When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but in Milan I do not. You also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal.
Saint Ambrose (4th Century BC Bishop of Milan)
The city has been rebuilt three times on the smooth Padan plains of the Po Valley and its name is derived from the Celtic Mediolanum which translates as “mid-plain’. Its geographical location happily lies right in the path of any goods coming over the Alps and it has grown through the centuries, into the centre of the Italian business world. The English word millinery is derived from the name of the city – it originally referred to all things beautiful and handcrafted.
You would think that the city responsible for the concept of the beanbag would be pretty laid back... not so! Milan does not display much interested in standing still. It is not only the home town of the two top Italian soccer teams AC Milan and Inter(F.C. Internazionale Milano) but also the axis of the Italian economy, centre of the stock exchange and native habitat for some of the biggest names in global fashion. While the city does not depend on, or overtly court tourism, it has an enormous wealth of culture, history, architecture and entertainment to offer any traveler.... and that is before you indulge in a spot of serious retail therapy.
In August the temperature soars in Milan – the locals flee to the beach and it can be a great time to visit if you can stand the heat. Do be warned that many shopkeepers close their doors for the entire month!
If the walls decide to end their silence Il Duomo could give up the secrets of 6 centuries of Milanese history – it lies in the middle of the city and all the citizens of Milan contribute to a specific cathedral upkeep tax. From the octagonal underground chamber where St Charles Borromeo lies buried, to the small gilded Madonna on the roof looking down at all the marble statues decorating the roof, the worlds third largest gothic cathedral has many stories to tell.
It is not difficult to imagine the strains of the “Slaves Chorus”from Nabucco echo off the walls when you wander through the Museo Teatrale alla Scala (Theatre Museum at La Scala) Verdi might be the best loved composer but Rossini, Puccini and Toscanini also feature prominently. Constructed at the instigation of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria the Teatro ala Scalla is internationally revered as a magnificent opera house.
For a city that is not exactly famous for its culture Milan is packed with treasures. The Castello Sforzesco houses three municipal museums. The Museo d'Arte Antica del Castello Sforzesco (Museum of Historic Art of the Sforza Castle) houses Michelangelo’s last work the unfinished Pieta Rondanini. Works by Mangegna, Antonello da Messina and Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci are also part of the museum’s collection
Isola has been described as Milans answer to New York’s SoHo! Trendy craft shops and funky bars abound.
Milans’ creative genius
Still standing in spite of a direct hit during WWII the Santa Maria delle Grazie is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” one of the most well known and reproduced religious paintings in the world.
Versace is housed on four floors of couture on Via Montenapoleone 2. This is also the street to shop for Gucci, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Fratelli Rossetti, Etro, Loro Piana, Luis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino, Cartier and Tanino Crisci. Via Sant'Andrea, crosses Via Montenapoleone and is home to Chanel, Fendi, Armani, Moschino, Kenzo, Cesare Paciotti, Hermés, Prada and Trussardi.
Milan’s’ top treats
Shopping in the Quadrilatero d’Oro (Quadrilatero della Moda) which includes the top line boutiques and showrooms as well as the more affordable vintage and sales wares.
More shopping in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a passage covered with an arching Belle époque 19th Century glass and cast iron roof. It is the most entertaining way to get from the Duomo to La Scala and some believe this conservatory is the precursor of the modern shopping centre
Or alternatively go quirky at L'Armadio de Laura, Via Voghera 25, where you can find fine bargains.
Daring contemporary art can be viewed in the Civica Galleria d'Arte Moderna (Modern Art Gallery). This building used to be Napoleon’s former summer palace.
Naviglio Grande’s medley of old wash houses, canal-side cafés, gelaterie’s and antique fairs held at the weekends offer an insight to the Italian way of life.
Napoleon’s statue by Canova stands in the Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Picture Gallery) courtyard. He opened the gallery and added many of the spoils of war from his Italian campaigns. The Brera houses the Pietá by Bellini and Mantegna as well as Tintoretto’s St Mark, Raphael’s Wedding of the Madonna and works by Piero della Francesca.
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnica Leonardo da Vinci (Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum) showcases war machines, flying machines and models illustrating the genius of a the great visionary Leonardo da Vinci.
A bit peckish?
This IS Italy after all and the joys of food are not lost on the Milanese. While tomato is conspicuous in its absence, the "cotoletta alla Milanese"(breaded veal, pork or turkey) continues it battle for originality with the Austrian “Wiener schnitzel”. The traditional feasts echo the fashions as they are ornate, substantial and designed to fulfill. Gorgonzola originates from the town with that name close to Milan and fine grained Milanese salami can be found throughout Italy. Cassoeula, ossobuco, saffron infused risotto alla milanese, busecca and brasato are served for the main meal and sweets include chiacchiere tortelli for Carnival time and colomba at Easter.
Only a day trip away….
Milan is only a short distance from :
Cinque Terr and the Swiss Alps
In, Out and Around
The biggest airport - Malpensa - is two hours from London, just under a full day from Sydney and only around 50 km northwest of Milan.
The Malpensa Express delivers passengers in comfort and with ease from Terminal One at the airport to Stazione Cadorna
Linate Airport is even closer to the city and mainly services domestic and short haul international flights.
Orio al Serio is close to Bergamo – this is the premier choice for low cost flights.
Milan boasts five major train stations. High speed train lines are expected to connect Milan to Rome, Naples and Turin.
The Regional Railway system links Milan with outer Lombardy and the national railways. There are eight suburban lines that service the metropolitan area.
Within the metropolitan area the ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi) provides public transport by train, tram, trolley-bus and bus.
The Milan Metro has three subway lines. The Taxi services are privately owned. The drivers lobby the city to only issue a limited number of licenses, which translates practically into finding it difficult to locate an unused taxi during rush hours, bad weather or for early morning departure to the airports. To avoid disappointment you can pre-book.
A Welcome Card can be found at the tourist information office and it offers one-day public transport, history and map of the city and various discount vouchers.