Milan, the home of Italy's stock exchange and its financial capital, is seen as the fashion capital of the world - boasting names like Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, etc. Thankfully, there is much more to Milan than designers and boutiques - Milan has Navigli (a little Venice), Da Vinci's The Last Supper, many architectural gems (like Duomo, above) and the city is home to two of the world's best soccer teams, AC Milan and Inter Milan.Milan = WIN
- Castello Sforzesco
- We began our day exploring the massive Castello Sforzesco (right), who's defenses were designed by Da Vinci. Originally a Visconti fortress, it later housed the Sforza dynasty. Today, it is home to 10 museums and the Parco Sempione - 47 hectares of open park area and the scene for our senior photo shoot tradition. Afterwards, we grabbed some pastries from the nearby open-air market and headed towards the Duomo.
- The Duomo
- Milan's duomo (title picture, above) is my favorite church, hands down. It is absolutely gorgeous and has tons to see. It is the world's largest Gothic cathedral, featuring 135 spires & 3200 statues, and is the 3rd largest church in Europe, with seating for 40,000.
- Located in the bustling Piazza del Duomo (right - my view from the roof), it is flanked by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (see below). The logistics of transporting the vast stone slabs through the narrow city streets was solved by Da Vinci (what didn't he do?), whose canal lock mechanism raised water levels one section at a time, allowing their passage to the city center. It took 5 centuries to complete (1386-1812).
- The biggest highlight was climbing to the roof of the cathedral, amongst the jungle of spires and statues. One a clear day, one can see as far as Switzerland - but I was happy with the gorgeous views of the piazza and city below.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Recognized by its giant archway (right), the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (named after the first king of united Italy) is a showplace for modern Milan. The glass-roofed shopping mall is home to shops, boutiques and one of the world's two 7-star hotels.
- Giuseppe Mengoni, the designer of the Galleria, tragically fell from the arch to his death just weeks before the completion of his 14 year-long work. Milanese tradition says you can avoid Mengoni's bad luck by grinding your heel into the testicles of the mosaic bull on the floor...
- La Scala
- Located on the other side of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan's renowned opera house was built in 1778, but destroyed in the war. However, it was restored in 1946 and has a gorgeous interior with gilded arches, chandeliers and beautiful fabrics.
- Quadrilatero d'Oro (Golden Quad)
- Milan's designer shopping precinct, the area was formed when Gucci moved its flagship store to the area as the fashion capital migrated from Florence to Milan in the early 1950's. Today, the quad's narrow streets are crammed with Italian designers and high-end boutiques. We did a lot of window shopping - you could see some of the prices tags from outside, and we knew that we shouldn't even bother to go in!
- Via Brera
- The former bohemian quarter is now Milan's artsy sector, with fancy galleries, like Pinacoteca di Brera, and art shops.
- When in Milan, do as the Milanese do...do the aperitivo thing(happy hour). The aperitivi scene on Via Brera was a good place for us grab dinner. For just 7 euro, we got any drink we wanted and an unlimited buffet of lighter courses (meats, cheeses, salads, pasta, breads, etc). Coupled with the talented jazz quartet performing in the street right outside our cafe, our dinner choice = complete win.
On the roof of Milan's Duomo (above)
The Cavernous Interior of Milan's Duomo (below)
At Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (below left)
Statue Impressions at Castello Sforesco (below right)