We spent 12 days in magnificent Milan, Italy and had an even better time than expected in this amazing city. It’s the financial hub of Italy in the more prosperous north and one of the worlds great fashion capitals. It’s a mix of the newest and greatest with the old classics being the foundation of the city. (Don’t forget to watch our video at the bottom of this post)
We arrived by train on Trentitalia’s excellent rail system into Milano Centrale, the central station early in the afternoon. We had mapped out the walk to our new apartment which was about a ½ hour to the Porta Nuova district where we had reserved an Airbnb apartment and found it, no problem. Our apartment was in maybe the best location in Milan and was the perfect mix of old and new. The apartment had high ceilings with wooden beams, lots of space and everything we needed for a comfortable stay. Across the street was the famed ‘Bosco Verticale’, two apartment buildings with gardens and trees planted into the balconies of the high-rises and across from them was the Porta Nuova complex of office towers, shopping and entertainment. This complex was like a view into the city of the future with all the amenities; grocery store, cafes, restaurants…everything we needed in one spot. Over the Christmas holidays there was also a lively skating rink, and Xmas market with all kinds of goodies and a regular stopping point for us to grab a Vin Brule (hot mulled wine). Even better, across from this complex was the Girabaldi Train station, next on the line from Centrale and a hub for the day trips we took to Como and Bergamo (click on the city to see our stories and videos on these wonderful day trips from Milan). All the main sites of Milan were within walking distance and we had no trouble navigating our way around the city. It quickly started to feel like home and we were in no hurry to leave this enchanting city. The city of Milan is well connected by public transportation with trams, subways, trains and buses that make it easy to navigate your way around the city, pick up a transit map and tickets at any Tabaconist Shop/Tabbacheria..
First on the list; we headed into the city center to see The Duomo, Milan’s Gothic cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, took nearly six centuries to complete and is the 2nd largest church in Italy. St. Peters Basilica is the biggest although technically in the State of Vatican City and is the 5th largest in the world. The Duomo is as spectacular on the outside as it is on the inside with endless marble sculptures adorning its façade, made by some of the worlds great artists. The inside is breathtaking in its grandeur and mesmerizing with its extensive collection of priceless paintings, sculptures and incredible stained glass works. See our video below for a tour of the cathedral.
Right beside the Cathedral in the Piazza Duomo is the famed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls housing all the designer shops such Prada and Louis Vuitton for the well-heeled Italians and tourists.
Around the corner from the Galleria is the famed Opera Theatre, La Scala where the worlds best perform the classic operas. Madame Butterfly was playing and we tried to get tickets but they were sold out. I’ve seen it a few times before as I’m a fan of the Giacomo Puccini operas but La Scala would have been a life altering experience, we’ll have to come back! Plan ahead and book your tickets on line if can arrange to see a performance.
Another day we toured the Sforza Castle, originally a Visconti Fortress that was later home to the famed Sforza dynasty and a for a while, Neopoleon Bonaparte. It’s many defenses were designed by Leonardo DaVinici and now houses a history of Italian art and culture in its museums. We spent half a day here and then headed to the Corso Buenos Aires area, one of the cities major shopping districts where you can find over 350 different shops offering goods at more reasonable price points.
We spent another half day at the cities cemetery, the Cimitero Monumentale which is one of the two largest in the city and an easy walk from Porta Nuova. We arrived late in the afternoon and stayed until dark but wished we had started early. Although it might sound a bit morbid the cemetery is an incredible outdoor museum housing some spectacular sculptures and architecture. It’s an amazing place that will move you as you view the art that’s dedicated to the dearly departed, monuments to loss, love, morning and sorrowful longing. It was an emotional, atmospheric and awe-inspiring place to visit and a must see if you go to when in Milan. You have to see it to believe it!
On Christmas Eve, we were wondering the city trying to fill our time and distract ourselves over the holidays so we wouldn’t feel so home sick. I had mentioned to a friend back home on Facebook (my Italian teacher) that we were missing the kids and family back home, she put it out on FB and got us an invite into an Italian family’s home. How the universe provides sometimes! It turned out they lived only a ½ hour walk away from us in this massive city, a miracle in itself. We received the invite the night of Christmas Eve and felt bad that we weren’t prepared with some gifts or anything for our hosts, everything was closed until after the holidays. I had bought us a bottle of prosseco for New Years so on Christmas day we brought that with us but luck was on our side again. As we arrived in their neighborhood; low and behold a flower vendor had setup a tent and happened to be open on Christmas day. He made us a lovely bouquet and now we were feeling better at showing up to a strangers home with out being empty handed. Although we thought we were arriving for coffee after their Christmas lunch was over we arrived just in time for the full experience, an endless array of homemade dishes that just kept coming over the two hours we were there. They warmly welcomed us into their home and it felt like we had been friends for years, we were really honored. They spoke good English and with my limited Italian we were able to have a great visit. After chatting with our hostess we found out she had never meet my Italian teacher, they were friends on line from a Facebook group and yet they still invited us complete strangers into their home.
New Years was a blast (click here to see our video/post) as we celebrated with half the city in the Piazza Duomo. A large stage was belting out music by some of Italy’s top performers and there was a nice party atmosphere going on. Although they allowed people to bring alcohol with them (as long as in plastic bottles) people were quite orderly, not too much pushing and were enjoying themselves with a sense of community. All night long people were setting of fireworks, bangers and crackers until the wee dawn, even the walk home from the Duomo was an entertaining experience at 2 in the morning!
We left Milan with big smiles, fond memories and a determination to return soon to this magnificent city. Next on our stop is Imola, Italy. A smaller town in the Midwest of Italy, close to the Adriatic and famous for its Ferrari formula one racetrack. Below is our Milan Video- click on it to open and watch! Click here to link to the photo gallery.