Although I’ve been to Italy many times, one city I had never really visited was the fashion capital of Milan. The closest I came was in 2015 when we flew to Milan on the way to Piedmont, (including Alba and the wine regions of Barbaresco and Barolo).
This time we stopped in Milan for a few days before heading to the Italian Alps and Florence (more on that later!). We only had a few days in Milan, but spent a weekend visiting the most famous sites.
Our hotel was situated right next to the Duomo, the second largest church in Europe (only the Vatican is bigger).
This massive and incredibly impressive looking church took 600+ years to build, and just takes your breath away when you walk up to it.
We explored the inside of the Duomo and also booked special tickets to explore the Duomo Rooftops. It's a great way to get a different view of Milan and see these spires up close!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Right next to the Duomo is Italy's oldest shopping mall, the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. I loved walking through this space. It reminded me of the St. Huberts Gallery in Brussels, but this one was significantly grander and more awe-inspiring.
The glass atrium is beautiful, and this covered walkway connects two very famous Milan sites: the Duomo and Teatro alla Scala, Milan's historic and storied opera house.
Teatro alla Scala (Milan's Opera House)
You must go inside the historic Teatro alla Scala to fully appreciated its grandeur. Upon entering, you really feel like you have traveled back in time.
We watched the opera Theodora by Handel, which was in English, though we still relied heavily on the subtitles to know what was going on.
The Last Supper Painting (Il Cenacolo)
One of the most famous paintings to visit in Milan is the Last Supper Painting (Il Cenacolo) by Leonardo Da Vinci. You can see buy a timed ticket (10 minutes!) to see this very fragile painting at the monastery called Santa Maria dell Grazie.
The painting has been through a lot in its 500+ year history.
First of all, it's a fresco painting, which means it's painted directly onto the wall of the building. Fresco paintings are notoriously unstable and easily affected by the elements. This particular painting has been "restored" by different painters several times throughout its history. During World War II, the building badly bombed. Workers digging through the rubble were delighted to discover that the heavily protected painting had mostly survived the bombing.
From 1978-1999, the painting went through yet another 21-year (!) restoration using a variety of modern technologies to determine original paint colors.
I really enjoyed marveling at the painting and learning about its unusual history, even though the actual time for viewing the painting is timed and quite short.
Shopping at Via Monte Napoleone
Our friend who works in fashion (and visits Milan annually to scout out products to import) recommended that we visit Via Monte Napoleone for some shopping. The entire area had a fun vibe, and we did seriously check out some stores (though we ended up not buying anything).
While strolling along, we stumbled upon this fun row of cars parked right near Monte Napoleane.
Castello Sforzesco: Evening Walk Around the City
Castello Sforzesco is a 15th century castle and fort. It is walking distance from the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and is a beautiful place to walk around and explore.
It now houses several museums, though we did not visit the museums since we were here at night (after the museums had closed).
Even without museum tickets, there's still plenty to see in this large park-like area, including outdoor art exhibits, plaques explaining the history or background about various parts of the fort, and just lots of photo-worthy scenes.
For us, since we sort of just "stumbled upon" this fort, the entire experience of exploring it was all the more delightful and surprisingly.
The Food in Milan
We also had our taste of Milanese food, such as Osso Buco Milanese (which is different from the way I make it!), and Milanese risotto. Milanese risotto has a lot of saffron and is thick and creamy. We even tried a crispy risotto with our osso buco, which was amazing!
Milan is fun to visit and is also an amazing launching point for visiting many other parts of Italy. From Milan, we visited Florence, did a day tour of the Chianti wine region, and spent several days at a ski resort in the Italian Alps. More on those trips up next!