Saturday, May 24, 2014

Travel Guide | Milan, the Stylish Metropolis

For the avid tourist, Milano, as the Italians call it, may not have the same appeal as more history-rich Rome or Florence, but it compensates with style and glamour.

The city's list of landmarks is not long but it is quite impressive. A vision in pink Candoglia marble, Milan's iconic cathedral, Il Duomo, dominates the historical center, towering over the city like an ancient citadel. Beginning in 1386, the construction of this Gothic masterpiece took nearly 6 centuries. Canals had to be dug to the site to transport tons of stone. Most of the work was completed by 1805 when Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy at the Duomo. The official year of completion is considered to be 1965 although there are stone blocks still to be carved into statues.
It's definitely worth climbing the stairs to the rooftop to walk among the forest of stone towers and see the intricate detail on the exterior of this amazing cathedral.

Fashionistas will feel at home in the world's preeminent fashion capital. If you happen to be in the city in late February/early March or late September/early October don't miss the Milan Fashion Week. All major Italian fashion labels: ValentinoGucciVersacePradaArmani and Dolce & Gabbana are headquartered in the city and have their flagship stores in the Quadrilatero d’Oro (The Golden Quad). You can also find them in Europe's oldest shopping mall, Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II.

A lot of stylish Italian men and women can be seen on the streets of Milan at any hour. "Life is an occasion you should dress way the hell up for", as they say here.

One of Milan's most charming neighborhoods, Brera, is in the heart of the city, north of Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II and the La Scala Opera House. Many great ristorantes can be found along Via Brera and Via Fiori Chiari.

An interesting place less visited by tourists is Canale Navigli. During the day, this is a quiet neighborhood that doesn't impress much but at night it comes alive with music, colors and scents form the numerous small restaurants and bistros around.

Milan's architectural pride comes not only from historic buildings but also from modern masterpieces such as the Vertical Forest (Bosco Verticale), two eco-friendly buildings with facades made up of living trees, recently completed in the upscale neighborhood of Isola.

A few day trips can be made from Millan, to Genoa, Torino and Verona but the most pleasant one by far is the trip to the beautiful aristocratic retreat Lago di Como (Lake Como).

Main attractions:
  • Il Duomo
  • Galeria Vitorrio Emanuele II
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie, the basilica with Leonardo da Vinci's famous fresco The Last Supper
  • Castello Sforzesco, an old Viscontean fortress and Sforza family castle, now home to several art collections and exhibitions
  • Parco Sempione and Arco della Pace
  • La Scala, the most prestigious opera house in the world
  • Brera, for lunch or aperitivo (the extended happy hour in Italy, from 17:00 to 19:00)
  • Canale Navigle (at night)
  • The archaeological museum and Villa Necchi Campiglio
  • San Siro stadium for a Sunday game during the season (if you are a soccer fan)
  • Bosco Verticale (The Vertical Forest) in Isola

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Castello Sforzesco

Parco Sempione

Arco della Pace