Oct 10

Milan, Italy – Style and so much more!

by in Europe

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Milan is the capital of the Lombardy Province in northern Italy and the second most populous city in the country after Rome, with nearly 3.3 million people. Calling Milan a well rounded city is a bit of an understatement as it’s a leading world city in industry, finance and commerce, education and the arts, healthcare and research. Most people know of Milan as the “Fashion Capital of the World”, but it is also the “Design Capital of the World” too. In this post I will feature some of the many highlights of Milan. When visiting this iconic city of fashion and elegance you might like to consider getting the mood by riding in style from Malpensa Airport into the city.

Milan Cathedral
Duomo di Milano is the largest church in Italy and the 3rd largest in the entire world. This grand cathedral was built over a period of 400 years and wasn’t completed until 1805. Not surprisingly, it’s design has a mixture of styles reflecting preeminent fashions of the changing times and it certainly has had it’s detractors and admirers over the last few centuries. It is the number one tourist attraction in the city and one of the really cool things about it is that, for a fee, you can go up on it’s roof and see the myriad of elaborate spires up close.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is “mall shopping” on a style level I’ve never seen before. The galleria is an amazing 19th century structure, comprising of 2 four storey bisecting arcades in the shape of a Latin cross. The space between the arcades is covered by an arched roof of glass and cast iron and where they bisect, there is a magnificent octagonal glass dome that is 154 feet high. It is the oldest shopping mall in the world and the arcade connects the Piazza del Duomo (the square in front of Milan Cathedral) and the Piazza della Scala ( the square in front of La Scala Opera House). The entrance from Piazza del Duomo is framed by a magnificent triumphal archway. The galleria has all the big name fashion shops but I’d go there just to see the architecture alone.

La Scala
If you are opera buffs like my parents you’ll know that La Scala is one of the top opera companies in the world, so be sure to check out the season program and book online in advance for the popular operas.

Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
This monastery is very unimposing on the outside and completely belies the splendor within. The rooms within are decorated with amazing frescos, some of which are over 400 years old and still in amazing condition.

Il Cenacolo
The monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie houses Il Cenacolo, the famous Last Supper painting by Leonardo de Vinci which dates back to 1495. Because of the way it was initially painted, the condition of this fresco began deteriorating soon after it was completed. Due to this decay and despite, and in some cases because of, numerous attempts at restoration (the last in 1999) very little of the original painting remains. In spite of this the painting is a big drawcard and due to it’s popularity you need to book online a few months in advance. It is also recommended to do a tour so you can learn more about the story behind the painting and appreciate it more.

Attractions near Milan

Milan is only 1 hour by train or a 2-2.5 hour drive to another great northern city Turin. Genoa on the north-west coast takes about 1.5-2 hours by train and 2-2.5 hours by car. Because of it’s proximity to the coast many tourists choose to visit La Spezia and cliff-edge villages that create the picturesque Cinque Terre.

Despite North Italy being the most industrialized region of Italy it also famous for the natural beauty of it’s many lakes. The most well known ones are Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda which lie at the foot of the Alps and/or Dolomites and are lined by gorgeous villages with a lot of character. It takes less than 2 hours to drive from Milan to any of them. Lake Lugano is another of the larger lakes – it is partially in Italy with the rest of it lying over the Swiss border. It’s hard to imagine any lake more beautiful than Maggiore or Como, but some of northern Italy’s smaller lakes are arguably even more pretty e.g Lago Iseo and Lago d’Orta so be sure to visit more than the big four.

Image by Jess Wood under Creative Commons license.

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