Learn about Milan, Italy by reading
Simply Marvelous Milan by Gary W. Bloom, Travel Writer. It features
a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need
to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information
on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article,
we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy
Simply Marvelous Milan
by Gary W. Bloom, Travel Writer
The Il Duomo di Milano cathedral, Milan’s
most famous landmark.
Milan, some people say, is not part of Italy. The laissez-faire
attitude is missing. So is the breath-taking architecture of other
Italian cities. Blame the stark fascist architecture on Mussolini,
and the hard-working, business-minded people on their Teutonic heritage.
The Lombards, a warring tribe from Germany, ruled Milan for two
centuries. They left behind the eponymous northern region, Lombardy,
that is Italy’s most populous and prosperous.
This is where Italians go to make money. Like a stern mother,
Milan holds sway over Italy’s finances and dress code. It’s Italy’s
business center, and arguably the world’s fashion and design center.
Milan is more about money and style than churches and museums. Its
financial district has been Italy’s banking center for centuries.
Italy’s stock exchange was founded in Milan by Napoleon and the
world’s first shopping mall was built here in 1878.
But Milan is a true Renaissance city. Like Leonardo
da Vinci, who adopted Milan as his home, it exhibits a wide variety
of interests, from the scientific to the cultural. La Scala, the
most famous opera house in the world, calls Milan home. And speaking
of da Vinci, one of his most famous paintings happens to be on the
wall of a small church here.
The Duomo, or Cathedral, is one of the few Gothic buildings in
Milan, but one of the largest and most beautiful churches in the
world. This pink marble masterpiece, begun in 1386, took nearly
500 years to complete. It is Milan’s spiritual center in a city
of high finance. But with 135 spires and 2,000 statues lining its
exterior and views of the Alps from its dome, the Cathedral is as
much a display of opulence as any in Milan.
Beneath the Duomo are the remains of the basilica of Santa Tecla
and Roman baths from the first century BC. For a history of the
Cathedral, check out the Museo del Duomo, in the section of the
Palazzo Reale that was home to Milan’s rulers for centuries. The
museum contains Duomo artifacts and 14th century statues
You don’t have to wander far from the Duomo to begin your Milan
shopping experience. Next door is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele,
a large complex of elegant shops and cafes that opened in 1878 and
was the predecessor to today’s shopping malls. Known as the Salon
of Milan, the glass-roofed arcade is a great people watching and
shopping experience, two of Italy’s most popular pastimes. Inside
are bookshops, restaurants, the famous hat shop, Borsalino, and
the Prada, where Mario Prada began selling walrus-leather travel
trunks to the rich in 1913.
And just north of the Duomo is the Golden Rectangle, a shopping
mecca of Italian proportions, including the Armani super mall. Near
the rectangle is the 10 Corso Como megastore, another must stop
for shopping aficionados. But it’s the small, personal shops, and
not the super malls, that really set Milan apart. It seems there’s
a store for nearly every item, no matter how small, from paper to
perfume, truffles to tights.
If you want to do your shopping downtown, there is the Navigli
district, where discount shops and the Laura Biacjiott boutique
await your wallet. The Quadrilateral is another area for shopping
and people watching, located around Via Montenapoleone. For women’s
clothes, try Corso Buenos Aires.
Spending money builds a powerful thirst, and Milan’s nightclubs
are only too happy to slake that thirst. The Garibaldi district
has some the chicest clubs, including Casablanca and Hollywood.
Other hotspots include Cafe Roma in the Brera district and Club
Karma in Borgo del Tempo Perso. The club scene is seasonal, however,
with many bars and cafes outdoors, shutting down during the winter
After you just can’t shop or eat anymore, and you’ve had all
the Armani, Versace, and Gucci you can stand, visit the old central
district of Brera, now Milan’s center of art galleries and studios
and the location of the famous Brera Art Gallery. The museum opened
in 1809 with art that was taken from northern Italy’s churches and
monasteries under orders from Napoleon. It now contains the finest
collection of Northern Italian paintings to be found anywhere.
Though Milan is not noted for its churches, besides the Duomo,
there are a couple others worth visiting. The basilica of Sant’
Amborio is one of the most interesting. It was first built around
380 AD and enlarged in the 9th century. The church of
Santa Maria dele Grazie is a more modern structure, a mere 530 years
old. The church is best known for the adjoining Dominican convent.
Painted on a wall in its refectory is perhaps the greatest and best
known painting in Milan, if not the world. The Last Supper, da Vinci’s
masterpiece, was painted around 1494 using an unusual technique
of tempera and oil varnishes on a plastered wall. It has gone through
many restorations over the years, with the latest restoration attempting
to remove the previous restorations. But it is still an awe-inspiring
site, worthy of a visit for anyone who travels to Milan.
The recently renovated La Scala, near the Duomo, is another cultural
icon in Milan and a mecca for opera lovers. One of the largest theaters
in Europe, it is famous for its excellent acoustics. It opened in
1778 and has had a series of famous operas performed here, including
Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly, which premiered at Le Scala. You can
find exhibits of costumes, instruments, and other opera artifacts
at the La Scala Museum.
