Milan was the first city in Italy we visited. I don’t exactly know how it happened because as far I remember I’d always wanted to see the famous Rome or romantic Venice first. So why Milan? That’s actually a really good question because… I don’t know the answer myself. It was just a spontaneous idea. One evening, we were having a chat about everyday stuff and suddenly THE question came up: “- Do we have plans for tomorrow?”, “- I don’t think so.”, “- Do you feel like going somewhere?”, “- Just like that? Hmmm… Why not? Let’s check the flights and we’ll see. But not so far, OK? We only have one day”. So, yeah, where can you go or fly for a one-day break that isn’t too far from home?
Ironically, the cheapest flight we could get was going to Milan with a short stop in Zurich 😀 Now, that I’m writing it down, it sounds just irrational and crazy but, you know what? Why not do it, right? This is, until today, our most spontaneous decision and trip we’ve ever had. And I totally don’t regret it. So, here we go – let me invite you for an insane, absolutely improvised but wonderful trip to the city of fashion and luxury – Milan.
Like I wrote earlier, this trip was really spontaneous and we didn’t have any real time to do any good research of all those “Things you just must see and do when you’re in X”. And honestly, how much can you even see in a day? Still, everything we saw during our stay was worth every effort and cent spent.
You realise you’ve arrived in Italy right from the first minutes at the airport and later at the train station. The Italian attitude, temper and joyful lifestyle are unmissable. The city is really loud and everybody seems to be in some sort of a hurry. Still, despite the crowds of tourists, you get a chance to speak to the locals who are full of passion and carattere I hadn’t noticed anywhere else. But, do remember the famous need for gesticulation while speaking and don’t stay too close 😀.
One thing you notice is that Milan is really crowded. There are tourists everywhere you look, walking and running among all the endless designer stores with at least a thousand Gucci or Prada bags in one hand while taking a selfie with the other 😀. The store window displays are simply bursting with gorgeous, expensive bags, clothes, shoes, phones, etc. And wherever you go, you are surrounded by Gucci, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and so many other big names I did not even know exist. Since I’m not a crazy fashionista chasing designers, I only visited the Disney store where I bought two small plushies as a souvenir of this crazy place.
I really liked the local train station which was just as lovely as every other building in Milan – bright, gigantic and decorated with many detailed sculptures. And what did I find in front of the station? An apple! 😮 In a sculpted form, of course. The apple is a sculpture by Michelangelo Pistoletto and has been donated to the city of Milan in honour of the food and nourishment themed Expo of 2015.
I don’t know why but when I was in Milan I had a strange feeling that all the surrounding buildings were a bit dirty or dusty, while at the same time they were so admirable and elegant, really classy. When you looked at them you could nearly feel their history and all the hard times they had witnessed. True, they were not perfect and many were quite damaged but that didn’t stop them from looking powerful and elegant. They were just beautiful.
The main and the most famous square in Milan is naturally the Piazza del Duomo, also known as the Cathedral Square. The name was taken from its famous Cathedral (Duomo) which is absolutely magnificent. The square where it is located is really spacious and has enough place for the locals, students and many, many tourists armed with their selfie-sticks to gather. It is actually quite hard to find an empty spot there and, trust me, this is not a joke. The city square is most famous for the shops, the V. Emanuele II Gallery and its most important building – Il Duomo. It looked to me like the only ‘chillout spot’ there was the monument of King Victor Emmanuel II on which pigeons had their break and nap.
Il Duomo di Milano, or the Milan Cathedral, is definitely one of the most known buildings in Italy. It took nearly 6 centuries to complete but the effect is simply stunning. Did you know that it was exactly there in 1805 that Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned to be the King of Italy? Ha! Now, you know it.
The cathedral is also the third largest in the world. Just a fun fact example – the highest nave is about 45 meters high, can you believe it? The building is really huge and makes a powerful impression. Well, no wonder – it took several hundred years to build! That’s why you can also see different architecture styles in it – from Gothic to Baroque, with some Neo-Gothic elements. It looks dignified and proud. Its white colour gives it a feeling of lightness and calm, and the soaring towers with colourful stained glass windows look as if they could touch the sky.
The Cathedral also holds a lot of architectural surprises which make it even more interesting. Only the roof has about 135 sculptures and gargoyles. From the top the tourists can enjoy the stunning vista of the city, though not free-of-charge. I’ve also read somewhere that the Cathedral floor hides a brass line symbolising the meridian running through the city.
