Today it’s a sunny day in Pavia…what to do in Pavia?
The reason why I found myself this Sunday, on a trip to Pavia is very funny. On the other hand, if I didn’t tell you one of my “unbelievable” stories, you would not love me so much <3 …
Returning from Croatia on Friday, I see, sitting in the row in front of me on the same plane, a cool handsome guy. I open my book with a certain ease and I discreetly spy the boy from behind. I see the guy tweaking on Tinder. I immediately close my book and start downloading the app before the plane took off. Alleluia, I did it despite the slowness of my connection! Now, I just had to wait and see if our destinies had been crossed on the cloud, if I recognized him, if he liked me, and the game was done. But it was not so obvious. We took off; I turned off my cell phone that I switched on right away when we reached Malpensa. After ten minutes of frenetic scroll trough the thousand profiles, I think I got it and I finally recognize my beautiful stranger who, in my opinion, had not noticed me. It’s not true, I realized then talking with him when we meet up, that he remembered so much details of me while we were waiting to reach out the plane (the colour of my eyes, how I was dressed, my long legs, my crazy salty hair, even my pedicure ahaha!), and that point reinforces my opinion about dating and hit on in Milano after 2012, the year when Tinder make his entry to ruin our life! Means that in real life, it seems that the ghost of Marie Antoinette is less transparent than you: I swear that I did not realize that he has a view on me. Whatever! I put a little heart, and drum rollers: he also put a little heart on my profile! Whew! At that point, we start our conversation, about the strangeness of fate (hem!!!), about the casualness of life (yes, that’s right!), about our holidays in Croatia, and then he tells me he’s from Pavia. As I have always been intrigued by this city, and that he had kindly offered to bring me to the Goya’s exhibition and to be my guide, I jump the day after in the train from Milan to Pavia (30 minutes).
12.25: I arrive at the Station of Pavia. Passed the awkwardness of the presentations, we head towards the Visconti Castle, where it should have been the famous Goya’s exhibition, still advertised with posters everywhere in the city, but which had ended on June (but why remove the posters then!). But we did not let ourselves down! We visit the Civic Museum inside the castle, divided according the historical periods that contributed to the evolution of the city. I also discovered the existence and the meaning of the word gypsotheque, a place in which chalk statues and reliefs are collected and exposed.
Then start our walking tour around the city. It was quite empty, of course we are at the end of August, all Italians are still on holidays.
We pass in front of Minerva’s statue, symbol of the city that welcomes its visitors. It was realised by the sculptor Francesco Messina in 1938, during the fascist era. According to Greek mythology, Minerva was the Goddess of knowledge, wisdom and war. You can immediately see the anomaly of the tip of the spear that usually, is pointing upwards in a sign of triumph, but here it points strangely downward. Nobody knows if it’s due to an error during the construction, or if the sculptor did it itself on purpose because he was angry with the commissioners who wanted to pay him less. However, for students one thing is sure: it is strictly forbidden to cross the gaze of the Goddess in the current year before being graduated or promoted in high school. Last but not least, the Statue of Minerva turns its back on Milan, its worst enemy, since ever.
We walk the alleys and narrow streets of the old town that make the particularity of this city, a little cute city but at the same time “rock’n roll”! Pavia is not really a city that lives on tourism, and it’s better like that in my opinion. Becoming too touristic, a lot of cities lost their original charm. My lovely guide makes me notice that once, the city was surrounded with towers, and their height depended of the wealth and status of their owner. The wealthier they were, the higher the tower was. Like in Bologna. Today it remains about sixty of which only six are still intact, while the others have been lowered and incorporated into adjacent buildings. The three most famous are located in Piazza Leonardo da Vinci.
Then we pass in front of Teatro Fraschini, very simple and elegant from the outside. I would have loved to visit it, but it was closed.
We cross the main square of the city, or Piazza Vittoria, also called Piazza del Mercato, before arriving at the Duomo. Coming from the square, you can see that a small portion of the Duomo is constructed with marble, witness that the work has never been finished, since the outside had to be all covered with marble (perhaps to rival the Duomo of Milan?!). Next to the dome, you can still see the ruins of the 78 meters high civic tower that felt the 19th of March 1989. On the square there is a replica of the Regisole (destroyed in 1796 by the Jacobins Pavesi), built in the middle of the 1930’s by the same sculptor of Minerva, Francesco Messina. The horse’s bulls are always coloured by students during their goliardic nights. The municipality has renounced to clean them by then, always according to my highly prepared guide.
