Fashion, finance, food, and Italian football (soccer), are all synonymous with the modern, sophisticated and stylish city of Milan – a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region. As one of the world’s fashion capital, Milan is also home to the Italian stock exchange and most of the country’s important corporations. If you are traveling to Italy, chances are good that you will at least pass through the greater Milan area, as it is the center for the country’s transportation, too. Milan is huge, busy, modern, cosmopolitan, and forward-looking. It is much different than the typical Italian city, but it is thoroughly Italian (Milan vacation).
Milan is famous for its wealth of historical and modern sights – the Duomo, one of the biggest and grandest Gothic cathedrals in the world, La Scala, one of the best established opera houses in the globe, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an ancient and glamorous arcaded shopping gallery, the Brera art gallery, with some of the finest artistic works in Europe, the Pirelli tower, a majestic example of 1960s modernist Italian architecture, the San Siro, a huge and famed stadium, or the Castello Sforzesco, a grand medieval castle and the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site Santa Maria alle Grazie Basilica, containing one of the world’s most famous paintings: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
1 Magnificent Mind-Blowing II Duomo (Cathedral)
The massive Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, which the Milanese call just “Il Duomo” is among the world’s largest (it holds up to 40,000 people) and most magnificent churches, the ultimate example of the Flamboyant Gothic style. The roof is topped by 135 delicately carved stone pinnacles and the exterior is decorated with 2,245 marble statues. The dim interior, in striking contrast to the brilliant and richly patterned exterior, makes a powerful impression with its 52 gigantic pillars.
Emerging from the steamy subway station at the Piazza del Duomo, look up and you can’t help but be blown away by the enormous white marble façade of Milan’s cathedral. The Duomo is the city’s most famous building, and rightly so. Walk around it to appreciate its size, or if you want to see inside, make sure you are dressed appropriately, covering arms and legs, otherwise you won’t be allowed in! Taking the audio guide tour of the interior is a treat and it’s the best way to get the most out of your visit – be sure to check out the magnificent enormous stained-glass windows (largest in the world) behind the choir. Don’t miss a visit to the roof: take the elevator or stairs and enjoy the panoramic view of the city. The large square in front of the cathedral hosts concerts and other festivities.
2 World Famous Leonardo’s Last Supper and Santa Maria delle Grazie
Besides the food, the fancy palaces and the fashion, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, Il Cenacolo, is another major attraction to visit in Milan. This iconic fresco is located in the refectory of the monastery next to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, not far from city centre. The reason most tourists visit Santa Maria delle Grazie is to see da Vinci’s most famous work, painted on the refectory wall of the former Dominican monastery.
Tickets become available three months out, and sell out quickly. If you are prompt, to the day as they sell out fast, you should be able to get tickets. It only costs €8 when purchased through Vivaticket, look for tickets for the CENACOLO VINCIANO.
3 Superb Greenary For A Little Romance In Parco Sempione and Giardini Pubblici
You’ve decided to see Sforza Castle, but don’t leave without scoping out the adjacent Parco Sempione, opened in 1888 and designed by architect Emilio Alemagna who wanted this gorgeous green space to frame panormaic views of the stately home. Aside from the outdoors sculpture gallery, there’s also an aquarium which is free to visit if you go on Tuesdays after 2pm and on the first Sunday of the month, otherwise it’s €5 – it’s closed on Mondays. From under the sea to miles above the earth: another park worth a peek is the Giardini Pubgblici Indro Montanelli, in the Porta Venezia district, home to the city’s Planetarium.
This is a beautiful park right behind Sforzesco Castle. It is lovely to walk around and is a short walk from the Duomo. After being in the horded crowds of tourists at the Duomo this is a nice peaceful break where there are no pan-handlers and you see more locals enjoying there days here then tourists. This park is so nice and relaxing in the middle of a very busy city.
4 Largest Shopping Arcade In Europe – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Luxury Shops and Elegant Cafés
Forming one side of Piazza del Duomo and opening on the other side to Piazza della Scala, the grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and built between 1865 and 1877. It was then the largest shopping arcade in Europe, with a dome soaring 48 meters above its mosaic floor. Marking the beginning of modern architecture in Italy, today it stands as a splendid example of 19th-century industrial iron and glass construction. And it’s still a beautiful, vibrant place where locals meet for lunch or coffee in its elegant cafés and browse in its luxury shops. It is so much a part of local life that the inhabitants of Milan refer to it as “il salotto” (the salon).