The artwork on the gates is simply magnificent and so worth seeing. The bas-relief shows scenes from St. Mary’s and St. Ambrose’s lives and they look so realistic and just pure ancient. All my knowledge of the Cathedral comes, unfortunately, from books or the internet because I didn’t have a chance to go inside and visit it myself. The line in front of the cash desk was as massive as the cathedral itself (TRUST ME). So, do not repeat my mistake and buy the ticket earlier or online, and only wait in the queue if you really have a lot of time. The tickets aren’t cheap either, with an adult entry costing about €16, but I think it must be worth it. Next time we are in Milan, we are sure to go there and climb it on foot (you can use a lift but you have to pay extra) to enjoy the amazing view.
The next important part of the Piazza is the famous gallery named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy – Victor Emanuel II. The Galleria was designed in 1861 and built between 1865-1877, becoming Italy’s oldest, all-time active shopping mall.
I must say that the Galleria makes a really stunning impression. It is so luxurious and posh, with a lot of amazing restaurants, cafés, bars, shops, bookstores and even a hotel. It’s that special place famous for all the selfies and souvenirs but it’s also a really great place just to sit and enjoy a coffee.
I was under a huge impression of this magnificent construction. The whole Galleria has 4 arcades with glass roofs which all connect in the structure’s octagonal centre, under a colossal glass dome (which looks extra majestic at night).
Under the dome there are 4 mosaics portraying the capitals of the Kingdom of Italy – Turin, Florence, Rome and Milan. The whole gallery is made of glass, steel and gold that give it a strong, rich and really elegant character.
The Galleria connects two famous squares – Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala. At the latter you can find the famous Teatro alla Scala opera house. Most of Italy’s or world’s operatic artists perform just there, with La Scala being one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to have a peek inside because we didn’t have enough time left. It is, however, the next point on my ‘To Do’ list for the future.
We didn’t want to limit ourselves to the typical ‘tourist zone’ places to eat and instead, we wanted to find something smaller, more cosy, you know what I mean – a place ‘where the locals eat’, and we found one! Just a few steps away from the centre there was a lovely restaurant called Taverna del Borgo Antico that turned out to be just the perfect choice. The whole place was so traditionally ‘Italian’ if I can put it this way 😉. The tables were all neatly covered with red-and-white tablecloth, candles gave a romantic, smoky light and in the background you could hear quietly playing Italian music. The waiters were really friendly and helpful with the menu. We ordered pizza and wine. Now, I can honestly swear it was the best pizza I have ever devoured. Nothing ‘special’, really – just a plain margarita – but the ingredients, the sauce and dough, were so incredibly delicious and so different from what I remember from having ‘non-Italian‘ pizzas. The wine was also really wonderful – quite light but aromatic. Trust me, the best pizza in the world is made in Italy.
Before we left we had a small chat with the waiter who treated us to a really cute local drink. It is called Limoncello and has water, some lemon juice and alcohol (I think it was vodka, maybe?). We were told to drink it like you would a shot and I will tell you something – wow! It was quite strong but also really tasty. That’s what I call Italian hospitality and joy of living 😀.
So, after dinner, with tummies filled with great pizza and heads full of energy we went to Piazza del Duomo again to see what it was like at night. It was after 11pm so the market square was almost empty. This meant we could see the Cathedral clearly, without the crowds in between and just chill out, take photos, have a close look at the front gates and actually touch the sculptures decorating the columns. That moment really felt as if I were touching a piece of history. Such an incredible feeling.
To sum the things up…
The Milan adventure was a great, spontaneous trip still fills me with nostalgia. We didn’t have a chance to see everything but personally, I guess we saw A LOT. I’ve read quite a bit about Milan on different online blogs and the opinions were so mixed. Many people said that city is dirty, loud, overcrowded with thousands of tourists, not really friendly, etc… I’m actually really surprised because for me Milan was absolutely interesting and simply unforgettable. Of course, like every other place, it has some not-so-clean streets and corners, damaged buildings and lots of tourists BUT at the same time it is a romantic, living piece of history. Except for the impressive Cathedral, the city has just so many adorable corners with tiny streets, uncountable statues, sculptures or beautiful mosaics. And, let me stress that, so many lovely people, of course! Milan’s amazing history is still hiding in its architecture and topography. It is that atmosphere that highlights the Italian temper, too. People are a bit louder than here, in Germany but gosh, they just so enjoy life! So, when you’re there, take a break, stop, look around, listen and just enjoy it.
Milano, grazie per l’opportunitá di conoscerti 🙂