My second day in Monza was a Sunday, and knowing that most museums and galleries in Italia tend to be closed on Monday, I was going to try and get into what I considered to be the most important ones today.
My first stop was the Arengario di Monza. This is basically an empty space on the 1st floor, that is used for exhibitions, etc. I caught an exhibition of Robert Doisneau’s photography, that was nice to see, but underwhelming in the long run.
My next stop, though was quite the opposite. It was the Musei Civici Monza – Casa degli Umiliati. This is small but rich museum that contains the collections of the Pinacoteca Civica and the Museo Storico dell Arengario. What was most enjoyable about this was the fact that historical pieces were interspersed with more modern ones, making this a unique experience. I also happened to have the place completely to myself.
In-between museums I wandered a bit, coming across another of the city’s “Symbols” – the charming statue of a naked girl playing with frogs.
My next stop was the Museo Diocesano with the Chapel of Theodolinda and it’s series of 45 frescoes portraying the life of the Lombard Queen, who was also the founder of the Duomo. This is something that everyone traveling to Monza should put at the top of their list! It is spectacular! The chapel can only be visited in the company of a guide, who takes you in after the regular hours of the Duomo are finished. When the Duomo is open, it is not possible to visit this Chapel. Inside of the Chapel, locked away in the main altar, is the famous Iron Crown. This is a crown composed of six gold plates adorned with jewels, with a metal ring inside containing a nail from the crucifixion of Christ. It has been used to crown kings such as Charlemagne, Frederick I (Barbarossa), Charles V of Hapsburg and also Napoleon Bonaparte. You view this after the guide has finished explaining the frescoes to you. They then lower the lights in the Chapel, turn on spotlights, and unlock a door in the main altar, pulling the crown out from it’s resting place. It is beautiful, and really a once in a lifetime experience.
I then headed over to Villa Reale. This was a residence built by the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria as a country home for her son, Ferdinand I, in 1777. It has 600 rooms on 3 floors. While it is not possible to visit all 600 rooms, you can visit parts of each floor. The tour of the 1st floor is with a guide only. It lasts about 40 minutes and I found it to be quite informative. You even get to see the Royal Toilets…lol. Then, depending on the ticket that you’ve purchased, you are either finished, or you are directed to the 2nd floor, where you are given a pair of special glasses that have earphones in them. You stroll through the second floor on your own, but as you wander from room to room, the glasses will give you directions (ex: look around the room) and your visit becomes this kind of 3D trippy kind of thing. You get to see the rooms as they are now, but also how they were before. Frescoes that are faded now suddenly reappear as if they’ve just been painted, and while this is happening, you are being told the history of the rooms. It was great fun. Once you are done with this, and have returned the headsets, you continue to the 3rd floor – the attic which hosts the museum of design. This is basically a collection of Italian design – both vintage and modern that I found delightful to see. It was also just fun being in the space.
Dinner that night was at a restaurant/Pizzeria called Spaltodieci. I chose this because they had a few tables set outside on the piazza, and it being a nice night, wanted to eat alfresco. I had crudo di parma with fried dough, and a delicious steak, all washed down with a nice bottle of local red wine.
Below are some more photos of Villa Reale and Monza. Next time we will visit the famous Park of Monza.