If you shop at a mall…it will never be the same experience after your visit here. This is factually the source for the inspiration that began indoor shopping throughout the world. This historic building must be seen to be understood. It is so magnificent and the ceiling soars so high above the intricate moasic floor that it is very tempting to pay no attention at all to the designer brand shops that line the walls. In fact, there are two large Prada shops here but tucked into the corner next to the the women’s shop you will find a small Prada shopfront that is actually the place where the iconic brand was born. Several overpriced but historic cafes can be found here and it is a good place for a lunch or mid afternoon snack. There is a lot going on in this neighborhood from the Duomo (with an fantastic root view) right outside to the famous La Scala Opera House (very close by).
5 Masterpiece Of Romanesque Architecture – Sant’Ambrogio Basilica
Milan’s 4th century father Saint Ambrose, the most famous Milanese archbishop, converted and baptised the influential Saint Augustine (in the Duomo). The present church is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, built in the 12th century around the choir from an earlier ninth-century church. Ambrose is Milan’s patron saint and has his own basilisk which is another definite must-see, both for its very old and original architectural elements (façade, atrium, column capitals, bell towers), but also for the artwork inside: Volvinius altar, choir, sarcophagus of Stilichone and mosaics. There is also a museum and a treasury.There’s a lot to see here, beginning with the large portico, also from the ninth century, and the atrium, whose carved stone capitals and portal rank it high among Europe’s best examples of the Romanesque period.
This is an incredible church and complex mostly built in 300 BC. It contains the remains of San Ambrogio, the patron Milan. For its age and the material, mostly bricks, the church is well preserved and the romanesque architecture is classic, austere but serene. There are many things to see both on the courtyard entrance and inside the church and one should consider hiring a guide. It is usually not crowded so that one can appreciate the mysticism, serenity and beauty.
6 A Must See Beautiful Castello Sforzesco
Within walking distance from the Duomo, along the car-free shopping avenue of the Via Dante, lies the impressive castle of the Renaissance Sforzesco family that once ruled Milan from 1450 to 1535. It now hosts a collection of civic museums, one of which features sculpture and offers access to the large Sempione park. Meandering through the courtyards, you can admire the architecture and pop into different museums that exhibit, among others, Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà, Mantenga’s Trivulzio Madonna and boast ceilings painted according to designs by Leonardo da Vinci. The castle is worth a visit even in you are not going to the museums. The picture gallery includes paintings by Bellini, Correggio, Mantegna, Bergognone, Foppa, Lotto, Tintoretto, and Antonello da Messina. Between the two rear courtyards of the Castello, a passage leads into the park, originally the garden of the dukes of Milan and later a military training ground.
A very beautiful castle, one of the symbols of Milan. The walls still have imprints from cannon balls shot at least five hundred years ago, if not more. Free entrance for visiting. Easy to reach with the metro, right at Cairoli station.
7 Awesome Hinterland Worth The Visit – Pavia and Oltrepò Pavese
If you’re looking for top notch nosh in Milan on a Sunday night then you could be out of luck; most of the better restaurants are closed on Sundays. But instead of going to one of the very few that are open, or one of a lesser quality, turn that frown upside down and discover part of Milan’s hinterland. A real tradition in the Italian countryside is the Sunday lunch, or pranzo della domenica, during which whole families eat and chat together for hours in one of the many agriturismo, or farmhouse style brasserie. The Oltrepò Pavese wine region, just 50 km south of Milan, offers an excellent choice of such traditional restaurants – try the fabulous local wines while taking in magnificent views, not unlike those of Tuscany. You can reach the area in less than an hour from Milan and on the way visit one of Lombardy’s main treasures, the Certosa di Pavia monastery (free entrance, closed over lunch time).
Certosa di Pavia is located between Milano and Pavia near a small village (car needed) and worth a 2 hour visit. No admission fee, you join a guided tour, which is unfortunately only in Italian. Visitors are expected to leave a tip. Why no head sets in English?? The explanation is extensive and probably very interesting.
On your way back from lunch, stop for a stroll around the laid-back historical city of Pavia.
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