I had not planned to go to Milan, but when my cousin asked me to go away for a few days with her as she needed a break from work, and kindly invited me, I could not say no! I had never visited Milan before, so this was really exciting.
We only stayed four days, so I don't feel like I have quite mastered the city and discovered it properly; this was more of an introduction to Milan and to life in a busy, modern Italian city.
Unlike some other cities in Italy where you could feel like everything is marked by its past and its history, Milan is a beautiful blend of modern and old. Typical colourful houses mingle effortlessly with big modern buildings, and you will find it both a city of culture and a buzzing place to live and work in. My cousin and I both thought Milan must be a great city to live in. I'll share with you everything we saw and did there, to give you some inspiration if you want to visit the city!
What to see in Milan
Of course, I have to mention the Duomo of Milano first. It is the impressive cathedral of the city, made entirely of marble and spires. It is truly special, I can't think of any other monument that looks like it. It is obviously a very popular area of Milan and you'll have to wait a little before going inside, but it is worth the wait. I'd advise to go both inside the cathedral (tickets are 2€, and you have to cover your shoulders and legs to get in, as in most religious buildings in the city), and to climb to the terraces at the top of the Duomo. This will cost you 10€ if you take the stairs and 13€ if you take the lift, but a little tip here: do go for the stairs. When we went, there was a huge queue to take the lift while we didn't have to wait at all to take the stairs. Plus, you'll feel like you deserve the view!
Right next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, the beautiful gallery full of luxury shops and restaurants. There are way too many tourists there (and I was one of them, I know haha) but just go in for five minutes to enjoy the beautiful architecture.
When it comes to the areas of the city worth having a walk around, I have a couple that really stood out to me. First is the Brera, a pretty area full of restaurants, cobbled streets and yellow, pink, orange, very typical Italian houses. It can get a little busy around dinner time, but it is part of the lively atmosphere, and you'll mutter a lot of "ooh" and "aah" as you walk around, spotting little architectural gems.
Another place to visit for restaurants is the Navigli, more at the south of the city. They are artificial canals around which the streets are full of restaurants and bars. We went there in the early afternoon on a Saturday, and there was a little market/car boot sale going on, which was quite fun as well. By the way, we went to a restaurant called L'Altro Luca e Andrea, facing the Naviglio Grande and where we ate the best tiramisu ever.
If you want to feel like a VIP, go to the Quadrilatero d'Oro, a bunch of several streets dedicated to luxury shops. There, you'll drool over the beautiful displays of Dolce&Gabanna (a personal favourite), Chanel or Cartier... a real feast for the eyes. I had never seen such a display of wealth and luxury in a concentrated area, I think it even beats our Place Vendôme in Paris! Unfortunately, my camera died when we arrived there, so I couldn't take any proper photos of the area.
Other places I would recommend visiting are the Castello Sforzesco and the Parco Sempione. The Castello is a medieval fortress that has been rebuilt (hence its amazing state of preservation) and is home to several museums of Art and History. The Parco Sempione is a relaxed, pleasant park in which Milanese people from all ages and all paths of life go to have some time off. Enjoy a casual walk, have a snooze in the grass or look out for the turtles in the lake (yes, there are turtles, and lots of them!).
As for museums, the Pinacoteca di Brera is an impressive collection of Italian paintings, where you'll be able to get an idea of how rich and diverse Italian art is. The majority of the paintings are Renaissance though, so be prepared for a lot of religious art. The most interesting thing was being able to see a restoration workshop, open to the public eye (but not to photographs, unfortunately). If you are there at the right time, you can actually see the artists working on the painting! In this museum is the painting The Kiss (Il bacio) by 19th-century painter Francesco Hayez. It is so simple yet beautiful, although it is hard to explain the fascination we can feel towards a work of art.
There are many other museums in Milan, and there's two of them I particularly wanted to see - two historical villas - but that'll be for next time!
Apart from Milan itself, we took a day trip to Lake Como, where we spent a great time strolling through the old town centre, enjoying a lovely boat trip and eating pasta... I'll share all about Como in an upcoming blog post!
Be prepared for a lot of travel posts this summer, I'll be packing my suitcase quite a few times and can't wait to take you with me on these adventures!
Do you think you'd like Milan? Have you ever been there?