Milan’s most controversial son Silvio Berlusconi may be in deep trouble now, but the bustling and beautiful city remains on top of travellers’ itineraries. Though it is best known for its fashionable side, Milan has something to offer every visitor.
The fourth largest cathedral in the world, the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) is a breathtaking example of Gothic architecture. The highest spire is topped with a statue of the Little Madonna, and by Milanese law, no building can stand taller than this statue. Make sure to queue up for the terrace tour of the cathedral, which offers an unforgettable view of the city. The Piazza del Duomo is the central city square, and houses some of the most important buildings in Italy.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II:
It is the oldest shopping mall in all of Italy, and the building itself is a gorgeous example of a classic, glass-vaulted arcade. Apart from checking out the many couture houses and great restaurants, check out the famous mosaic of the bull from the Turin Coat of Arms. Legend has it that a person who puts his/her right heel on the bull’s genitals and turns thrice will have good luck. The tradition is so popular that there is now a hole in the place of the bull’s genitals.
The Teatro alla Scala is considered one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and has seen performances by the finest singers in its 200-year history. The theatre isn’t just for performances though; it houses an academy to train budding musicians and has a museum showcasing opera history. Book in advance if you wish to catch a performance here — the experience is worth the money and effort.
Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore:
If you’re an art lover, make sure to add this church to your itinerary. Though not a usual stop for tourists, the grey stone church has some beautifully restored 16th century frescoes adorning its walls. The church also has a rich history, and was earlier attached to the most important female convent of the Benedictines in Milan. Don’t forget to look for the second bigger sanctuary behind the back wall, which was for the longest time not open to the public.
Visiting a cemetery is definitely not a usual thing to do on holiday, but make an exception for this one. It is known for its artistic, elaborate and sometimes bizarre tombs ranging from classical Italian architecture to Greek temples. The Famedio, or the hall of fame, is where some of the most famous people of Milan lie buried, including writer Alessandro Manzoni. Some other celebrities whose resting place is in this cemetery include conductor Arturo Toscanini and Grand Prix champion Alberto Ascari.
Santa Maria delle Grazie:
Santa Maria delle Grazie (which translates to Holy Mary of Grace) is a church and Dominican convent in Milan. In its place was actually a small chapel dedicated to the St Mary of the Graces, but on the orders of the Duke of Milan Francesco I Sforza were built the convent and the church, which contains the mural of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Both constructions have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Once the residence of the Duchy of Milan, the Sforza Castle is now home to several of the city’s museums and art collections. Where else will you find ceiling paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo last sculpture and Egyptian mummies, all in one place? The castle is situated near the Sempione Park, one of the largest parks in Milan. With its esoteric museums and interesting architecture, the Sforza Castle is one of the most popular sites in Milan.
Best time to visit: Spring, autumn and early summer are the best times to visit Milan, which enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The weather is usually pleasant, except for occasional heat and cold waves in summer and winter respectively.
Things you need to know
How to get there: There are no direct flights from Hyderabad to Milan. Emirates, Oman Air and Jet Airways offer flights with a single stop-over, while Air India, Etihad Airways and British Airways offer flights with two stops. The average round trip will cost around Rs.62,000.
Things to do
- For most people, Milan means shopping, shopping and more shopping. Spend a day in the Rectangle of Gold, the shopping square which houses the best design houses in the world. If you’re at the other end of the spending spectrum, Fiera di Senigallia is one of the best flea markets in Italy.
- If you’re a football fan, you have to make a trip to San Siro stadium, home to AC Milan and FC Internazionale.
- If you’re in Italy, you really can’t ignore the food. Try Milan’s wildly inventive paninis and perfect gelatos and for a real local experience, make sure you go in for the ‘aperitivo’ or happy hours and mingle with the residents.