The Ultimate Travel Guide: Milan
A guide for a trip to this unique city in the north of Italy
Milan is a city unlike other Italian cities. It is known everywhere for being the fashion capital of the world and taking a look at any of the locals, you can understand the reason for that title.
Italy, a country known for its history, culture, unique architecture, and old cities. Milan stands out. The heart of the city, and the part that tourists will find themselves spending most of their time, is structured in a similar fashion. But in the distance, skyscrapers can be seen and graffiti is easily spotted around the outskirts of the city. It turns out Italy’s fashion hotspot has a striking combination of old and new. It is this quality that sets it apart from other Italian cities.
As for things to do, the city has a few notable activities, nothing that a little bit of preparedness couldn’t allow for anyone to accomplish over the course of two days or so. From art museums to cultural hotspots to nightlife, Milan has it all, but frequently not to the degree that other cities in the vicinity could offer.
The biggest and most notable attraction in Milan is the beautiful Duomo. Duomo is a cathedral of almost cartoonishly large proportions standing at the very heart of the city, walking distance to several other attractions. Entry to the cathedral itself and the museum associated with it is just €3. An extra €9 will get you to the terraces and to the top of the building, providing a fantastic view of the city surrounding it. All in all, everyone who passes through Milan should take the time to see the building at the very least. The inside of the cathedral is a spectacle to behold as well, and is well worth the low price of admission.
Directly adjacent to the Duomo lies the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an elegant, shopping center that holds many of the most high-end stores in the world. A walk through this complex is mandatory for all travelers. Shopping in the stores is far less mandatory.
Art buffs might be better suited to travel to Rome or Venice to get their fill of classic art, but that’s not to say that Milan doesn’t have a couple of gems. For me, getting the opportunity to see these pieces of art in person was worth the trip alone. Milan houses Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece ‘The Last Supper’. The piece is held in a church not far from the center of the city called Santa Maria delle Grazie, but tickets can be very hard to find, with visiting times often sold out months in advance. I was lucky enough to find myself visiting the church on the day of a cancellation so I was able to secure a ticket, but purchasing ahead of time is crucial to guarantee a chance to see one of the most well-known paintings in the world.
A short walk away stands the imposing Sforza Castle. Although I found most of the museums in the grounds to be limited on information and difficult to determine context, a ticket costing just € 3 allows you to visit every museum in the castle, and there are two exhibits that more than warrant that price of admission. The first is Leonardo’s last sculpture, a piece on which he worked until the time of his death. A beautiful room dedicated to the sculpture contains a lot of information to give context for the piece, something I find to be of utmost important in any museum. The second exhibit that caught my eye was an exhibit on the history of the construction of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and one of Leonardo’s original notebooks. Both exhibits provided ample information and allowed for complete immersion into certain parts of Italy’s history.
After exploring the castle, I recommend going for a walk through its park. It provides a good place for a picnic and just generally getting away from the bustle of the city and the crowds of the tourist attractions. There is an arch on the opposite side of the park from the castle framing a long road that disappears in the distance and stands as a spectacle to behold in its own right.
Some of the other attractions throughout the city that I would recommend include the Brera Art Museum, which dubs itself as the Louvre of Italy (a big title to live up to), the Teatro alla Scala which I was unable to visit, but has an excellent reputation, the Piazza della Scala, and the Naviglio Grande.
As for traveling around the city, I cannot recommend public transportation enough. For just € 8, you can buy a metro pass to get to within walking distance of anything in the city. The train system is straightforward and very easy to figure out. Several information centers located at popular stops give the opportunity for tourists to ask any questions they might have about the system.
Busses are available to carry travelers from airports to the city center and run so far into the night that it is unlikely that you would find yourself needing the bus when it is not available.
At any situation, asking for help from anyone who looks like they can give it is essential. Everyone I spoke to was very kind and more than willing to help me find my way. That was a general trend for the people I met in Milan: everyone was very nice. I didn’t run into any problems with anyone being rude and people were more than willing to have a conversation.
Overall, I would say Milan is worth the visit to see a beautiful and unique Italian city. There are several places and things that cannot be seen anywhere else and getting the opportunity to see these things must be taken advantage of. With that being said, most of the city’s attractions can be seen over the course of just two days. If you plan on spending any more time in Europe, trains that run throughout Italy and into Switzerland are cheap and efficient and allow for even more exploration.At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be exposed to new cultures and to be open to the ideologies of different people.
Originally published at https://www.theodysseyonline.com on March 14, 2018.