One of the positive aspects of working at home during Italy’s lockdown (apart from the infinite availability of blankets and cozy sweaters whenever I want!) has been the leap in interest in Italian culture and art on-line. All that beauty we Italians took for granted is now temporarily out of reach, leaving us with a lot of empty time to consider everything we could have done but didn’t when we still could go out, like visiting that museum or exhibition everyone was talking about.
Yet technology makes it possible to partake, even without leaving the house. And isn’t Italy famous for its cultural heritage? Museums all over the country have been making virtual tours available for us to enjoy. It is definitely a good way to use our laptops and tablets!
And that is why, Poggio friends, we would like to share with you our Top Three virtual museums and tours.
Pinacoteca di Brera. We are partial to this museum, it’s in Milan, in the beautiful Brera nieghbourhood! The online collection features high quality digital versions of the great masterpieces. They have recently implemented a virtual tour in English.
Musei Vaticani. Despite being one of the richest tourable exhibitions on the planet, visitors are often scared by the long line it takes to enter and visit. That is not a problem anymore with a virtual tour here. Most areas of the museum are available online, even the outstanding Sistine Chapel and Raffaello’s frescos in Pope Julius II chambers!
Galleria degli Uffizi. Last but not least, the Uffizi! When visiting Florence, the Uffizi is a mandatory stop. Many of the most renowned masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance are kept there for visitors to appreciate. Even though it takes a whole day to see everything in the Uffizi the museum has made available online many of their recent exhibitions which investigate the connection between ancient art and modern perception.
If after these tours, you still are hungry for art, here are some other links to European museums that can help!
It was with a decided mixture of sadness and delight that the group greeted the last day of Be Charmed, 2015. After another nice Italian continental breakfast around that lovely table, it was time to board the bus for Milan.
We love our breakfast table!
Boarding the bus for our last day of Be Charmed 2015
The driver dropped the group off near the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, where they met their guide for the day, Francesca. She told us about the masterpiece we were about to see, the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a remarkable work of art and it is a miracle that is has survived (roughly since the time Columbus sailed to America!). Photos are not allowed to be taken inside, so see the link for some photos and fascinating history, including of the original technique used to paint the fresco, the many restorations attempted over the centuries and the astonishing survival of the fresco after the bombing of the church and convent during World War II.
A beautiful alleyway near the Santa Maria delle Grazie church
Francesca explaining a bit about the Last Supper
Who’s who in the Last Supper
Santa Maria delle Grazie church
In to see the Last Supper
The Last Supper, exposed to the elements after World War II
After the allotted 15 minutes visiting the sublime fresco (be sure to walk to the back of the room for the best perspective!), the group walked around to see the inside of the church and then the beautiful cloister.
Outside the exit from the Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie
Inside of Santa Maria della Grazie
Cloister of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Cloister of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Cloister of Santa Maria delle Grazie
From the church they walked along a street toward the Piazza Duomo that has some of the oldest archaeological sites in Milan.
The side of Santa Maria delle Grazie church
A detail on the side of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church
Francesca telling us about the Roman walls
One of many beautiful doorways and entrances along the streets in Milan
The Archaeological Museum
A map of some of the archaeological sites
There was a stop at the surprising little San Satiro church with the marvelous trompe l’oeil choir by Brunelleschi (he only had a depth of 3 feet to work with)…
Inside San Satiro church
The marvellous trompe l’oeil choir of San Satiro by Brunelleschi
… and then the group continued on to the Ristorante Arengario at the top of the Novecento Museum (museum of 20th century art) on the Piazza Duomo, where some typical Italian dishes were thoroughly enjoyed in a dining room with an extraordinary view, including of the truffle being shaved at the next table!
Pasta, tomatoes and basil. Italian through and through.
A semifreddo dessert
Enjoying one of many amusing moments on the Be Charmed trip
The view of the Piazza del Duomo to the Galleria from the restaurant
In the Museo Novecento (900)
In the Museo Novecento
The ladies left the Museo Novecento and crossed the Piazza Duomo in front of the magnificent Duomo (cathedral) of Milan, walked through the Galleria (one of the world’s first and most beautiful covered shopping centers). They continued to the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, a former palazzo that houses a private collection of art, and then on to the famous Montenapoleone shopping street for some window-shopping.
