City Guide to Milan: Attractions and Public Transportation

City Guide to Milan: Attractions and Public Transportation

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After our visit to Zurich, we went on the Bernina Express, one of our bucket list train rides. So, since the train ended in Tirano, Italy, and Milan is only a two-and-a-half hour train ride along Como Lake, it seemed like the perfect place for us to go to next. We were excited to see Milan, as it would be our first stop in Italy during our European travels. While Milan is known as the Manhattan of Italy and the fashion capital of the world, it’s not all business. There’s art and culture to be seen there as well. It’s home to Da Vinci’s world famous painting, Last Supper, one of the best opera houses in the world, Teatro alla Scala, and to one of the largest Christian churches in the world, the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano).

We arrived in the late afternoon, after a full day of traveling by train. Not that we’re complaining; the views from each train we were on (Zurich to Chur, The Bernina Express, and then Tirano to Milan) were spectacular. It’s just that, while traveling and sightseeing seems glamorous (and it is!), it can be tiring and at times difficult. Especially, when we’re doing it long-term, and in a new city, on average, every two weeks. We arrived at the central train station in Milan, Milano Centrale. We were ready to stretch our legs a bit, and although we’d be taking the Metro to our Airbnb on the other side of town, we decided to walk a bit around the neighborhood. (If you’re new to Airbnb, click through our link and save $40 off your first stay, and we’ll get credit too!) As we’ve said many times before, walking a city is a great way to really get to know it beyond the tourist attractions.

All images are of Milano Centrale (Milan train station). Clockwise (from the top): Entrance to the platforms within the station, the front exterior of the train station, the interior of the busy train station, the digital board of trains-times-platforms.

Milan wasn’t what we expected. From the area we walked, mind you it was far from the newest or most upscale neighborhood, the area seemed to have passed its prime and times seemed to be hard for people living there. Still, as every city does, even the worst streets have a flavor of the city and a charm to them. As our long day of travel started to wear on us, we headed to the nearest metro station with strong thoughts of crashing into a comfortable bed.

Public Transportation

It’s interesting, that even though transportation is different from city to city and country to country, the more we use it, the simpler it seems to be to figure it out in new places. When we first arrived in Europe, it was a project for us to understand transportation services, tickets, and fares. Now that we have a basic understanding of several transportation systems, new ones are easier to figure out. And, we’re sure there’s also a factor of being less timid and having more of an attitude of “just figure it out”.

Still, in an effort to purchase the best ticket option (think ‘save money’) and to have a basic understanding of the services available (think ‘don’t look like complete newbies’) we always dedicate a bit of time to researching public transportation ahead of time. We found that Milan’s public transportation system covered everywhere we needed to be, trains and trams came regularly, and it wasn’t too expensive. However, Milan is also very walkable for most tourist attractions. We mainly used public transportation to get from our Airbnb to city center and back. But, if you’re staying in the heart of Milan, you may consider just walking instead. By the way, if you’re curious about how to get from the Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) to city center, or vice versa, read on, or skip ahead to Malpensa Express.

Milan public transportation is run by Azienda Trasporti Milanesi (ATM)

 
 

