Milan deserves a stop-off when you happen to be traveling through the region. While it’s always fun to wander through a foreign city, I wouldn’t suggest dedicating much precious travel time to this one. There are some memorable things to see – one in particular. Take care near the Centrale Railway Station, as its square is full of intoxicated and thieving ruffians. And the polizia are likely to side with a local thief over a U.S. military Captain touring with his fiery female companion.
Italy’s second largest city next to Rome, Milan is a sprawling fashion metropolis. In fact, the world’s oldest shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, was established here in 1877. If you’re not attending Fashion Week or having a suit tailored, I’d suggest a single day visit to check out these sites:
- Da Vinci’s Last Supper lives inside Santa Maria delle Grazie. The simplicity of this UNESCO World Heritage site seems just right as the pedestal for da Vinci’s masterpiece. Probably in part due to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, visitors arrive en masse; be sure to reserve tickets at least a week in advance.
- Duomo di Milano, seat of the Archbishop of Milan, took nearly six hundred years to complete and is the sixth largest in the world. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the facade of this cathedral to be finished in 1805, just before he was crowned King of Italy. It’s an impressive structure, towering over a square filled with pigeon flocks, sidewalk cafes and people milling about as if there is no place else to be.
- Castello Sforza was a symbol of power in the hands of Dukes, as well as foreign dominators; it appears to have been a well-fortified castle, once upon a time. Have you ever seen an authentic mote (the Potomac “mote” between D.C. and Arlington doesn’t count!)?
Although The Last Supper made this visit to Milan worth the cost of time, money and frustration, I’m okay with this literally being a once in a lifetime visit. If I do venture to Italy’s Lombardy region again, Milan will likely be the point of entry. I’d like to catch a show at Teatro alla Scala on the way to camp near Lago di Como – a nice mix of cultural arts and the great outdoors.