Milan Travel Guide
Introduction to Milan
While it has suffered the unfortunate fate of having much of its old building stock bombed to smithereens during the Second World War, Milan has plenty to offer visitors, as its status as Italy’s fashion and shopping capital, and its proximity to the Alps remain powerful draw cards.
This doesn’t mean that this city doesn’t have culture and history to explore, as its performing arts community and perhaps the most magnificent church in the country will give culture vultures plenty to love during their visit to Northern Italy’s largest city.
Cultural Experiences in Milan
Of all the cultural attractions in this Northern Italian city, the Milan Cathedral is by far the most prominent. Also known as the Duomo by locals, this Gothic structure took six hundred years to build, and is currently the fifth largest church on the planet.
Its enchanting facade will capture your imagination, and interior highlights like the detailed sculpture of Saint Bartholomew and the biggest pipe organ in all of Italy will make your trip here well worth the explore. For a fee, visitors can access the roof, which permits a cool vantage point from which to take pictures of the old centre of Milan.
There are many grand opera houses located throughout Italy, but Milan’s Teatro alla Scala is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all. Opened in 1778, this ornately decorated performing arts palace has played host to Italy’s and the world’s best operatic singers over the past 220 years.
Even if you are in town when a production isn’t going on, there is a museum on site that shows off costumes, playbills, and other exhibits related to theatre over the years, as well as having beautiful paintings and sculptures.
Built by a duke of the same last name in the 15th century, Sforza Castle was once one of the largest fortifications of its kind in Europe. Re-purposed at the turn of the 20th century to house some of the city’s best museums and art galleries, it is a favored haunt for local culture vultures, and as such, should not be missed by travelers of the same persuasion.
Highlights of this point of interest include frescoes that were painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo’s last sculpture, which can be found in the Museum of Rondanini Pieta, and Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, which contains a number of masterful pieces from some Italy’s best artists.
Other Attractions in Milan
One of modern Milan’s claims to fame is its reputation for being a centre of fashion and shopping, and it is at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where you can experience both. An arcade that was completed in 1877 in a gilded style that is befitting of the goods that are for sale here, the latest fashions are on sale here, as is jewelry, art, and books.
Many fine restaurants can be found underneath its glass dome as well, but it wasn’t all high brow in its recent past, as McDonald’s had also operated here for 20 years. In a somewhat underhanded but face saving maneuver, the fast food chain was denied the chance to renew its lease in 2012, and was eventually replaced by a second chain of Prada.
If you are used to cemeteries being sombre, understated places as often is the case in Canada and the United States, the massive monuments inside Cimitero Monumentale di Milano may shock and surprise you. A full blown necropolis with finely designed crypts that house some of Milan’s most prominent past citizens, you’ll bear witness to many fine sculptures, Greek and Roman inspired edifices, and obelisks that give a physical world tribute to those that have passed into the unseen world.
While the roof of the Duomo is a great place to get photos of Milan’s historical core, those seeking to get a truly epic shot of the entire region should head straight up Torre Branca. Found at the centre of Milan’s Parco Sempione, it is almost utilitarian in its simplistic structure, but you’ll forget about that once you reach its observation deck.
It is the true star of the show, as its 108 metre high prominence not allows its patrons to see the historic and modern parts of the city with clear sight lines, but the Alps can be seen on the northern horizon with great clarity on sunny days.