Milan was far from what I had imagined and been told. As my first time visiting Italy, I was going to experience a taste of Milan and Verona: Part 1 in the space of 3 and a half days, I wanted to see and do everything humanely possible!
Milan was absolutely beautiful. Known as the ‘fashion capital’ and often dubbed as the shopping district of Europe, I was expecting Milan to be a continuous shopping centre, filled with rows of designer and high street stores. I couldn’t be more wrong. It was so culturally historical and its architecture poured out from every corner of every building. The centre of Milan is where the magic happens. Imagine London’s Trafalgar Square and you’re not too far off what Milan is like.
Walking out of the metro and up the stairs, you are immediately greeted by the infamous Duomo Cathedral. It is one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen (and I have been to many stately homes and castles in my time)! The Duomo is a classically Gothic cathedral and took nearly six centuries to complete. It is the 5th largest church in the world and the largest in Italy. It’s resonance is beyond powerful and as you stand in front of this giant building, you begin to appreciate Milan for something else entirely. The entire piazza (square) is crowded with tourists from all over the world, Italian citizens busking and hundreds of pigeons which seem to call the square home. I had been told of its beauty and how every corner of every street in Italy has a sense of autonomous Italian culture. They always say the best places to eat are those tucked away and this was positively true In both Milan and Verona. Where Starbucks has become our source of a caffeine boost, Milan’s source of excitement is through a was flooded with ice cream parlours!
Look to your right of the Duomo and you have the Galleria Vittori Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. Drapped in beauty and historical significance, this shopping mall is a central attraction and is named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. Designed in 1861, it was built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Nowadays, it is the designer hub of Milan with the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci housed there. The stores are absolutely gorgeous and the Prada store was breath-taking. It was truly a bloggers paradise and as an avid lover of fashion and all things designer, I had learnt this store was the original Prada flagship in the entire world and it continues to house the first collections once designed. The Galleria is a landmark in itself.
Having climbed the rooftop of the Duomo for spectacular views of central Milan and seeing inside the cathedral, we ventured further outside the centre. Cobbled streets and fiat motorbikes are characteristic and a stereotype of Italian culture and I was surprised to see how true it was. We had found a delicious bakery named Princi on a corner street of the piazza and indulged in the finest coffee (costing a bargain one euro!) and a slice of cheesecake and tiramisu. As a lover of coffee, I was overwhelmed by how cheap it was in Italy. Soft drinks and ice cream was far more expensive. I had also learnt that Italians do not like their coffee hot and so unusually for myself, I would down a small cup of coffee within minutes of purchase.
Walking around the centre of Italy, I grew accustomed to the fabulously hot weather. Not far from the centre, a short walk up the central shopping and restaurant district, you reach an impressive castle. Named Sforza Castle, it was built in the 14th century and is impeccably preserved. It now houses many art exhibitions and original pieces from artists from all over the world. Milan has a wealth of activities and historically pertinent places to visit. Only a short walk in the opposite direction, Milan has a beautiful district that overlooks the canals of the city (Navigli district). Only a smaller, less smellier comparison to Venice, it sits in the centre of Milan. Endless coffee shops, bars and restaurants align the canals on both sides and it was a wonderful way to break up our day of sightseeing and enjoy the view!
I have fallen in love with a city I only spent a few days seeing! There was a lot more I could have done but with limited time, we saw and experienced the major attractions of Milan. I will definitely be returning for some ice cream at our favourite parlour; Venchi.