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!