We just got back from a very short trip to Milan, Italy. Milos had an interview about forty kilometers outside of the city, but we decided we HAD to book an extra night in town, so we could actually see some of Milan; even if it was only for a day. (We had to make it worth that five hour drive to get there!)
Here are some of the top things to see when you’re in Milan with limited time, AND some helpful tips to help you with your own trip!
But first, some pics from the drive! As I mentioned above, it was about a five hour drive (longer with stops) from Milos’ hometown in Croatia to Milan. We essentially headed straight west, so for most of the time, we had the Alps rising up majestically to our right side. And if you’ve seen some of my past blog posts, you’ll remember that I am fascinated with these mountains! (Click on the pics to see them enlarged.)
Anyway, fast forward a couple days, the interview is over, and we have one day to explore Milan. What did we do?
If you’re going to Milan, a visit to the cathedral is a must. It’s the largest in Italy, and fifth largest in the world; it took nearly 600 years to complete! What struck me so about the facade of the cathedral was its marble finish, lending a most beautiful look of pastel color variations, as if an artist’s chalk sketching had been realized and brought to life. Inside, it is expansive and impressive, with little details hidden all throughout its nooks and crannies.
But unlike so many other cathedrals in Europe, this one is NOT free. You need a ticket. For everything. But here’s a little hint – instead of getting in the long ticket line immediately next to the cathedral, head on over to the museum to the RIGHT of the cathedral (when you’re standing in the square looking at the front of the cathedral.) They also sell cathedral tickets, and we only had to wait behind two people in line, as opposed to about 50 people in line at the ticket booth. Entry into the cathedral is inexpensive (2 euro at the time of this posting) – going up to the rooftops is a bit more pricey (8 euro for the stairs, more for the elevator. Make sure you’re in shape if you attempt the stairs.) But going up to the top was worth it. You can see all of Milan from up there and on your way along the side of the cathedral, before reaching the very top, you’ll be able to take in some of the amazing architecture this structure has to offer.
*One thing that I found different here than so many other cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe – the heavy military presence. There were soldiers guarding the area with machine guns and everyone entering was scanned with metal detectors. (I’m used to Vienna, where you just wander in to the cathedral at your own whim.)
For additional history on the cathedral, CLICK HERE to visit its official site.
Approaching the cathedral…
Then once inside, amazing sites await you….
Climbing to the roof…
This is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, four stories tall, and covered by an impressive glass arched ceiling. It’s just lovely to walk through! There are not only shops, but restaurants and bars as well – some of which are located along the upper sides of the building, with balconies overlooking the cathedral. The shops inside are mostly high-end designers (although there are more economical options along the outside), but it still makes for an enjoyable time, even if you’re just wandering through.
La Scala (Teatro alla Scala – The world’s most famous opera house!)
Well, you know, I couldn’t go to Milan without at least seeing La Scala! I’d never forgive myself for not visiting the world’s most famous opera house! Founded over 200 years ago, the greatest voices of the opera world have performed on its stage, and it has had its fair share of controversy due to the booing and heckling of the loggionisti. Some singers even refuse to sing here for that very reason. Granted we didn’t have enough time to go inside, but just to be here was super cool!
We also spent a lot of time just walking around. We grabbed some pizza and bruschetta for a late lunch / early dinner at a little place called Cafe de Ville, just a bit up from the Duomo. We passed lots of places, but we always check Trip Advisor first, as we don’t want to wander into a tourist trap, rip-off, or disappointment. This place got a very good rating, so we decided to stop. The food was good and so was the service. If you want to get into one of the highly rated top restaurants in the city, you need to reserve FAR in advance.
In the early evening, we decided to visit the Da Vinci Museum on the far side of the Galleria. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed. 😦 Inside were all kinds of cool models of Da Vinci’s mechanical inventions. There were also interactive screens that let you see how many of the creations worked. It was really fascinating.
Later on, for dessert, we tried out a little shop called Amorino Gelateria. They have delicious gelato, but also specialize in crepes and waffles. Not only was it SO GOOD, but if you order your gelato in a cone, they scoop it out in the shape of a flower! LOVE! I had mango and strawberry, while Milos got chocolate and hazelnut.
We finished the night with a nice glass of wine in a busy cafe.
Here are some more photos from our day in Milan…
A few overall tips and hints…
- Don’t forget to buy your cathedral tickets next door at the museum – save lots of time!
- If you’re driving in the city, or anywhere in this region, be… prepared. No one seems to obey traffic laws, and there’s a bit of anything-goes type of chaos. No one uses turn signals and if it’s dark and raining, who needs headlights?! Consider yourself warned.
- If you want a reservation at a popular restaurant, book it way in advance.
- Along those lines, if you want to see DaVinci’s Last Supper, you need to reserve your spot weeks in advance.
- I used the new international data roaming plan from Verizon to enable Google maps when we were driving to and from Milan, but also during the day we decided to explore the city.(My smartphone is still hooked up to an American number.) It was really helpful – not cheap, but not horribly expensive – I’d say it’s a good option to use once in awhile when you really need it. I’ll write a separate blog on that topic, coming soon!