Tickets and Fares

  • Urban Ticket – This ticket is valid for 90 minutes after stamping it, and is valid within the Milan Municipality area. It can be used on the metro, trams, buses, and the urban rail network (Trenord and Passante Ferroviario). However, it can only be used for one metro trip (you can change metros, but once you leave the metro station, you can't re-enter on the same ticket). The metro maps in the station, which show the metro line and its stops, will have a red line to mark the stops that are considered to be beyond the jurisdiction of the Urban Ticket. Cost is €1.50. This is the best value if you’re going to be making fewer than three trips in a 24-hour period, or fewer than six trips in a 48-hour period.
  • Carnet, 10 Journey Ticket – Similar to the Urban ticket, this ticket is valid for ten 90 minute journeys. However, you’re limited to two trips per day and travel on only six days out of the week. So, for example, if you use it each day to travel into city center and again to leave city center (two total journeys per day), it would be valid for five full days of transportation (two journeys per day, times five days). If using the ticket for one journey a day, you would only be able to use it for six days out of the week. This type of ticket can only be used by one person, so if you’re traveling as a couple, you’ll need to purchase two of these. Cost is €13.80. This is the best value if you’re going to be taking only two journeys a day and will be in Milan for five days.
  • One Day Ticket – Valid for unlimited rides for 24-hours after stamping the ticket, and it’s valid only within the Milan Municipality area. It can be used on the metro, trams, buses, and the urban rail network (Trenord and Passante Ferroviario). The metro maps in the station, which show the metro line and its stops, will have a red line to mark the stops that are considered beyond the jurisdiction of the One Day Ticket. Cost is €4.50. This ticket is the best value if you’re going to be making four or more trips within a 24-hour period. Cost wise, it’s a toss-up between a One Day Ticket and the single Urban Ticket if you’re going to make three trips in a day.
  • Two Day Ticket – Valid for unlimited rides for 48-hours after stamping the ticket, and it’s valid only within the Milan Municipality area. It can be used on the metro, trams, buses, and the urban rail network (Trenord and Passante Ferroviario). The metro maps in the station, which show the metro line and its stops, will have a red line to mark the stops that are considered beyond the jurisdiction of the Two Day Ticket. Cost is €8.25. This ticket is the best value if you’re going to be making six or more trips within a 48-hour period.
  • The above tickets are recommended for tourists and people staying within Milan. If you need a more extensive ticket, visit the ATM ticket page for more information.

Purchasing Tickets

Clockwise (from the top): a ticket machine at a metro station, our public transportation tickets at a metro station, the screen on the ticket machine to choose your language, the screen to choose the type of ticket you want to purchase.

Not all stations have tickets available for purchase. Most tram stations and bus stops we used didn’t have machines available to purchase tickets. However, you can purchase them in select stores around town. The host of our Airbnb pointed us in the direction of a corner store that sold public transportation tickets. It turns out, most newsstands sell tickets, but it’s best to use the ATM website to find authorized retailers. In our case, the corner store we purchased tickets at only accepted cash. However, metro stations have ticket vending machines that accept credit cards and have a language selection option.

Since the valid period of the ticket doesn’t start counting down until you stamp or validate the ticket, you can purchase tickets in advance. We calculated the best value for us was the Urban Ticket. We counted out how many we’d need and purchased them all at once. This was helpful, since the station we’d be leaving from each morning was a tram station that didn’t have a ticket machine. However, we were extremely careful not to misplace or loose the tickets for the remainder of our stay.

Using and Validating Tickets

All tickets need to be validated before use.

  • Metro – At a metro station, you’ll need to enter the ticket in the turnstile slot, where it’ll then be stamped and validated. Look for a turnstile with a green arrow and insert your ticket into the slot, the gate will open for you to pass through. If you’re unsure of the process, observe other travelers before approaching the turnstile. Don’t forget to retrieve your ticket, because you’ll need to validate it again when you exit the metro station.
  • Buses and Trams – When using surface transportation (buses and trams), you’ll need to validate your ticket when entering the vehicle. You’ll need to feed your ticket into the machine, wait for the machine to stamp it and beep, and then retrieve your ticket. Unlike the metro, there’s no need to validate it when exiting a surface transportation vehicle. However, you’ll need to re-stamp your ticket whenever you transfer to a different surface vehicle.

If you have an Urban Ticket, we recommend holding on to it for the full time it’s valid, which is 90 minutes from first stamping it. We were able to make a 20 minute trip to a grocery store, quickly purchase what we needed and still use the same ticket afterwards to complete our journey.  

Left to right: A ticket validation machine on a tram - insert your ticket into the yellow slot, turnstiles at a metro station, closeup of a turnstile machine - insert your ticket into the yellow slot.

Metro

There are over 100 metro stations in Milan, serving four different metro lines. Each line is designated with a color and a number. Service starts just before 6 am and ends just after 12 midnight. Trains run regularly, and at peak times run between one and three minutes apart.

We used Google Transit maps to get public transportation directions, it told us what line to take at which station and what exit to disembark at. However, you'll find that for each line there's a train heading in either direction, and it can sometimes be confusing which direction to go in. Therefore, the key is knowing that each train is color coated for its corresponding line (red, green, yellow, violet) and named for the last station in the direction it’s heading. So, once you know the line, you simply need to trace the route line your stop is on and see what the last stop is named. For more information use the Metro Network map or check the route signs in the station.

