Milan amid coronavirus: Pandemic takes its toll on an Italian cultural metropolis

Cathedral visits require temperature checks
Before the coronavirus pandemic, some 10,000 people visited Milan’s famed Duomo every day. Today, the tourist crush has slowed to a trickle. Before entering, visitors must submit to a temperature check. If it’s higher than normal, entry is prohibited.
Duomo do’s and don’ts
Physical distancing, hygiene guidelines and face masks are a must in order to enter and explore Milan’s cathedral. Groups are kept very small for tours of the late Gothic masterpiece. It makes for all the more space to admire the 157-meter-high and 109-meter wide (515 x 358 feet) structure, built to house up to 40,000 standing worshippers — the entire population of Milan in the 14th century.
Galleria still a visitor favorite
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is another of the city’s most iconic landmarks, connecting the Piazza del Duomo with La Scala, Milan’s famed opera house. Even during the pandemic’s tourism downturn, the 19th-century shopping passages are a popular spot to have a stroll, though fewer people sit in the cafes or enter the shops along the way.
Free entry — no, thanks
Just a few hundred meters from the Duomo, Milan’s most famous museum, the Pinacoteca di Brera, is waiting for visitors — who are only showing up in small numbers. After shutting its doors for months entrance is now free of charge, though few people are taking up the offer of enjoying culture in closed rooms.
Private tours during coronavirus
Milanese tour guide Maria Enrica says some clients may enjoy the VIP feeling of small group or private tours — but for her and many others, it’s a financial disaster. “Since March my income is down 90%,” she says. “Fortunately, it is starting to pick up again slowly.” Before the pandemic, her company handled at least three large travel groups per day.
Art accessible to locals
For years, we have wanted to see our Leonardo,” say Barbara and Fabrizio. “At least the coronavirus crisis has done something positive for us: finally we Milanese have the chance to see the masterpiece without a monthslong waiting list.” Along with the “Mona Lisa,” “The Last Supper,” which hangs in Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie church, is considered Leonardo da Vinci’s most important work.
Thermal scan before ‘The Last Supper’
Like at the Duomo, only those with a normal body temperature are allowed in for viewings of the da Vinci masterpiece. Some 1,000 visitors still come daily to the church and convent on the edge of Milan’s Old Town. While visitor numbers haven’t dropped much overall, these days it’s much easier to get tickets.
Visiting a Renaissance masterpiece
Each group of visitors is allowed precisely 15 minutes to enter and view da Vinci’s mural, which he painted some 500 years ago on a wall of a former refectory of the convent, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If visitors wish to sit down during their brief visit, they must respect the yellow-marked physical distancing guidelines on the room’s benches.
One street full, the next empty
The cities of Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence and Turin together make up a third of Italy’s tourism revenues This year, experts predict that some 34 million fewer foreign visitors will make the trip. Milan has already marked around 4 million fewer visitors than in previous years — and the situation is not expected to improve by year’s end.
‘I’m staying optimistic’
Four years ago, Michele opened his ice cream parlor Fatto con amore — “Made with love” — in Milan’s Old Town. “I’ve never seen a year like this,” says the entrepreneur. “But slowly, it’s getting better. At least the German and Swiss tourists are coming back. I’m staying optimistic.”
An aperitivo on the canal
There seems to be just one habit Milanese won’t drop in this time of change: their aperitif hour. On the Naviglio Grande, the best-known of the city’s old canals, business is nearly normal. Restaurants and bars are buzzing, and those who intend to stick to Italy’s physical distancing guidelines of staying at least a meter apart may have a tough time doing so.

In March, images of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy were shown around the world, a harbinger of things to come. Now, as the pandemic summer closes, the cultural metropolis of Milan is trying to stay afloat.

Deutsche Welle

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