To me, Milan is a bit like the Chicago of Italy. It has the skyscrapers, wide streets, and industry. It’s underrated, or maybe understated? I dunno.
Sometimes in Florence I felt hemmed in by the buildings and the medieval alleyways–and of course, the hordes of tourists. In Milan, I had space and it was welcomed change.
Milan can be done as a day trip, although overnight would be OK too. We had a free Saturday so several of the students and I took the fast train from Florence up to Milan.
The major goal was to see the Milan Cathedral and walk on its famous roof. We had wanted to see the Last Supper, but you need to reserve tickets months in advance or book an expensive combo tour. Basically, we decided to do Milan on the cheap.
After arriving at the imposing Milano Centrale railway station, we decided to walk towards the cathedral. It takes around 35 minutes.
After walking through the mall, we entered the Piazza del Duomo, gawking at the cathedral. We had the reserved “Duomo Pass by Stairs” tickets – entry to the main floor, and then up to the roof (terraces) by stairs. You can pay extra to take the lift (elevator), but the stairs are a classic Milan Cathedral experience.
Absolutely massive, the cathedral is one of the largest churches in the world. Surprisingly, for a Sunday morning in June, the line to enter the cathedral floor moved fairly quickly. We were in no rush, admiring the Gothic exterior.
Inside, people shuffled around in hushed tones admiring the architecture and beautiful stained glass.
The popularity of the Milan Duomo is no doubt tied to the fact that you can walk on its roof.
The roof (or, excuse me, the terraces) is simply a marvel with its postcard perfect pics of Milan. You have great views of the skyscrapers and the Alps off in the distance. In terms of architecture, I liked the stone saints perched on each of the spires. Breathtaking!
Well, we had to come down from a high…literally. But we weren’t done with Milan just yet.
We ventured past the Borsa Italiana (stock exchange) where there’s a big statue of a middle finger. The finger is pointing out from the stock exchange, not at it. So we’re thinking the artistic meaning is that the bankers are giving a big F-U to the average Italian. Their actions may wreck the economy and the middle class, but they don’t care. There are no repercussions for them.
Following that brief side trip, we headed down Via Dante – a large boulevard – to Sforza Castle. This was a surprising find for us!
Sforza Castle is a large citadel built in the 1400s. Today you can tour it. It a series of city museums dedicated to art and culture. The museums hosts Michelangelo’s last sculpture, unfinished due to his death.
After getting our fill of Milan, we headed back to the train station to take the fast train back to Florence.
If you’re considering spending a chunk of time in Italy, perhaps fly into Milan and spend a day. From there, you have easy access by train to Venice and Florence.
Here are some pics from Milan:
For more Italy pics, check out my Flickr album.