Clockwise (from the top): On-board a metro train, a metro sign with the M2 (green) line stops, inside a metro station, a digital screen on the metro train with stop information, the outside of a metro station, a network map on-board the metro train.

  • M1 – Designated by the color red. This line starts at Sesto 1º Maggio and splits at Pagano, it ends at either Rho Fiera or Bisceglie.            
  • M2 – Designated by the color green. This line starts at either Assago Milanofiori Forum or Abbiategrasso, joining at Famagosta. The line splits at Cascina Gobba and ends at either Cologno Nord or Gessate.
  • M3 – Designated by the color yellow. This line travels between Comasina and San Donato.
  • M5 – Designated by the color violet. This line travels between San Siro Stadio and Bignami.
  • M4 –Once completed, this line will be designated by the color blue. It’s currently under construction and is scheduled to open in 2022. This line will travel between Lorenteggio and Linate Airport.

Trams

The tram system dates back to 1881, so there’s history to be seen on the trams. It’s an attraction in and of itself to take one of the yellow trams from the 1920s. You’ll experience the full 'vintage feel' with wooden bench seating and lamps aboveyour head. To obtain an even more unique experience, board the ATMosphere (ATMOSFERA), for a dinner on one of two fully restored trams that have been converted into restaurants. You’ll enjoy a tour of the city while you indulge in a four course meal.

Not all the trams in Milan are vintage; the more modern trams offer increased seating and are larger. All tram lines are labeled with numbers and names and, like the metro lines, the name is indicated according to the last stop on the line in the direction it’s heading. So, in addition to the tram number and the stop you intend to take, you’ll also need to know the last stop on that line. Unlike the metro, trams don’t stop at all stops. They only stop if a passenger indicates they intend to disembark or, if there’s someone waiting to board at the stop. So, don’t forget to press one of the stop buttons, located throughout the tram, before it gets to your stop.

Although there are exceptions, lines 1 through 33 are tramlines.

 

Clockwise (from the top): A Milan tram station and tram, a table on the ATMosphere, on board a tram, a vintage tram still in use.

 

Buses

Milan bus stations aren't always easy to spot. Locate stops by looking for the yellow sign posts that list all the stops on the line. 

Buses and trams are seen as similar methods of transport, since they’re both surface transportation. Just like trams, buses are numbered, generally above 33, and their signage carry the name of the last stop on the line. Finding bus stops can be tricky since they generally don’t have covered stops or benches. Look for a yellow pole with a sign that has bus information, including the bus numbers and route stops. Buses only stop when someone is waiting to board the bus or a passenger has indicated they want to disembark. If you’re waiting for the bus, it’s a good idea to wave or signal to the bus that you intend to board. If you’re on-board and want to disembark, press the ‘stop’ button; they’re located on poles throughout the interior of the bus.

Getting To (or From) Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP)

We arrived in Milan by train, however, we were leaving to Cairo by plane. The main airport for Milan, Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP), is over 30-miles outside of city center, so it’s a bit of a commute to get to it. With that in mind, you have a couple of public transportation options.

 

All images are of the station for the Malpensa Express train. Clockwise (from the top): The information flyer for the Malpensa Express, the ticket machine to purchase tickets to the airport, the digital signboard with train and platform information, the signboard as seen when entering the station, the front of the ticket office where you can purchase tickets directly from an agent.

 

Bus, Coach, Shuttle Service

You can take a shuttle bus, the Malpensa Shuttle, for €10 one way, or buy a round trip ticket for €16. Check the airport website for the latest bus transport information, including alternative shuttle companies. Keep in mind, the downside with buses is that they have to contend with traffic. So, the scheduled 50 minute journey could take notably longer when there’s traffic.

Train Service

All images are of the station for the Malpensa Express train. Clockwise (from the top): The train that took us to the airport, on-board the train, the ticket gates where you insert your ticket to access the platform, us on our way to the airport with our backpacks and tickets.

You can take the train, the Malpensa Express, for €13 one way, or €20 for a round trip ticket. Check the airport website for up-to-date information on train transport. We weighed out the pros and the cons, of the train versus a bus. Ultimately, we decided to take the train. For only €3 euros apiece more, we could be fairly confident that we’d get to the airport in about 45 minutes, since trains leave regularly (about every half-hour) and they aren’t slowed by rush hour traffic.

