It is always a good sign when you can visit a city on a day of steady, pouring rain, and still return saying you wish you went. (Thank heaven I bought a waterproof camera.) That's how impressed I was with Milano. Not only does it have an attractive, bustling city center, it has hundreds of historical structures and ruins well preserved and scattered around the city. It seemed like every corner had a surprise waiting.
My day trip began with the basics -- find the heart of the city, the Piazza Duomo. This was not difficult, of course, I just walked out of the front entrance to the train station and followed the main drag for what I believe was a mile (1.6km) to the Scala (the city's main theater), through the Galleria shopping center (see later), and here I was...
The Duomo, the city's cathedral, is extraordinary. The interior is simple (on a grand scale) but the exterior is among the most ornate I've ever seen. The archway on the left is the Galleria Vittorio Emmaneule II shopping center (interior pictured below at dusk -- when the heaviest rains hit). Like the Galleria in Napoli, the sides are completely open with a well-drained and well-decorated tile floor. The corridors are filled with shops and 'sidewalk' open-air restaurants with retracting glass enclosures for inclement weather.
Milan is famous as one of the world's fashion centers, and a walk around the Piazza will give the visitor dozen's of reasons why. Not only are there high-fashion stores everywhere with three blocks of the Duomo, I found a few exclusive side streets (such as the Via Della Spiga, halfway between the Duomo and train station) where high society was well-represented. For those of us who prefer casual dress, not to worry, Milan has shops catering to all ages, budgets, and styles.
Not too far away from the Duomo is the Castello Sforzesco, pictured here. A beautiful, simple red brick building, the castle sits above a grand park looking out to the city's Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) in the Piazza Sempione. The park is more than just a park -- on the northern side it houses the city's civic soccer stadium and the city aquarium.
Red brick ruins are plentiful around the city. I counted at least six road/subway intersections to the south and west of the Duomo where an old brick archway over the road was left preserved (I greatly appreciated these as I walked around the city in between spots of heavy rain).
Some of the ruins are quite spectacular, such as the Columns of San Lorenzo, at the Piazza Vetra in front of the San Lorenzo Maggiore basilica, shown below.
Another major attraction is the Cenacolo Vinciano at the Piazza Ste. Maria delle Grazie, pictured below. It is a chapel and the sight where Leonardo's 'Last Supper' is housed. Viewing this painting requires a reservation, which typically must be requested months in advance. Walk-in viewing is extremely rare, according to the materials I've read. But even still, it's a great building to look at, even on an overcast day.
One thing I must commend Milan on is its tourist service. The tourist information building is located at the Piazza Duomo (in one of the spectacular side buildings) and is among the best I've visited. The people are very knowledgeable of the city, and very helpful when putting together a 'plan of attack' for wandering visitors, such as me.
One area where I will caution visitors is with the money exchange booths. I found the commissions higher than in most places I've visited. (As a rule, I always try to bring the right currency with me, only doing exchanges when I have to. Thankfully, with the Euro, I won't have to deal with these booths so often.)
Trip taken 20 October 2001 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin