Milan is considered Italy’s fashion and design capital and since our visit, I could not agree more. Every street looks like a fashion runway and intricately designed structures are found in every corner. But behind the fashionable facade, Milan is also steeped in history that is waiting to be discovered. Below is my quick travel guide for Milan.
Located right across Stazione Milano Centrale, the main transportation hub for Milan, this unassuming four-star hotel checks all the boxes. Though there is not much to see in the area except for Stazione Milano Centrale which in itself is a tourist destination with its elaborate and grand design but being near such a transportation hub, you are in the city centre in no time. For anyone planning to go outside of Milan (we went to Lake Como) it is very handy especially when you have luggage to carry.This hotel is very clean with crisp white bed sheets and the room is spacious for European standards. The bathroom is immaculate. The courtesy light is a very thoughtful touch and the hotel, especially the bedroom always smells nice. The breakfast buffet was not elaborate but very good complete with “make your own” yogurt station.
In Italy, there is a gelato shop in every corner and Milan is no exception. In fact, I have noticed Milan has more gelato stands than Rome. Which probably explains why we ate too much gelato on this recent Italian trip. Gelato, compared to ice cream is churned at a slower rate thus giving its silky texture and served at a slightly higher temperature giving that softer consistency. Not only that, because it uses more milk than cream, it is less fattening. Though most gelatos are good, I would like to make a special mention to Venchi. They are a cut among the rest.
Cafe Le Grazie
In Milan, most ristorante serves a good pizza or pasta dish and Cafe Le Grazie is one of them. This cafe is located right across Maria Del Grazie church which houses Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The pizza was perfect and the husband gave a thumbs up for his calzone. The service was very good. A good supper before seeing The Last Supper.
Come here if only for the view. They have the best view of The Duomo that does not involve shelling out a lot of euros to eat in. Besides, they serve the curly fries that I so love which is only occasionally available in the UK.
Garbed in its pink-hued marble splendour, The Duomo is breathtaking no matter which time of day or night you see it. I recommend taking the lift to the rooftop or stairs if you fancy over 200 steps to add to your workout routine. Whichever way you take to the top, it doesn’t matter as the views are worth it. Here you can also examine closely each beautifully sculpted spire that is topped with statues that look into the city. According to the guide, each spire costs €2 million to refurbish.
Step inside The Duomo and it is equally breathtaking. You will spend time admiring the stunning floor pattern which is also made entirely of different coloured marble including black marble. Above the altar is apparently where one of the nails of Jesus’s crucifixion is being kept and is brought down one Saturday in September of every year to be exhibited. Beneath the Duomo are the remains of an ancient baptistry believed to be where St. Augustine was baptised. Although it was cold and creepy down there, I found it really interesting so I definitely recommend checking it out.
No need to pre-book tickets as even though the queue is long, it moves quickly.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II
Even if shopping is not on your agenda, you have to drop by this magnificent shopping mall which is right next to The Duomo. Made of iron and glass, you will stare in awe at the grandeur and splendour of this shopping arcade. The dome is in the middle is worth a photograph. Window shop at the prestigious fashion house of Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton or sit at one of the cafes and enjoy the hustle and bustle of this grand structure. Don’t forget to turn your heel on the bull for good luck.
The Last Supper
Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco is arguably the most famous painting in the world with a replica present in households all over the world. To see the original painting right before your eyes is an experience that will stay with you forever. The master painted this fresco on a wall in the refectory of Maria Del Grazie church. Each group is only allowed fifteen minutes to gaze at his creation before they are ushered out and the next group is ushered in. We had to go through air chambers where the next one opens when the previous one closes. This is to preserve further the painting from humidity as it has deteriorated so much just six years after Da Vinci finished it.
Tickets are like gold dust. They sold out months early because of the popularity and also because travel agents buy them in bulk and sell them at a higher price. Tickets are normally sold at €6 outside the venue but buying them from the travel agents cost us €40 but it came with a tour guide and the former does not. No matter how much you pay, it is worth every penny (or euro) as the experience itself is priceless.
La Scala Opera House
Considered as one of the oldest and greatest opera houses in the world, La Scala is a must visit when in Milan even if you are not a fan of the opera. The plush red velvet furnishing is enough to send any interior design enthusiast hyperventilating. The grand foyer makes you imagine a bygone era of big skirts and dapper gentlemen in tall hats. There is so much history here. The theatre has seen Mozart perform his early works including other great musicians like Verdi, Bellini and Puccini. So, put La Scala on your itinerary and sit in one of the private boxes, step back in time and dream the day away.