Exploring Milan

Basilicas in Milan. Clockwise (from the top): Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore, Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Basilica di Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Basilica di San Carlo al Corso, Basilica di San Carlo al Corso.

One of the first things we noticed in Milan was the ‘noise’ on the metro, a stark contrast to the Tube in London. In London, whether we were traveling at night, mid-day or during rush hour, most everyone on the train would quietly mind their own business. We noticed very little conversation or eye contact and most people would be reading a book, swiping on their phone, or staring off into space. It was immediately apparent to us that Milan was different. Every time we boarded the metro, the train would be full of chatter. Additionally, when standing, people would face towards each other, while in London it was generally etiquette to mind your space and face away or sideways from other people. Whether you prefer, or are more comfortable one way over the other is a matter of culture and comfort. In our case, it was a nice change of pace that we appreciated.

The Teatro alla Scala was a beautiful opera house!

A second thing we noticed when exploring Milan are the people trying to sell you something. Just like most major tourist areas throughout the world, anytime we were in a heavily trafficked tourist area, we were bound to be approached by multiple people trying to sell us tourist knick-knacks, selfie-sticks, bottles of water, or umbrellas. We’re not complaining, we understand ‘they’re doing their thing’, so we kindly declined and ‘kept doing our thing’.

Piazza Gae Aulenti is a modern part of Milan. It's both a public square and fountain, surrounded by office space, upscale shopping, and modern art pieces.

We’d recommend being extra sensitive to your surroundings. Just like many popular tourist places, pick-pocketing and scams are a real possibility. You can never fully protect yourself, but being aware of your surroundings and making a few smart adjustments can make a big difference in keeping yourself and your belongings safer. At one point, we were in a busy metro station, trying to purchase a ticket with a credit card, when we were approached by a woman who told us credit cards couldn’t be used. However, you can use a credit card, in fact we already had on a previous occasion. She kept trying to talk to us, but we moved along and went to a different machine. We’d like to think that she simply wanted to be helpful, but we can’t help shake the feeling that she was up to something, especially since we saw her going from ticket vending machine to ticket vending machine.

Our Must See Sights in Milan

Clockwise (from the top): Columns of San Lorenzo, Church of San Babila, Porta Garibaldi

We spent a couple of days sightseeing in Milan. When we weren’t relaxing at our Airbnb or working, we were likely in city center exploring the various neighborhoods. Before we arrived in Milan, we did our research and made a list of everything we wanted to see, do, and visit. While we didn’t have enough time to explore beyond Milan, like Lake Como, Cinque Terre, or Lake Maggiore (maybe in the future?), we did cover a lot of ground in town.

So, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in Milan (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.

 
 

NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that, some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Euros (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Milan. 

The map above is inclusive of everything we saw and did in Milan. However, we want to highlight some of our favorites. We’ve included the most famous attractions, that you’ll find in every ‘must-see’ list of attractions, but primarily we’ve included the hidden gems and the destinations that you don’t come across in every blog and article about Milan. Hopefully, you’ll love them as much as we did!

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite sights in Milan.

Walk the City

Some of the things we saw on our adventures walking around Milan. Clockwise (from the top): A bridge over one of the canals in Milan that legend says was designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, Sergio walking in the rain with a borrowed umbrella (yes, with hearts and frills!), statues in the Casa Dei Corii Park, Camicissima sewing machine on the street, courtyard of Pinacoteca di Brera.

By far, just like most other places we visit, our favorite thing to do while sightseeing was walk around the city. Going from destination to destination, walking is the best way to see the town in a way you never would be able to on a train, in a car, or even on a bus. When we’re walking we can take a detour down the interesting street we pass, or walk through a park that wasn’t on our map. We're also able to get a feel for the locals and how they live.

This is how we truly got a feel for the city. We discovered cobbled stone streets, walked down narrow pathways lined with buildings covered in vines and overhead terraces. We walked next to canals designed partially by Leonardo da Vinci. We got stuck in the rain and waited it out under the terraces in front of a café with the most amazing smells coming from it. We explored streets and crossed busy intersections lined with cables for street cars.

 So our absolute, number one tip to sightseeing in Milan, is to walk around.

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano)

Top to bottom: Our first day at the Duomo when it was sunny but crowded, the Monumento Equestre a Vittorio Emanuele II monument in Piazza del Duomo, our Sunday morning at the Duomo was cloudy but with minimal tourists.

