Very early on the Friday morning, our bleary eyed but excited group of 11 boarded the coach for Edinburgh airport as the first stage of our holiday to Milan. We made excellent time with no stopping (we had the luxury of onboard facilities) and arrived in plenty of time for our flight. The security checks were more stringent than ever and several of us were stopped for various ‘offences. Eventually we all got through and the plane left on time and 2 1/2 hours later we were in sunny Milan. All went like clockwork and we were picked up and deposited in our very central hotel – nice rooms, freebies in the bathroom, slippers and minibar – perfect.
We woke up to sunshine and a wonderful leisurely breakfast of everything you could possibly want. We all walked together to find the pickup point for our later tour and then people wandered off for the morning. Our little group tried the retail therapy in an amazing designer shopping mall called the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (after the King who unified Italy). Even the building was magnificent (unfortunately so were the prices). We did find other, more reasonably priced, but beautiful clothes in the piazza around the stunning Duomo. Then we had huge ice cream sundaes for lunch (well we were in Italy).
In the afternoon came the highlight of the trip – a walking tour of the city culminating in a visit to Leonardo’s ‘Last Supper’. Our guide, Alessandro, was very knowledgable as he took us round the Duomo, then the La Scala in its own Piazza and on through the busy streets. After a couple of hours many of us started to wilt in the heat so after a short stop Alessandro found us a couple of taxis and half the group set off for the Santa Maria delle Grazie church to wait in the shade whilst the stalwart rest of members continued walking via the grounds of the Sforzesco castle till we all met up again ready for the culmination of our trip. Well wow! ‘The Last Supper’ was truly awe inspiring. Each apostle can be recognised by his gestures and then of course the haunting, serene image of Jesus himself. The detail up close was amazing and quite moving. On the opposite wall is a fresco of ‘The Crucifixion’ by Montofono, also excellent, with a tiny portion also painted by Leonardo. This wonderful experience alone was well worth the whole trip. As it’s the 500 th anniversary of Leonardo’s death there were many exhibitions commemorating this around the city. What a time to visit!
Sunday again was sunny and warm. People set off in their own little groups for another day of exploring. We went to the Sforzesco Castle which again was celebrating the 500th anniversary with a special exhibition of Leonardo drawings etc. The remainder of the castle and exhibits were fabulous and our visit ended with Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’- another beautiful haunting work of art.
On our way back we had lunch and were entertained by street theatre and with Jack and Albert managing to quench their thirst with a couple of beers!! (see photos). Later that evening we all dined together for our own ‘last supper’ and agreed it had been an amazing weekend.
On the final morning we managed to fit in one more experience, World of Leonardo’ with models made up from his many drawings of aeroplanes, bridges, time machine etc. etc. Once again Wow! We spent the remainder of the time with last minute shopping and a leisurely lunch. Then taxis took us back to the airport and the coach was waiting at Edinburgh to whisk us home. We arrived back around 11.30 pm very tired but having had a most excellent trip.
Our grateful thanks must go to Mary Coates who set up the visit originally (but was then unfortunately unable to go) and to Lisa from Hays Travel who made all the brilliant arrangements for us.
This is the most ambitious art appreciation trip we have done but it was also the most wonderful!