We arrive at the river Ticino, surmounted by the Ponte Coperto (or Ponte Vecchio), whose view on the right side of Borgo remember me the Florentine bridge with the same name. It has five asymmetric arches of different sizes, with a small religious chapel in the centre. Already in Roman times (Augustus), there was a first bridge that connected the two banks of the river to the modern Ponte Coperto. The remains of the base of a central pylon tell us that the direction of the river was probably different two thousand years ago.
On the right bank we find Burg-à-bass (Borgo Basso), the former district of the washerwomen of the river Ticino. Immediately after the bridge there is a bronze monument that shows one of them washing the clothes. On the back you can read a poem by Dario Morani in dialect.
Further on, we discover the Basilica of San Michele Maggiore, a masterpiece of Lombard Romanesque style. Made from this rough and porous stone, the façade undergoes its erosion by changing “face” from century to century. Inside, a magnificent sculpture of the Madonna with child made in three different historical periods: the Madonna of the Rosary in 1714, the Baldachin in 1747 and the Baby Jesus (very ugly compared to the other pieces) in 2010. Under the presbytery and the apse, there is a beautiful crypt divided into three small naves and with many preserved relics. I also photographed a statue symbolizing humility, a virtue that sometimes, it is useful to remember before it becomes in danger of extinction!
And finally, the best wonder; after joking in the corn fields two and a half meters high, a long tree-lined avenue leads us to the entrance of the portentous Certosa di Pavia Gra-Car or, Gratiarum Carthusia (Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie). This magical place, which includes a monastery and a sanctuary, was built at the end of the fourteenth century by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan, and it mixes different styles from the late Italian Gothic to the Renaissance. I am not here to make an historical lesson that you can easily find on Wikipedia, but I will share with you instead, my pictures of what impressed me the most. First of all, the fact that there is not an inch without ornamentation, gilding, moulding, fresco, and the result is impressive. The floor is entirely decorated with refined and well-arranged mosaics. On the left side of the transept, are lying the statues of Ludovico il Moro (the Duke of Milan ) and his wife Beatrice d’Este, made by the Renaissance sculptor Cristoforo Solari, known as Il Gobbo (The Hunchback). The expression of peace of the smiling couple in their eternal rest is incredible. The delicacy of the features, the details of the folds of the clothes, and finally the marble details of the embroidery of the cushions are of a moving precision. I was very impressed by the painting of Ottavio Semino the “Last Supper”, that adorns the whole wall at the bottom of the refectory (also used as a church), and where Christ is not painted with the usual Western somatic features (see Leonardo’s Last Supper), but evoking more Middle Eastern ones. The Cloisters are very beautiful. The big one is bigger than a football ground (125x100m) and includes 36 cells that are the monks’ houses, with a room to study, one to pray and sleep, a private garden with lavender and small peppers. And they also have a very smart wine press!
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what is the best restaurant in town. Many of them were still closed, but I guess you can eat well at Locanda del Carmine, located in the historic centre with a nice outdoor area under the porch. Do not forget to order a protected designation of origin (PDO) wine, such as Bonarda dell’Oltrepò Pavese, you will not regret it!
At 19:39, I can tell I am very satisfied of my Sunday afternoon round trip spent with a really nice guy. We left each other both happy and I jumped on the train that brought me back home safe (do not take this train too late if you’re a woman alone).
So, I hope I convinced you to discover this little gem of Lombardy, thirty minutes by train from the centre of Milan (Trenord and Trenitalia serve trains every half hour from Central, Bovisa, Rogoredo, P.ta Venice, Dateo, P.ta Garibaldi, Lancetti). And I hope this funny little story of mine can give you the right mood to throw yourself into things, to dare and to make things that usually you don’t do, like trying to track down with an app an awesome and unknown guy! It can give unexpected and pleasing results. After all, what should we have technologies if they don’t help us to improve our real life?
If you are keen with bicycle rides, enjoy a bike ride from Milan’s Naviglio Pavese to Pavia. Click here for all the practical info.
See you soon for the story of my summer vacation in Croatia! Stay connected, you will read some beautiful ones!
PS: For the curious ones, I actually hang out with my fantastic guide meeting on the plane! To be continued…