No trip to Milan would be complete without visiting the Milan Cathedral, more often called the Duomo. Located in the center of Milan, in the city square, Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral is a spectacular sight. You won’t be alone in the Piazza del Duomo either; we found the square to be one of the most crowded spots we visited in Milan. You’ll most likely be surrounded by tourists, locals, and pigeons. Yes, we said pigeons. You can buy food to feed the pigeons from locals walking around the square, or bring your own. The idea is to hold the food in your hands and attract the pigeons. They’ll land on you with their intent being the food in your hands, but in return you’ll get an interesting photo opportunity.

On our visit, we arrived mid-day, had great weather and beautiful skies, but tourists surrounded us. We decided to return first thing Sunday morning, when the early hours of the morning would bring serene calmness around the cathedral. When we returned, there were very few people around, but sadly, the skies were cloudy and a bit gloomy. Still, the beauty of the Duomo shined through and lucky for us, we were one of the first people in line for tickets.

 

Left to right: Looking up at the intricate exterior of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo), inside the cathedral looking at the alter from across the church, sculptures, and stained glass windows in the cathedral.

 

Visiting the cathedral is free, but if you want to visit the Terraces or the Archaeological area, you’ll need to purchase tickets. In our humble opinion, climbing (or taking an elevator) to the terraces is worth it. You’ll be able to see the city from up high, but also be up close and personal to the maze of spires and statues. Considering there are over 3,400 statues on the church, you’ll have trouble seeing them all! They say, on a clear day you can see to the Alps. Sadly, we can’t vouch for this, as it was cloudy when we climbed up to the terraces. Ticket prices and hours can be found on the Duomo website.

Top: The Duomo is on the left and the ticket office on the right. Notice the banners on the windows that read 'Biglietteria' and 'Ticket Office', this is where the queue lines up. Bottom: Inside the Duomo with our tickets that will get us into the Archaeological area and the Terraces.

Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office on the south side of the cathedral, or the right side if you’re facing the cathedral. There’s often a queue to purchase tickets, so plan accordingly. Entrance to the cathedral is in front, on the right side of the building; you’ll no doubt see the queue and security checkpoint. Entrance to the Archaeological area is inside, at the rear of the church and opposite the altar; there’s a sign posted. You have the option of taking the stairs to the terraces (less expensive tickets) or taking the elevator, both entrances are accessed via the exterior of the cathedral (it’s on the left, if you’re facing the cathedral). The entrance for climbing up the stairs is on the north side of the building, the side opposite where you purchased the tickets. To take the elevator, go past the stairs entrance and around the corner. There’s another queue and security checkpoint for each terrace entrance.

Interesting Things to See and Know About Duomo:

The Terraces at the top of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo) are stunning. You can take the stairs up, or a lift, but either way, there's a final flight of stairs that must be taken to get to the very top and center of the terraces. 

  • Along the five aisles inside of the cathedral are 52 columns, each topped with a statue of a saint. Each column represents a week of the year.
  • Near the main entrance, on the floor, is a working sundial, placed in 1786 and calibrated over the centuries to ensure its accuracy. Notice the twelve zodiac signs and the brass strip that runs from the floor up the wall. There's a hole in the ceiling that allows a beam of light to shine through. Each day, at noon, the light shines directly onto the astrological symbol corresponding to the time of year. Also, on June 21st, the summer solstice, and December 21st, the winter solstice, the ray of light hits the brass strip.
  • Above the apse (the arch/dome above the altar) hangs a nail that the Catholic Church alleges is one of the nails from Jesus’ crucifixion. The spot where it hangs is marked with a red bulb. If you want a closer look, you’ll need to visit in mid-September. Each year, on the Saturday closest to September 14th (the beginning of Vespers), the archbishop of Milan is raised in a wooden basket, decorated with angels, to take down the nail. It’s on exhibit at the alter until it’s put back the following Monday (the end of Vespers).
  • The highest spire on the church measures 357 feet tall and is topped with a statue of Little Madonna (Madonnia). Placed in 1762, Little Madonna has become an unofficial symbol of Milan, and is mentioned in the traditional song ‘O Mia Bela Madunnina’.
  • Surprisingly, the Duomo doesn’t have a bell tower.
 

