When you hear the word Milan, the first thing that comes to mind is iconic style, fashion and brands! The Fashion Capital of the world is a title that is given to this bustling Italian city. Everything about this city reeks of wealth, money, and status. But there is more to it than that, so let me start at the beginning.
We rumbled into Milano Centrale by train from Venice one cold morning. Dragging our bags behind us, we walked to our hotel which was just around the corner from the station. After a hearty breakfast of hot fluffy croissants washed down with coffee, we were all set to conquer Milano.
We did our favourite Hop-On Hop-Off tour. Once we had our bearings, we disembarked to explore further. First on our list was the famous Milan Cathedral. An architectural masterpiece, this place begs to be explored. Dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, this Cathedral took over 6 centuries to be completed. The largest Cathedral in Italy, it is the 3rd largest in the world.
There is a gold statue of the Madonna atop one of the main spires of this Gothic Cathedral. It underwent numerous changes in architectural form during its construction. What we see now is an amalgamation of sorts. It is imposing though. Don’t miss the door with its fabulous engravings. The interior is quite vast and houses many masterpieces. One statue you must see is St Bartholomew Flayed – depicts the saint with his skin around his shoulders. Bit gory if you dwell too much, but worth a peek!
There are some superb altars especially Zuccari’s “Visit of St Peter to St Agatha Jailed”. There are numerous bronze statues of various saints and a 225-rank pipe organ! A masterpiece! A single holy nail or Santo Chiodo, which was supposedly used to crucify Jesus Christ, is in the dome just above the Apse or Arch in the Church. This nail is exposed to the public annually during the Rite of the Nivola. We genuflected and said our prayers and then it was onward ho to see the rest of Milan.
Being holy people (!!) we then went to the Santa Maria delle Grazie or Holy Mary of Grace Church. I went more because I wanted to see Leonardo da Vinci’s wonderful mural, The Last Supper. Painted on the Refectory Wall, it has deteriorated a great deal. However, we didn’t get to see it because apparently you have to book an appointment to see it and it was at that time being restored. I have my own Last Supper at home which took me 3 years to complete – cross stitch on canvas! It’s as good as any Vinci mural really!! It’s just waiting to be recognized! ? Numerous Churches and Cathedrals dot the whole of Milan – so stop by and make a wish, light a candle, rest your weary feet! Some are Basilica di San Lorenzo, San Bernadino Alle Ossa (has human bones and skulls in the side Chapel – gross!), Basilica San Simpliciano etc.
If you are a lover of art, you must visit the Pinacoteca di Brera which is an art gallery. On display are wonderful Italian paintings by Bellini, Andrea Mantegna, Raphael, Rubens and others. Go to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana which houses some ancient manuscripts from Greece, Syria, Benedictine monasteries. The original Iliad is also kept here. There are many museums and art galleries. Make a plan, take your pick and see them all.
The Teatro Alla Scala or the Opera House hosts many wonderful shows. Some of the world’s best singers and ballet companies have performed here. You can check the schedule and attend one of the shows. Pricey but worth it. A small museum at the side of it showcases costumes, statues, painting etc.
The Via Monte Napoleone is Europe’s is Milan’s upscale marketing street. It is home to the most expensive brands and fashion houses in the world. I ambled along sticking my nose into the windows but not daring to step in. They look all hoity-toity and Pretty Woman scenes came to mind, so I just did window shopping! The facades of the buildings are super and it’s really nice to just stroll there in the evening. Top notch stores like Gucci, Café Cova (we had a Milanese tea cake and a cappuccino here), Ralph Lauren, Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino, Massimo Dutti, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Fabi, Hermes etc etc have a presence on this street. I was very happy that I recognized most of the names!
Home to AC Milan, you have to see the San Siro stadium of course! With a seating capacity of over 80,000, it is an imposing structure. You can almost feel a palpable excitement – the fans screaming for their team, the tension in the air and the thrill of an exciting match! There is a museum which also has a souvenir shop. So, buy your tees and other collectables.
Eat the Costoletta (a cutlet made of veal), Risotto alla Milanese, Polenta made from corn flour, Michetta (which I thought was something exotic but turned out to be bread with salami), a fluffy sweet Brioche called Panetonne which is full of raisins and candied fruits. Drink Negroni Sbagliato which is a mixture of vermouth, gin and Campari to wash the food down. There was so much more to try but at the end of a 3-week holiday doing nothing much but eating and drinking, I could hardly fit into my jeans!
Milan has much to offer. You can see and enjoy art in the museums, soak in the culture, visit and pray in ever so many Churches, window shop, shop for real at streets like Mercato Centrale or Salvagente, eat good food and drink even better vino.