Milan – More than a Fashionista City

By | Category: Travel destinations
Milan's famed Duomo

Milan’s famed Duomo

Milan is best known as the centre of fashion with well-known Italian fashion brands having their headquarters here. Quadrilatero della Moda or Quadrilatero d’Oro (Gold Quarter) is the area where they have their flagship stores. The twice yearly Milan Fashion weeks, when fashion lovers find the newspapers full of the latest designs for the next season takes place for 2015 from February 25 to March 3, and September 23 to 29. This year visitors will also be able to watch the fashion shows projected onto video walls at four locations in the city centre.

That emphasis on fashion is mirrored in the architecture which is as diverse as is the fashion for it has been influenced by different cultures. There are numerous neighbourhoods to discover but its centre remains the historic area of the Piazza del Duomo. The Gothic architecture of the cathedral, from which the Piazza takes its name, was only completed in 1965 having taken over 600 years to finish. Visitors are able to climb the 200 steps to the roof for a panoramic view of the city. There is fortunately an elevator. With carved statues, a multitude of spires, and gargoyles I was told by a friend (I don’t like heights so didn’t go up)that being at the top was ‘like walking with the angels’.

Leonardo da Vinci has close associations with the city. A must-see at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie,  (website is only in Italian; open every day except Monday’s) on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, one of the most famous paintings in the world. The large, 15th century mural painting is the one in which Christ announces that he will be betrayed by one of his apostles.


Sforzesco Castle which includes the

Sforzesco Castle which includes the Museum of Ancient Art

Sforzesco Castle, the historic symbol of the city, houses several of the city’s museums. The Museum of Ancient Art has a ceiling painted by Leonardo da Vinci. There is also one of three statues of the Pietà Rondanini by Michelangelo. Nearby, the Brera district with its narrow winding streets, as well as being a residential area, is filled with stylish boutiques, and cafes.

Overlooking the Duomo, the Palazzo Reale, a royal palace and the seat of government during the late Middle Ages has, since 1920, been open to the public as an art exhibition space with high profile exhibitions. From 15 April – 19 July drawings, manuscripts, and documents by Leonardo de Vinci will be on display.  Adjacent to it is the recently opened Museo Del Novecento, with panoramic windows overlooking the Duomo, houses twentieth century art.

Leading to the Duomo is the elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 1. Known as the Galleria, it is full of designer shops. It possesses an impressive glass and iron vaulted ceiling which has, at its centre, mosaic murals representing the continents of America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

the Galleria

the Galleria

Tradition has it that placing your right heal on the bull depicted on the mosaic floor and spinning around three times will bring you luck and ensure your return. For those of us who can’t quite afford the likes of Gucci and Prada, there are also lots of high street shops and there is an added bonus; several areas provide wifi! Out of town there are several discounted designer outlets that have shuttle buses from the city’s centre to take you there. If time allows make a visit to Serravalle, marketed as Europe’s largest designer outlet, which is about an hour’s drive from Milan Bonaparte.

For lovers of ballet and opera La Scala’s season started on December 7. The first night is very high-profile with seats selling for as much as €1,000. Seats during the season aren’t cheap but any unsold tickets bought on the day can be had for as little as €16. It’s worth a visit if only to experience the very special atmosphere of the 2,000seat auditorium with its chandeliers, and red velvet and gold décor.

The Navigli district with its network of canals is where the young head for a night out with its many bars, restaurants, and places with live music. Painters have their studios here, and you can wander in and out of the many small, artisan workshops.

Naviglio (canal) Grande and Naviglo Pavese meet in the old harbour of Darsena where on Saturday there is a flea market. In the summer, boat trips are available along the canal. On the Naviglio Pavese you can see the hydraulic system invented by Leonardo da Vinci to open the locks.

La Scala and me. I didn't get to sing!

La Scala and me. I didn’t get to sing!

It’s definitely worth checking out the bars/restaurants that have a ‘happy hour’. Between 6 and 8pm for the price of a cocktail you can enjoy an array of small dishes, and if you want to you can eat enough to not bother with dinner.  So popular is the concept that in my hotel bedroom there was a copy of Milan Concierge Information that had a ‘happy hour’ page, listing participants.

From 1 May – 31 October the world’s largest event on nutrition, Expo Milan 2015,is taking place on the northern outskirts of the city where over 140 countries will be represented in 54 pavilions. The exhibition is based on entertaining people rather than a selling exercise with over one thousand events organised in and around Milan. A specially created Cirque du Soleil, Allavita, will be staged in an open-air theatre from May 6 to August 23. Millions of visitors from all around the world are expected with reduced entry to Expo if tickets are bought in advance.

For getting around, Milan has a metro, as well as trams and buses. Depending on your plans, it is worth checking out the Milan Pass, a 48 hour city card which for €69 includes free transport and entry to a lot of the city’s major attractions.

How the UK pavilion at Exp Milan will look

How the UK pavilion at Exp Milan will look

I flew on easyJet as the airline has a choice of flights from Gatwick, Luton and Edinburgh into Milan’s airports at Malpensa and Linate, the latter being the closest to the city centre.  But British Airways, Aer Lingus and Alitalia all offer direct flights as well.

The Gatwick Express is a fast non-stop way of getting to Gatwick from London Victoria. Southern Trains also runs a less expensive service that takes longer as it stops at numerous stations on the way.

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Natasha has written more about Milan on her website.Click here to be directed to it or paste the following link in your browser.



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