The bus picked up the ladies near the Piazza della Scala and took them to the brand new Piazza Gae Aulenti near the Porto Garibaldi train station to see the once-in-a-lifetime 360-degree, 16-screen video of the extraordinary beauty of Italy from its geography to the arts and design, and even its cuisine, over the millennia. The video link we’ve provided is not official but it’s the best example we found of what it was like to stand in the room and watch and listen to the 15-minute presentation. It was a profoundly beautiful and moving experience. The group then walked up the block or two to the pedestrian walking street, Corso di Como, and popped into Number 10, an eclectic small mix of shops and restaurant. Just before boarding the bus back to the villa, the group got to observe a photoshoot in process!
The Piazza della Scala
These gentlemen keep watch around the corner from the Piazza la Scala
The entrance to the Panorama 360 in Piazza Gae Aulenti
The entrance to 10 Corso Como
This way to 10 Corso di Como
The courtyard in Corso di Como
A photoshoot in process
The stairs up to the Piazza Gae Aulenti (there are elevators!)
On arrival at the villa, the ladies went up to pack and take a pause before celebrating a wonderful last evening. They began with a celebratory bubbly (Franciacorta, of course!) and hors d’oeuvres, and a toast to the wonderful Riza whose cooking and general assistance and very sweet spirit they had enjoyed all week. Gretchen and Luigi, the villa hosts and owners were also toasted, then the group adjourned to the dining room for their final dinner together. Favorite moments from the week were shared, questions about the villa and its history were asked and answered, and general merriment ensued, extending the evening as long as possible.
A final toast to Gretchen and Luigi, and to Riza!
Perfect accompaniments to the Franciacorta bubbly
Riza, the wonderful Riza
The next morning, the early risers came down for their final cup of Italian coffee and Fumagalli pastries and everyone boarded the bus for Malpensa Airport. As of this writing, two of the ladies are returning for a Be Charmed trip in October of 2016 and other groups are in the planning stages. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly during this week and look forward to hosting guests for Be Charmed,Painters Retreat, Golf/Gourmet,Food/Wine,Italian Gourmet Cookingor other custom-designed trips.
In a country villa up a hillside from little Barzanò, Italy, less than an hour north of Milan, final preparations are underway to receive visitors for a week of exploring the beauty of northern Italy. Rooms are being given a final cleaning, the refrigerator is being stocked, the grounds are being tended to and windows are being shined so nothing obstructs the gorgeous views.
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, eight women are finishing up their packing, taking care of last minute details and saying their good-byes before heading to the airport to catch their flight for Milan, arriving Saturday morning.
Things may change due to weather, but their itinerary is as follows:
DAY 1: Saturday, 3 October 2015. Arrival, Organic Luncheon and Montevecchia. Exiting Malpensa airport’s baggage area, look for our driver who will be holding a large POGGIO VERDE sign. He will accompany you to the Villa where you will have time to unpack, make yourself comfortable and take a relaxed walk in the park. We will have lunch at the organic farm,”Galbusera Bianca” followed by a short walk in scenic Montevecchia Alto with its quaint church and stations of the cross. The day ends with a delicious meal at the Villa with home-made tagliolini pasta and fresh vegetables and herbs, followed by Italian cheeses and a dolce.
DAY 2: Sunday, 4 October. Bergamo Alto and Franciacorta. After breakfast, our driver will take us the lovely hill town of Bergamo. We’ll take the funicular to Bergamo “Alta”, one of the most beautiful hill towns in Italy. After wandering around the medieval town we will take the funicular back to the lower city and our driver will take us to lunch at a nearby vineyard to taste the delicious sparkling wine of the region and then back to Poggio Verde. We’ll have dinner at the Villa prepared by Cicchi (pronounced Cheeky), a great chef and friend.
DAY 3: Monday, 5 October. Switzerland, Outlet shopping, Wine Tasting. After breakfast, put your passport in your purse because we’re heading up to Switzerland! Our driver will take us for a short visit to the house museum Vincenzo Vela in Ligornetto and we will have lunch at the nearby family restaurant “Grotto Balduna” featuring Ticinese local cuisine. After lunch we will visit Foxtown for outlet shopping. Return to Poggio Verde and relax until our wine tasting session with the sommelier Penati of Oggiono and delicious home-cooked meal of Northern Italian specialties.
