It has been wet and gray since we arrived in Milan; a little cooler than Lyons, but certainly not cold enough for the fur coats worn by some of the local women and the overcoats and scarves worn by some of the local men.
We took a short walk in the neighborhood hoping to find a philately store, but were unsuccessful. So we boarded the subway (again crowded with Milanese) and got off at the Palestra stop. We found ourselves in the middle of a plaza which was mostly covered with book stalls, and succumbed to the temptation to browse, even though the books were all in Italian!
We were looking for an art exhibit by one of our favorite Surrealists, Giorgio De Chirico. But we didn't see any sign of an art gallery or museum, so we set off down a likely-looking street. We walked along a boulevard lined with impressive stone-fronted buildings and public gardens (not so tempting in the gentle rain).
The De Chirico exhibit is in a startlingly new building, all glass and chrome and polished marble floors. It was well worth the hunt, because it is by far the largest collection of his art we've yet seen in one place. It was arranged by broad themes with objects from Milan's archaeological museum displayed near the appropriate art, so, for example, an Etruscan vase with horse designs was in the room with his paintings of mysterious horses near the ocean. We also saw, for the first time, his small sculptures of the mannequin-style featureless humanoids which appear in many of his paintings.
As we emerged from the building it was lunchtime. The first restaurant we encountered was uncrowded. In fact, it was empty. We were welcomed and served a delicious lunch of salad, carpaccio and gelato for dessert. We think the emptiness of the restaurant may be due to the fact that it turned out to be run by Egyptians.
After lunch we got more information at the train station, which still appears massive, almost overwhelming in its size and severe grandeur and a noticeable lack of helpful directional signs! But we can still determine what we want to do; the yellow sheets are for departures, the white sheets for arrivals, and the numbers are the same in any (western) language.
So far we haven't found any exciting neighborhoods for walking in Milan; the buildings are mostly nineteenth and twentieth century, with stone facades, and many of them are darkened with age. The architecture (with the principal exception of the remarkable cathedral) isn't particularly noble or ornately decorated. There are no pedestrian walkways, but in general the streets and sidewalks are wide enough for the traffic. Crowds are about doing Christmas shopping, but we have seen few street entertainers. There are quite a few beggars around the Duomo. We hope to explore different neighborhoods in the days to come.
We are interested to discover from our reading that Italy did not industrialize heavily until after WW II, and then mostly in the north. Divorce was prohibited until the 1970s, and there is a very short tradition of responsible government. The Christian Democrats were corrupt, and allowed the Mafia to grow strong in the south. Only in the last few decades has Italy been cleaning up its corruption, and it still has a way to go.