A few other museums are also worth noting. The museum at Castello
Sforzesco has an eclectic mix of sculpture, paintings, musical instruments,
and armor. The last work of Michelangelo is on display here. The
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, near La Scala, has paintings by Tiepolo, Guardi,
and others, along with a collection of books, clocks, watches, and
guns. The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology,
housed in a former Benedictine monastery, is a great place to bring
your kids. Inside are scale models of da Vinci’s many drawings,
from submarines to self-propelled cars. This is one of the world’s
best collections of historic scientific and engineering innovations.
But don’t go to Milan for the Italian cultural experience. You’ll
leave disappointed. Come here to shop, eat, drink, and shop some
more. You won’t leave disappointed, just a lot poorer.
How to Get There
Milan’s main airport, Malpensa (www.sea-aeroportimilano.it)
is about 31 miles (50km) northwest of the city. There is bus and
express train service to the city. Milan’s other airport is Linate,
about 6 miles (10km) from the city center. A flight from New York
is about 9 hours. Airlines offering direct service from New York
include Continental, Delta, and Alitalia.
Where and What to Eat
People in Milan are too busy making money to really appreciate
food, southern Italians are fond of saying. It’s true, the leisurely
2-hour lunch is not common here, but the food is still outstanding,
with more of an international flavor than provincial cities. Milan
was even the location of Italy’s first vegetarian restaurant. Lombardy
is Europe’s main rice producer, and many of the dishes include this
key ingredient. When one thinks of Italian food, rice does not usually
come to mind. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of pasta dishes
to be found. But do try the Risotto alla Milanese, a rice, meat
broth, and saffron dish popular in Milan. Fegato alla Veneziana,
thinly sliced calf’s liver with yellow onions, is another regional
specialty. Northern Italy is also known for their fine cheeses and
Via Solferino, 11, at Largo Treves
Tel: 39 02 864-63220
Rigolo is the place to go for Milanese and Tuscan cuisine. A
casual yet elegant place with white linen tablecloths and attentive
service. The prices are reasonable.
- Tano Passami l'Olio
32/a Via Vigevano
Tel: 39 02 839-4139
This restaurant, whose name means "Tano, pass
me the oil," is a cozy place where you’ll likely be greeted
by Tano or his wife Nadia. They serve a variety of dishes, including
suckling pig, almond and mint crusted lamb, and beef in chestnut
- Caffe Cova
8 Via Montenapoleone
Tel: 39 02 760-00578
In the heart of the Golden Quadrangle
shopping district, this historical cafe is known for its
hand-made chocolates and tiramisu, a delicious dessert. This
is one of the hippest spots in Milan, frequented by models and
Where to Stay
- Hotel Casa Mia
Viale Vittorio Veneto 30
Tel: 39 02 657-5249
Small, budget hotel in an ideal location near the Piazza Duomo
and the central district. Doubles are around 90 Euro depending
on the season.
- Golden Tulip Hotel Manin
Via Manin 7
Tel: 39 02 659-6511
Fax: 39 02 655-2160
First class accommodations centrally located near the railway
station, the Duomo, and shopping. Rooms go for around 200 Euro.
- Four Seasons Hotel
Via Gesu, 6/8
Tel: 39 02 77088
Toll free USA: 800- 819-5053
Fax: 39 02 7708 5000
A former 15th century monastery that is now anything
but austere, the Four Seasons Milan is one of the most luxurious
and romantic hotels in the world. There are marble bathrooms and
antique furniture, with most rooms overlooking a courtyard. You’re
likely to run into an Italian opera, movie, or fashion star in the
lobby. Rates are around 580 Euro.
You can check rates and book your room and rental car with WTA’s
Online Travel Booking Service. Hotel and rental
car savings can be significant.
When to Go
The most comfortable months to visit Milan are during the late
spring and early fall. January can be very cold and July very hot,
but January and July are the months to go if you want to buy the
latest fashions on sale, with discounts of up to 50 percent. The
sales usually begin mid-month, but check with the Italian Tourist
Board or the Milan Chamber of Commerce for exact dates. January
is also a good month to find airfare and hotel rooms at reduced
Getting Around Milan
Milan’s Metro, streetcar, and bus system are efficient and inexpensive.
Taxis are expensive; it’s best to wait for them at marked stands.
Italy, like most of Europe, now uses the Euro as its currency.
The US dollar has declined against the Euro recently, and prices
have been rising accordingly. As of August 2006, one USD was equal
to about .78 Euros. As a financial and fashion center, hotel and
restaurant prices tend to on the expensive side, though bargains
can be found on clothing and accessories.
- Duomo (The Cathedral)
Piazza del Duomo
Tel: 39 02 7202-2656
Hours: 7am – 7pm Daily
Admission: Free for the Cathedral. Admission to roof is 4
ˆ using the stairs, 6
ˆ for the elevator. Museum admission
is 6 ˆ
- Castello Sforzesco
Tel:39 02 8846-3700
Hours: Castle is open daily from 9am - 6pm. Museums are open
from 9am to 5pm and are closed on Mondays.
Admission: Free for the castle. The museums are 3
- Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of
Science and Technology
Via S. Vittore 21 – 20123
Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 9:30am – 5pm. Weekends and holidays:
9:30am – 6:30pm.
Admission 7 ˆ
Notice: This information is current as
of August 2006. It is recommended that you contact the numbers,
and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the