Clockwise (from the top): Us on top of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo), the view of Piazza del Duomo from the terraces, we arrived early to be first in line at the terraces and were rewarded with an almost empty view of the roof, the Little Madonna that tops the Milan Cathedral (Duomo).

 

Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci

Inside the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. Top/Left: Jacquard Loom (Telaio Jacquard). All images are views of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. 

This impressive museum is the largest science and technology museum in Italy. We’ve visited science and technology museums around the world, but this one stood out because it’s dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. Our imaginations were ignited while walking through the hall dedicated to models of da Vinci’s drawings. We were impressed by the interactive kids' DIY (do it yourself) workshops and activities. The exhibits are thoughtfully curated and include the expected, as well as the unique and unexpected.

Depending on which way you’re walking from, the museum entrance can be a bit tricky to find. We walked around the block before we found the entrance. The museum is several buildings and spans the block, but the entrance is nondescript and tucked away in the square in front of San Vittore al Corpo Church. Before visiting, check the website for exhibit information, hours, and admission prices.

 

All images at Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. Clockwise (from the top):  CERN particle accelerator exhibit, the center courtyard at the museum, a submarine in the transportation department of the museum, a panorama of airplanes on the second level of the transportation wing. 

 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

We’ve been impressed with shopping arcades and galleries throughout Europe, however, nothing quite compares to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle I. Located on the north side of the Piazza del Duomo, this double arcade was built between 1865 and 1877 for the first king who reigned over the Kingdom of Italy. It’s become known for its upscale brands and prestigious shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also a place of grand beauty; as we first walked through the enormous and detailed entry archway, we needed a moment to let all of the detail, from the mosaic floors, to the glass-iron arch dome ceilings sink in.

Details to look for:

  • The mosaic floor is decorated in patriotic symbols. Look for a wolf representing Rome, a lily for Florence, and a white flag with a red cross for Milan. The bull, representing Turin, is said to offer good luck if, on your right heel, you spin three times on the bull’s genitals. It’s not hard to miss the spot, as the tiles have been worn from so many people spinning on them over the years.
  • There are four paintings in half-moon structures (lunettes) below the central dome that represent the four parts of the world: Africa, America, Asia, and Europe.
  • The statues below the glass-iron arched roof honor Italian scientists and artists.
  • The interior atmosphere of the arcade is maintained by requiring commercial signs to be done in black with gold lettering.
  • The paintings at the entrance archway represent science, industry, art, and agriculture.

More information can be found at the In Galleria website.

 

Clockwise (from the top): The mosaic on the floor with the bull that legend has it you spin on for good luck, looking at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II from Piazza del Duomo, a close-up of the mosaic floor in the center of the gallery under the dome, looking down the length of the gallery.

 

San Vittore al Corpo, Church

Don’t be fooled by the nondescript, plain front of this church. The walls and ceiling are decorated with stuccos and frescoes from the sixteenth century and paintings from the early seventeenth century. We walked in and our breaths were taken away, we couldn’t stop looking up; the ceilings were incredible!

The site where this church sits has a long history. The original basilica on this site was built in the 4th century and was turned over to the Benedictine Monks of San Vincenzo in Prato in the 12th century. The monks rebuilt the church and added the convent annex, which now houses the present day Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci. Finally, in the 16th century, the church passed to the Olivetani Monks, who began the transformation of the church as we see it today.  

 

San Vittore al Corpo, Church

 

Vertical Forest (Bosco Vertical)

Vertical Forest (Bosco Vertical)

This sustainable pair of residential buildings begs to be seen. Opened in 2014, the two award winning buildings are home to 900 trees and over 20,000 plants that have been placed according to the level of sun exposure on the building. If all of the trees on just one of the buildings were laid out on level ground, they would be the equivalent of 20,000 square meters (215,278 square feet, or nearly 5 acres!) of forest. Among many of the benefits of the pair of green buildings, are the reduction of smog and noise and the filtering of dust particles and of direct sunlight. Interestingly, not just any trees were planted on the building; trees had to be cultivated in a similar environment ahead of time, in preparation of being planted as part of the Vertical Forest. During planning, the engineering team tested the design of these buildings in a wind tunnel and consulted with botanists and horticulturalists to ensure the buildings could bear the weight of the plants and withstand strong gusts of wind.

