|The magnificent Milan Cathedral or Duomo is the fifth largest cathedral in the world and third largest in all of Europe. Photo: Megoizzy.|
Milan is a thoroughly international city within Italy's Lombardy region known for high fashion and commerce. This resilient city has weathered numerous European conquests, industrialism and the Nazi occupation of World War II. Today, it emerges as a stylish tourist destination brimming with cultural treasures, distinctive cuisine and classy evening entertainment. From the Castello Sforzesco or the Sforza Castle to the Duomo and the Galleria—among others, Milan offers visitors a chance to travel back in time as well as ahead to the future of fashion. With only 48 hours in the city, here a few of the special highlights for visitors to the City of Fashion.
Day 1: Exploring Milan's Historic Roots
|Nighttime at the Sforza Castle or Castello Sforzesco in Milan, Italy. Photo by Nick Grosoli.|
Milan is a city of extreme contrasts that prominently displays the very latest fashion trends amidst a backdrop of magnificent and ancient architectural splendor.
|History buffs will revel in the Sforza Castle, a well-preserved medieval fortress in Milan, Italy. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
The Sforza Castle is a medieval fortress that sits well-preserved and ready for exploration by history buffs. Noble blood line intrigues, quests for a free republic, and international dominance are the main themes of the drama staged at Sforza Castle in the past. Today, the castle houses several museums that contain reminders of the city's bittersweet journey through time. Some museums found at Sforza Castle include Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, the Museum of Ancient Art, Museum of Musical Instruments, and the Archaeological Museum of Milan.
|The glorious Milan Duomo. Photo by barnyz.|
Ranking fifth largest in the world and third largest in Europe, the Milan Cathedral or Duomo as it's known locally, is dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent and is a must-see attraction on all Milanese itineraries. Blending Gothic with neo-Gothic, this elaborate structure took almost 600 years to complete and remains one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.
|Interior shot of the Milan Cathedral in Italy. Photo: Jean-Christophe Benoist.|
With more than 2,000 marble statues and more than 100 marble spires topping it off, the cathedral is truly a sight to behold. Venture inside and behold the soaring nave that stretches to heaven itself. Then explore its three altars, multiple sarcophagi belonging to many an archbishop, centuries-old paintings, stained-glass tapestries and more! End your tour with a journey up 200 steps or by elevator if you prefer, to the rooftop. You'll find access on the northern side of the cathedral. Once you emerge onto this lofty perch, the panoramic views of Milan will take your breath away. Be sure to look for the snow-capped Dolomites to the north too!
|A soaring nave that stretches to Heaven, magnificent artwork and sarcophagi await inside the world's 5th-largest cathedral in Milan. Photo: Jean-Christophe Benoist.|
Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper"
|The incomparable "Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Just a short 20-minute walk to the west stands Santa Maria della Grazie—home to one of art history's most significant and splendid masterpieces of all time—Leonardo's "Last Supper" located in the convent's refectory or dining hall. Commissioned by Leonardo's patron Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo began work on this masterpiece in 1495 and took our master and somewhat procrastinator more than three years to complete. Rather than working in the established medium of the time—fresco, he painted using the tempera-forte technique with oils onto dry plaster. Within five years, decay was already underway and restoration efforts continue to this day to protect this exquisite work of art. The painting stands testament to a most tumultuous history of erosion, Napoleon and WWII bombs that destroyed all of the refectory's walls save the protected "Last Supper." A miracle? Perhaps.
|Santa Maria della Grazie—home to one of art history's most significant and splendid masterpieces of all time—Leonardo's "Last Supper." Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Here is an awesome 360-degree tour of Santa Maria della Grazie's refectory. Be sure to zoom in, rotate from left to right and up and down too!
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana or Ambrose Library
|The Biblioteca Ambrosiana or Ambrose Library. Photo: Elekhh.|
Just a few blocks from the Milan Cathedral is the Biblioteca Ambrosiana—a treasured collection of literature housing more than 800 manuscripts belonging to the Benedictine monastery and the Paduan library; plus fragments of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But perhaps the most historically significant item to feast your eyes upon is the exquisitely illuminated manuscript of Homer's "Iliad" written and meticulously illustrated at the end of the fifth century!
