Welcome to Milan. Home of the famous Duomo and (some say arguably) the fashion capital of the world.
Where we stayed: As this was my second visit to Milan we stayed in the same hotel I did on my first visit. This was the Da Vinci Hotel which is a 4 star hotel on the outskirts of Milan. Due to the location the hotel is actually very well priced for Milan and is right next to the Milano Bruzzano Parco Nord which is the last stop on the city boundary for the train. This means the Milan 24 hour train ticket applies which costs only €4.5 for the 24 hours and can be used as many times as you like in that time. They also have a 48 hours ticket. This is quite good if you don’t expect to be in the city past midnight as the trains frequency starts to slow down. Often at night only the over-street trams run excluding times between 2-4am however they do not have the best reputation.
Weather: Arriving here at the start of October the weather had begun to change seasons. Especially since we travelled north from Rome. Milan is very close to the mountainous border with Switzerland so temperatures here are colder than the rest of Italy. Even though this is the case the temperature was still in the highs of 20°C and lows of 8°C through the night. There was some rain in this time but it was mostly overcast. It is often the end of October when the temperature really drops and the rain sets in for winter. Weather here doesn’t change much until April when the summer starts to arrive. One thing to note is in Italy it is very rare for it to snow here.
First thing I would like to mention is we used Milan as a home base to travel to other areas of Italy such as Venice, Verona, and Como. Train transport in Milan is very good and tickets are very cheap with quite short travel times (Venice being 2.5 hours). For our first day, after having an amazing breakfast, we decided to go straight to the centre and see the Duomo. Famous for being made of marble with the gold Madonnina at the top, it is the largest church in Italy (with the Vatican City being a separate country) and 4th largest in the world. It’s an incredible building both inside and out and you can buy a ticket to get to the top of the cathedral to see the Madonnina closer up. The views of Milan up here are not that great however, due to all the spires and taller buildings nearby.
BE CAREFUL OF THE LUCKY LEG: On the door of the cathedral you can see a section like the image below. Italians say rubbing the left leg of Christ will bring you good luck. However, note the other mans leg is also showing the brass underneath. This is where uninformed tourists rub the leg of the soldier who is beating Jesus with a club. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE RIGHT LEG OR YOU'LL HAVE AN AWKWARD PICTURE!!
Fun fact the Madonnina is to remain at the highest point in all of Milan. Once skyscrapers were built they created smaller replicas of this statue to sit on the top so that she would always remain at the highest point.
Nearby to the Duomo is a very amazing place called Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is a prestigious mall housing some high brand stores and restaurants. Every store here must have a black background with gold lettering and at the top of this building is one of the very few hotels in the world which have a 7 star rating! President Obama actually stayed in this hotel on one of his presidential visits. You can see it in the image further up. There are also symbols in the centre representing different cities and the bull (which represents Turin) is said to bring luck and fertility if you place your heel on the bulls testicles and spin 3 times. A great little restaurant here is Restaurant Savini which is one of the oldest restaurants in Milan and has some great food but can be expensive. There is also a Da Vinci statue just outside the Galleria and a Da Vinci exhibit inside but we didn’t go into this as the Da Vinci science museum is exceptional.
Something worth seeing is Da Vinci’s Last Supper. This is housed in Santa Maria Delle Grazie which was actually a monastery for monks. It can be very difficult to book tickets to see it in advance as only 15 people are allowed in at a time. If you prefer you can get a tour which will avoid the queues and plan your visit for you. They will also tell you some history about the painting such as why the centre of the painting has a section missing. Nearby is also the Sforzesco Castle which is a large fortress in the city centre with a huge park behind. There are often a lot of musicians and performers here but beware of the people holding bands of string as they are con artists who will try to tie it to your wrist and then demand money after. The castle houses one of the sculptures of Michelangelo and an excellent Egyptian museum which is worth a visit if you are interested in history. If you are a fan of the Arc de Triomphe there is also the Arco della Pace which was designed at the request of Napoleon and shares many of the same traits. The area around the arch is often used as event space so there may be an event here depending on when you visit.
The Santa Maria Dell Grazie also has another surprise! If you head around the side of the building there is a little gate which is my favourite spot in all of Milan. You can see a bit of this small garden below.
If you are a fan of Opera or dance it may be worth a stop by the Teatro alla Scala. One of the best theatres to visit and you can only enter the inside by seeing a show as there are no tours for the theatre room. For fans of aperol spritz you can taste the place where Campari was invented at Camparino. Another great place is the Pinacoteca di Brera which is a very popular art gallery however we didn’t visit as the queue to go inside was huge (over certain holidays all museums in Milan become free such as Easter which makes lines very long).
One thing I recommend if you are a fan of science, Da Vinci or have children is to visit the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. There are a lot of interesting things in this museum such as original ideas from Da Vinci but also a huge room filled with airplanes, boats etc all life size.
This is everything major that I can tell you about Milan! Most importantly remember to walk around the side streets here as there are so many interesting places hiding in every corner. Also, visit the Jollibee!