Sights in Milan



Sights in Milan

Many travelers think of Milan as just a big city with a major airport for flights from the U.S., and the financial and fashion center of Italy.  While these things are true, it is also home to the world's third largest cathedral, one of the most recognized pieces of art in the world, and the center for Italian Opera.  Milan is not tops on our list for places to stay in Italy, but it is well worth a full day visit or a half day from the Lakes District.


The top sights in Milan

Duomo (Milan Cathedral)- This cathedral looms mighty over the piazza named after it.  Construction began in 1386 and it was consecrated in 1418.  The facade however, was not completed until the 19th Century when Napoleon was crowned the King of Italy.  The massive cathedral is made of marble and incorporates an evolution of styles from Baroque to Gothic.  There are five doors on the front that lead to five separate aisles in the church.  These aisles are separated by 52 large pillars (representing the weeks of the year) that are decorated with statues of saints.  In the vault above the alter, a red light signals the location where a nail from Christ's cross has been stored since 1461.  To fully appreciate the interior, it is recommended that you carry a detailed guide book, or pay for the 1 hour audio guide.  Absolutely do not miss a trip to the roof!  It is amazing.  You can walk among statues, gargoyles, flying buttresses and the 14 foot gilded statue of the Madonna while taking in wonderful views of the city.  If you are in Milan for more than a day, you might also consider the Museo del Duomo (Museum of the Church).


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II- Galleria is a glass covered arcade lined with shops and cafes.  It was built in 1865 and named after King Vittorio Emanuele II.  The design of the gallery connects Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala.  In the center you'll find the symbol of the Savoy family (white cross on red background), surrounded by the symbol of 4 of Italy's most important cities; Rome (the wolf), Turin (the bull), Florence (the lily) and Milan (a red cross on white background).  Above you are four mosaics depicting Asia, Africa, Europe and America.  This beautiful shopping plaza was built as part of an urban beautification project, and today most American shopping malls try to resemble this one of a kind treasure.  


Teatro alla Scala (Milan Opera House)- Facing the Piazza della Scala is the most famous opera house in the world, dating back to 1778.  It's name comes from the fact that it stands on the site of a church (Santa Maria della Scala) that was built here in 1381.  While the Opera house is closed for renovation, performances are taking place at Teatro Arcimboldi and many of the Opera House's treasures are on display at the Palazzo Busca.  When it reopens, visitors will once again be able to tour the mirror lined foyer and the red velvet lined auditorium.  


Santa Maria delle Grazie with Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper'- This famous church was completed in 1490.  Only 5 years later, Leonardo da Vinci was asked to paint a mural on the refectory wall.  The result was one of his most famous masterpieces, the Last Supper.  This piece vividly depicts the moment (and reaction) just after Christ said to the Apostles, "One of you will betray me."  Take special notice of the Apostles hands which tell their reactions to this statement even better than their faces.   Moisture began to take a toll on the painting shortly after it was finished, and as it deteriorated, a door was pushed through the center to make a short cut to the kitchen!  In Napoleon's time the room was used as a stable.  In WWII the wall was lined with sand bags which saved this great work as much of the church crumbled, but the wall remained.  Reservations are highly mandatory.  This part of the church is now controlled by a special ventilation system to protect it.  Because of this only a limited number of people are allowed to view it at any one time.  Reservations for high season can easily sell out.


The Fashion District- Even if you don't have the money to step foot in a shop, it is fun to meander the streets where the rich and famous shop and runway model's outfits are created.  We've listed a few of the designer shops by street, the district is only a few minutes walk from the Duomo.  

  • Chanel, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferrè, Giorgio Armani, Hermès, Moschino and Prada are located on Via Sant' Andrea

  • Etro, Gianni Versace, Gucci, Mila Schön and Valentino are located on Via Montenapoleone

  • Byblos, Cerruti 1881, Dolce & Gabbana, Genny, Krizia and Romeo Gigli are located on Via della Spiga

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