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07 July 2016 | News
Let’s be honest, "shoe museum" isn’t something that usually gets your blood pumping. But in Italian, the word "museo" doesn’t evoke the same slightly dull connotations as the English word "museum". After all, the entire country of Italy is essentially a giant museum and the country itself is full of individual museums, and they are often more interesting and relevant than those in other countries. It’s not unusual for an Italian family to spend a day out at one of the country’s hundreds of museums, and to thoroughly enjoy the day.
Vigevano, in Italy’s northwest, is home to "Il Museo della Calzatura e della Tecnica Calzaturiera" ("The Museum of Footwear and of Shoemaking Techniques". Again: this sounds much better in Italian than in English; but it really is a hidden gem. Here, visitors can see the evolution of handmade shoemaking and handmade shoe styles through the ages, from basic, functional designs through to our modern world of high-fashion.
With over 200 styles on show, "Il Museo della Calzatura" hosts shoes of significance such as a pair owned by the wife of Ludovico il Moro, a key Reanaissance ruler of Milan (whose dark skin earned him the epithet “Il Moro”: The Muslim). As well as this, fascinating Venetian shoes from the city’s decadent Silver Age are on show. While the city’s true heyday (and so “Golden Age”) was in the 1300-1600s when Venetian fleets and colonies straddled the eastern Mediterranean and the city was a centre for world trade, the city’s less-mercantile but more-romantic 18th century featured masked balls which have enchanted Italy-watchers, and especially the English, for decades.
Also on display at the Museo are shoes worn by 20th century Pope John XXIII, Italian wartime-ruler Benito Mussolini and reconstructions of those worn by 18th century Sun King Louis XIV of France.
International exhibits include clogs from Holland, seal-skin Inuit boots from Greenland and Canada and mocassins from the Amerind Cheyenne and Shoshone tribes of North America.
Vigevano is not on the usual tourist map of Italy. However, if you’re visiting Milan and want to see something a little different, the town is easily-reachable from Milano San Cristoforo Station via inexpensive, clean and punctual trains which leave Milan every hour or so and are operated by the national train operator, Trenitalia. The same is true of the return journey: the trains are regular, inexpensive and punctual.
Posted by Mike Small.