For details on all of the features and what went into building this pair of green residential buildings, check out the architectural firm’s website.

San Bernardino alle Ossa

All images are of the San Bernardino alle Ossa. Top to bottom: the walls and alter of the small chapel, a panel on the side wall filled with skulls and bones, the painting on the dome in the chapel.

The church isn’t what generally draws tourists here; instead, it’s the side chapel that’s most alluring. The church is located on what used to be the location of a hospital and adjoining graveyard. In 1210 a room was built to hold old bones, and in 1269 this was expanded to a small church. Later, the church was renovated in 1679 and it was then decorated with human skulls and bones. It’s speculated the bones used are remains from patients who died in the hospital, the monks who worked in the hospital, and from prisoners.

To find the side chapel, immediately upon entering the church, head to the right, and go down the short hallway. We weren’t sure what to expect before we saw the chapel. However, we can say that it was an interesting experience to walk into a small room and be surrounded by human remains decorating the walls and an altar. Be sure not to miss the dome above, decorated with a painting of angels and dark wood carvings.

 

The dome and alter in the main chapel, San Bernardino alle Ossa

 

Sempione Park: Arco Della Pace, Sforzesco Castle, Acquario Civico, and Torre Branca

Sempione Park is a lovely place to take a stroll and escape the hustle and bustle of Milan. When we visited, we were fortunate to be there while a band played in the center of the park. We took the time to enjoy the music and the views in both directions. On one end, behind a pond full of ducks, geese, and even turtles, was Sforzesco Castle. On the other end was Arco Della Pace, and all around us was the lush green landscape of the park.

  • Arco Della Pace – The gate was originally planned and started by Napoleon in 1807 and was to be called the Arch of Victory. Unfortunately, he never saw the completion of the gate, as construction was abandoned in 1814. The arch was later completed in 1838, where it took on the name of Arco Della Pace, or Arch of Peace.
  • Sforzesco Castle – Originally built in the 1300s, but rebuilt in the 1400s after attacks on the city destroyed the first castle. It’s no longer an active castle, but it’s open to tourists for tours. Seven museums are housed on the grounds of the castle. Here you can find impressive pieces of art, including Michelangelo’s unfinished last piece of work, Rondanini Pietà, and frescos by da Vinci. Information on the castle, including exhibits, events, and visiting information can be found on their website.
  • Acquario Civico – A free aquarium where visitors can admire over 100 varieties of fish. Don’t miss the statue of the God of the Sea, Neptune, and the library which houses a prestigious collection of marine biology publications.
  • Torre Branca – A 256 foot steel panoramic tower that offers great views of the city .
 

Clockwise (from the top): Arco Della Pace, us in front of Arco Della Pace, a panorama from the courtyard inside the Sforzesco Castle, a view of the castle from outside the wall, the tower and gate of the castle.

 

Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci’s world famous mural, The Last Supper (Cenacolo Vinciano, in Italian), is in the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie and is one of Milan’s most popular attractions. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance to see the famous masterpiece. However, even with trying to purchase in advance, tickets can be very difficult to buy. The Last Supper is a major attraction of course, but to further complicate things, the room The Last Supper is housed in, is limited to 25 people at a time, and furthermore, the time is limited to a maximum of 15 minutes per person. Purchase tickets online, directly from the Milan Museum. Tickets are made available 90 days in advance and sell out quickly. Alternatively, you can book a tour, although it’s more expensive. We had a friend who tried to purchase tickets online for months, but was unable. Ultimately, she booked with a tour company and successfully saw The Last Super as part of a tour group.

 

Left to right: Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

 

So Much More to Milan

These are only a few of the highlights of what we saw in Milan. There are many more things to see and do and we highly recommend looking through all of the points on our map. We found the churches to be full of beautiful and bright murals and paintings, the architecture was stunning, and the artwork was masterful. We enjoyed the parks and city squares, where locals and tourists alike gathered. We found the shopping centers to live up to the city’s acclaim for fashion, however we found the boutiques around town to be much more intriguing. We enjoyed our time in Milan and can’t wait to explore more of Italy in the future!

 

Remember That One Time in Milan When…

Remember That One Time in Milan When…

Switzerland to Italy: Lakes, Alps, and Glaciers on the Bernina Express Train

Switzerland to Italy: Lakes, Alps, and Glaciers on the Bernina Express Train