A visit to the office of AC Milan in downtown at No 3 Via Turati is always a pleasant experience for me. My dear friends Alessandro, who is the club treasurer, and his wife Claudia, who works in PR are amongst about 85 staff there.
I had the chance to spend some time in the trophy room and had my photo taken with the FIFA World Club Cup and among many Champions League, UEFA Cups and Italian scudetos. Since Silvio Burlosconi (who is Prime Minister), became Chairman in 1986, their status has grown and although trailing Inter and Juve right now, there is a long way to go before the Scudeto is decided. They are tied with Boca Juniors with 18 recognized international titles. They include 7 Champions League or European Cups, 17 Scudetos, 4 World Championships, 3 Intercontinental titles and 1 FIFA World Club Cup. www.acmilan.com
Not far away is The Duomo, the magnificent cathedral. Passing through the square, Piazza del Duomo there were plenty of 'pigeon guys'. They put bird feed onto your hands and shoulders and the pigeons cover you for the obligatory photograph. Next door is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the famous and elegant covered shopping arcade in the shape of a cross, mimicked the world over. It was named after the first king of a unified Italy and was opened in 1877.
In the centre of the stone floor with its patterns of Italian city crests and more, is a bull inlaid in the floor. People dig their heels into its testicles and turn 360 degrees and wish for love-amore! Elegant shops such as Prada, Luis Vuitton, Gucci, plus book stores and expensive restaurants attract upmarket clients and window shoppers.
Through the arcade we come to a square, Piazza della Scala, which has the most famous opera house in the world, La Scala, or Teatro alla Scala. There is another Alessandro, also a friend, who works there and who also works for AC Milan at San Siro on match days for extra pocket money. I was given a personal tour of this magnificant theatre, and to places off limits to the general public, including the Royal Box which hosted the British Royal family. When Napoleon ruled he had it divided into four, so that the rich life styles were somewhat subdued. They were rehearsing Tristan und Isolde by Wagner when I was there, or a least testing the lighting, sound etc.
It was opened 3 August 1778 under the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, with Salieri's Europa riconosciuta. Traditionally the season opens annually on 7 December, Saint Ambrose's Day, the city's patron saint, and all performances must end by midnight.
You can buy a seat in the front of a box in the six tiers, or an the house floor for about 200 Euros and almost half that price at the back of a box with a less prestigious views. In earlier days the boxes used to have curtains, and an opera or two would last for about 6 hours and intrigue, politics and sex might take place in that time. Many families purchase 'palchi', or private boxes on a season basis. There used to be 84 oil lamps around the stage, and 1,000 in the theatre, until electric lights were installed in 1883. in 1886 Guiseppe Verdi had the first performance of his Otello. I don't profess to be an opera expert, but I was impressed on touring the museum with its paintings, drafts, statues, costumes etc.
Alessandro, has worked for the company-there are about 1,000 people doing many jobs- for over 20 years, and his father was one of the singers who have to be able to sing in Italian, German, French and English. As a late teenager he was a page and ticket taker, and his fellow workers used to play calcio in one of the giant foyers where opera buffs drank and gossiped between acts. After they had a near miiss with one of the chandeliers, they bought a sponge ball to use. www.teatroallascala.org