After exploring some of Milan's most fascinating history, culture and architecture, it is time to take a culinary journey to one of Milan's eateries to sample traditional dishes. Antica Trattoria Della Pesa is one such restaurant that provides guests with an authentic taste of Italy's Lombardy region. Fresh homemade pasta, rich sauces, famous meat dishes and classic desserts are among the mainstays of Antica Trattoria Della Pesa. Portions are large and the feasts divine.
Before retiring for the night, why not take an evening sightseeing tour? It's a great way to view many of Milan's main attractions, most of which are within walking distance of each other and well lit against the darkening, late spring, evening sky. The city centre is a typical launching point for walking parties. Those who wish to explore the countryside further can hop onboard Milan's public transportation. A walking tour of the Navigli neighbourhood along Leonardo's canals is an exciting way to burn calories and take in the scenic city by moonlight.
Accommodation Choices for the Budget-minded Traveler
While it is possible to stay in some of Milan's posh hotels with loads of amenities and exorbitant prices, some visitors opt to find bargain accommodations and save their money for other activities around the city. A lodging choice that helps visitors on a budget sleep well knowing they have saved a bundle is Hotel Adelchi. The hotel is undoubtedly a no frills choice, but its guests can afford to eat at the best restaurants in the city with the money saved by staying there and you can find this property on HostelBookers.com the budget hostel and hotel website.
Day 2: Shopping In the City Of Fashion
|The Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II or Victor Emmanuel Galleria in Milan opened in 1867 and has been home to Prada since 1913. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Aside from all the history and art, there's another side of this timeless city that appeals to the fashionista in all of us! Shopping! From the world's top designers at the Golden Rectangle to the outlet stores brimming with last season's designs, Milan is the fashion capital of the world! If it's fashion you seek, look no further.
Quadrilatero d'Oro or the Golden Rectangle
All roads in fashion converge at the center of this fashion capital of the world at the Golden Rectangle—the most exclusive and premium shopping district in all of Italy and the world perhaps! Located a few blocks north of the Duomo are these four streets: via della Spiga, via Manzoni, via Sant'Andrea and via Montenapoleone, and once you're here, you'll find the biggest names in fashion including Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Armani, Lauren, Prada—among countless others. Stroll along and you'll see the latest runway fashions prominently displayed in some of the most expensive store fronts in the world.
Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II
|The magnificent Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II or Victor Emmanuel Galleria in Milan. Photo by Leobarnard.|
One of the most stunning architectural masterpieces in Milan and home to Prada since 1913 is the Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II or the Victor Emmanuel Galleria which opened in 1867, making it one of the oldest malls in the world. The elaborately constructed glass roof combined with the facades of the shops evokes world-class elegance!
A trip to Milan is not complete without picking up souvenirs at one or more of its outlet stores. Since Milan is home to designer giants like Prada, Gucci, and Armani, it makes perfect sense that these designer goodies make it onto the racks of its outlet stores. As the saying goes, "one day you're in and the next you're out." Reportedly, one may get great designer deals periodically at Milan's il Salvagente.
Searching for great designer deals stokes the appetite just in time to visit the historic cafe Biffi located in upscale Vercelli. Even though Italy is known for its national coffee fetish, caffè Biffi has a tea room where visitors may sit, relax and converse for afternoon tea. The appealing light entrees are almost overwhelmed by their scrumptious dessert offerings.
La Scala Theatre
|La Scala in Milan, Italy, has produced some of the greatest talents in the world. Photo: Jim Forest.|
An ideal trip to Milan includes tickets to the opera at the world-famous La Scala. Italy is known for producing some of the greatest talent in the world of opera and many new works make their début at La Scala. The state-of-the-art facility constructed on the site of the historic church for which it is named has excellent acoustics and seating for thousands.
There are plenty of exciting things to do and see in cosmopolitan Milan, and the best times to tour the city are late spring and late fall. Even visitors with limited time may see great highlights of this culturally rich fashion hub.
This post was produced in partnership with HostelBookers.com