DAY 4: Tuesday, 6 October. Como, Silk outlet, painting exhibit, Tea at Villa d’Este. After breakfast, our driver will take us to Como, where we will enjoy a bit of the Old Town and visit Mantero, a luscious Italian silk outlet. We will have lunch at a sweet Osteria featuring local specialties, then visit a painting exhibit at Villa Olmo in Como followed by tea at the Villa d’Este, one of the most beautiful romantic and neoclassical villas in Italy. Our driver will return us to Poggio Verde in time for dinner prepared for us at the Villa.
DAY 5: Wednesday, 7 October. Lago Maggiore, Stresa, Isola Bella, Linens outlet. After breakfast our driver will take us to the charming town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore. We will take a walk along the lakefront and then take a boat from Stresa to the magnificent Isola Bella, the most lavish of the three Borromean Islands. Here we’ll have lunch in a charming restaurant and we will visit the princely Borromeo Palace and its grandiose baroque Italian Gardens built on ten terraces. We return to Stresa by boat where our driver awaits us to accompany us to the linens outlet Bellora and then back to the Villa for a delicious meal at Poggio Verde. (Rain alternative: Go to Milan and visit EXPO! The world exhibition has been receiving excellent reviews and exhibits from 70 countries are said to be amazing.)
DAY 6: Thursday, 8 October. Milano: The Last Supper, Duomo, La Scala, Via Montenapoleone. After breakfast, our driver will take us to Milan where we will begin with a guided tour that includes Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Lunch will be in a restaurant overlooking the roof of the Duomo. From the restaurant we will walk through the Galleria to the La Scala opera house for a behind-the-scenes visit, followed by shopping and strolling down Via Montenapoleone and Via Spiga. Our driver returns us to the Villa for a short rest and then we will dine at the nearby “Giovanna Passeri” Agriturismo with its refined and fresh Brianzola specialties.
DAY 7: Friday, 9 October. Royal Monza After breakfast our driver will accompany us to the royal city of Monza we will visit one of the most beautiful Romanesque cathedrals in Northern Italy, the Duomo of Monza, for a look at the famed “Iron crown” – said to have been made with the melted-down nails of the Cross and the crown which Napoleon crowned himself in 1805. After a stroll around the old center of this pretty town, we’ll have lunch at a delightful Osteria featuring local specialties. Then we’ll visit the newly renovated Royal Villa of Monza, a truly spectacular visit. That evening we will celebrate a scrumptious good-bye dinner prepared by Cicchi at what has become by now your new Italian “home.”
DAY 8:Saturday 10 October Departure. After breakfast at the Villa our driver will take you (and your packages and your great memories!) to the airport.
After visiting the top highlights in Milan and the Lakes, make time to visit the hidden gems of Nothern Italy. One of the spots deserving a visit is Monza.
The Cathedral of Monza, a magnificent medieval building of white and green marble, has great artistic and historic value. This is not surprising if you take a look at the elegant facade, influenced by the Gothic pattern typical of Pisa, and at the interiors, especially the frescoes.
Inside the Cathedral, the Chapel of Teodolinda is particularly famous for the Iron Crown that is enshrined here.
The Iron Crown, made in the Middle Ages, is both a reliquiary and one of the oldest royal insignia of Christendom. It was used until the nineteenth century for the coronation of the Kings of Italy. This treasure consists of a circlet of gold fitted around a central iron band, traditionally tought to be forged with one of the nails used for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ .
If you are intrigued by the history of the Iron Crown, I suggest you to watch this old Italian movie, “The Iron Crown”, which tells a fantastic story about the arrival of the Crown in Italy.
Luigi and I visited the fascinating Klein/Fontana exhibit at the Museo del ‘900 in piazza Duomo. Klein was a ground-breaking French artist who during his short life changed perceptions about pure color and used his iconic blue pigment in striking works of performance art and minimalist art. Lucio Fontana was an important mentor and collector. The exhibit ends 15 March. http://www.museodelnovecento.org/en/le-mostre/presente-menu/581-klein-fontana.
We enjoyed the exhibit and were glad we weren’t in the long lines in front of the Palazzo Reale to see Picasso!
View from the top of Palazzo Reale lines to get into the Picasso exhibit