Milan: Palazzo Reale plays host to little-seen works of art
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 18, 2015
While it may be Italy’s financial and fashion capital, Milan can’t compete in the culture sphere with the history of Rome and Florence or the location of Venice or Naples.
But it does have its cultural offerings. One is Palazzo Reale.
There are many better known sites: the cathedral, which dominates the Piazza Duomo; the famous La Scala opera house and the city’s most famous work of art — Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church — though seeing that requires buying tickets well in advance.
But on the other side of the duomo, there’s a large complex much less known to Americans.
Palazzo Reale, which sits in the shadow of the cathedral, was long the seat of local government. Now, the ornate rooms provide ample space for exhibits.
While Palazzo Reale has no permanent exhibits to compete with the likes of the Vatican Museum in Rome or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the temporary exhibits it does offer may feature a larger number of works by a specific artist.
And Palazzo Reale started the year with the largest display of works by Marc Chagall ever assembled in the country, and another by Giovanni Segantini. A smaller show featuring the works of Vincent Van Gogh is on display now through March 8. Two other major exhibits planned for this year feature Da Vinci (April 15-July 19) and Giotto (Sept. 2 through January 2016).
The allure of such temporary exhibits is that they often feature lesser-seen works from private collections on loan for the duration of the exhibit. That was true of the Chagall exhibit, which also included paintings from museums ACROSS Europe and in the United States.
It’s best to check the exhibit schedule before planning a visit, as there are times between exhibits when there is nothing on view.
In that case, don’t worry about planning. The tourist office can point to other attractions nearby, and there’s an array of shopping areas highlighted by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II between the duomo and La Scala.
And Milan has another reason to visit this year: it hosts the Universal Exposition 2015, formerly known as the World’s Fair, from May 1 through October.
Directions: Milan is about 150 miles west of Vicenza on the A4 autostrada (about 2 ½ hours driving) and another 70 miles (an extra hour driving) from Aviano. Traffic is heavily restricted in the city center. The best way to visit is to veer off the A4 onto the ring road around the city, find a parking spot and take the metro. The Duomo stop on the red line (line 1) is the closest stop to Palazzo Reale and best for most of the attractions in the city.
Times: Palazzo Reale’s posted hours during a recent visit were Monday 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Thursday and Friday 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Hours can change seasonally or on holidays, so check turismo.milano.it.
Costs: Admission prices vary depending on the exhibit. Tickets were 12 euros each to see the Chagall, Segantini and Van Gogh exhibits.
Food: Milan isn’t famous for its own dishes, but there are several top-notch restaurants. Generally, the farther away you get from Piazza Duomo the prices are cheaper and locales are more likely to have local customers. But for something quick, the book store next to the palazzo sells sandwiches and snacks. The upscale Pec grocery store a few blocks south of the piazza towards Castello Sforzerco is a must for foodies.
Information: Web: www.turismo.milano.it (in Italian and English). There’s a tourist office in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II on the other side of the square from the palazzo. Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays and holidays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Phone: 0288-455555. There’s also an office at the central train station.