This is the story of a weekend in Milan, arriving Friday night and leaving Sunday afternoon. It has been a few hours, but enough to see the essential. We did not find anything extraordinary in Milan, as a city. But to see the Milan Fashion Week, Duomo, the Monumental Cemetery and the Last Supper has been worth the trip.
There are two dates when traveling to Milan is super special. It is during the Milan fashion week, when the streets of the city are packed with super models. The next is during the Milan Furniture Fair, when the world comes to know the latest creations of Italian design.
The misunderstood Milan! Sure as we mention it you thought about fashion, industry and Italian metropolis. I also had that impression, but a short trip to participate in the Milan Fashion Week greatly expanded my view of this captivating city. Today I tell you about the other ingredients of this, the strongest Italian dish!
Milan is like a girl with a double personality. It is old and modern; elegant and daring; hedonist and working. It is a perfect combination that has led it to become the economic engine of Italy. And as you know, Italy knows a lot about engines!
Happily I discovered that, like the Italian sister cities Milan is rich in history and architecture. But unlike many of them, it does not live looking at the past, but focused on the future, while enjoying the richness of those two worlds.
During my fleeting, but intense stay I enjoyed its rich architecture, daring designs, dazzling nightlife and delicate regional cuisine. The personality of the citizen of Milan, has much in common with the Latin American who lives in a capital or in the United States. Work hard, but also get rewarded and celebrate hard! I enjoyed a good dose of beauty, art and architecture courtesy of La Scala, the famous opera house and Milan Cathedral, the Gothic jewel.
My alarm clock rings at 6am, the time to take a shower, a breakfast and finish prepare my suitcase. It is already 7am and I receive a message from the driver who is waiting for me down the street in a taxi. I join him and we go to the airport before being in the aircraft.
We arrived at 11:20 on Friday at the Bergamo airport on a flight. Bergamo is a city about 55 km northeast of Milan, whose airport is used by low-cost airlines. It is a small airport in which the few meters from where the plane stops to the terminal which we cross on foot along the track. The Italian language reminds me of my college years. I am delighted to hear it resonate everywhere.
As we had only cabin luggage, we did not have to wait in the luggage belts. So we went through the small terminal to the exit. We bought the tickets at a ticket office inside the terminal, but they can also be purchased directly from the driver. In less than ten minutes from landing we get on the bus that would take us to Milan.
At 11:30 the bus started and in 50 minutes we were in Milan. The bus leaves next to the Central Station, on its right side. In anticipation that our arrival would be late, we had looked for a hotel that was close to the Central Station to avoid more travel at that time. It also had a 24-hour reception.
We chose the hotel just 400 meters from the station. Although it is a three star hotel, the quality is comparable to one that always happens with hotels abroad and we already had it. Shortly before 00:30 we were there.
It is a very average hotel but perfectly fulfills its basic function, which is to rest well at night. The double bed was huge and the mattress very comfortable. Our room faced the street and we had no noise disturbance, neither exterior nor interior. Instead of a closet, the room had a kind of structure with a bar and shelves, which we thought was a good idea.
It is easier to leave things forgotten in a closed cupboard with doors than in a piece of furniture like this. After all, in two days there is no time for the clothes to catch dust. Right on the opposite sidewalk there is a supermarket, which can be good on certain occasions.
Buffet breakfast at the hotel was costly. We decided to go out and find something cheaper on the way to the Monumental Cemetery, which was the first point of interest we had planned for today. We find ourselves in the lobby of the hotel, joined by a beautiful Italian guide who will take us through Milan. We walk from the hotel to Porta Garibaldi Station through the Porta Nuova, one of the main business district of Milan.
Passionate about her subject, she explains to us all the history of the city which has passed into the hands of many civilizations (Celts, Romans, Spaniards, even Napoleon passed by here). The city is enriched by so many different stories and cultures. The city is a treat, I'm sure for architecture enthusiasts.
In this area there are some office buildings of modern architecture, such as the Pirelli Tower, which is just opposite the Central Station. There is also the UniCredit Tower, next to Porta Garibaldi Station. Another striking building in this area is the Bosco Verticale, a residential complex that has received several awards.
It is composed of two towers of 26 and 18 floors of houses. Its facades and terraces are covered by thousands of plants of different species, in an attempt to contribute to climate regeneration. The photo has not been very nice because the day was very cloudy.
Passing the side of Porta Garibaldi Station we saw a fairly large cafeteria, where we decided to go to breakfast. There we had a coffee and a croissant. Shortly before arriving at the Municipal Cemetery, we see the Arcobaleno Tower, an old water tank of thirty-five meters in the shape of a diabolo. It was covered with thousands of colored tiles for the 1990 Football World Cup, that draws our attention.
We arrived at the Monumental Cemetery, a kind of large outdoor sculptural and architectural museum. It was built in 1886 to recast in a single space all the small and unhealthy cemeteries that had existed in Milan up to that time. The access building is imposing and inside it has very attractive domes.
But even more impressive is the whole collection of precious mausoleums, pantheons and other works of art that he keeps in his gardens. It is worth investing a bit in walking among them. There is even a large sculptural group in one of the burials that represents the Last Supper at full size. Access to the Cemetery is completely free.
From here we went to Sempione Park bordering Chinatown, which was very clear for the kind of shops that we were seeing along the entire route. In the Sempione Park there were many people enjoying the Saturday morning. We see men and women walking, either running or riding a bike, even though the weather was very cloudy and there was even some fog. There was also an amusement fair mounted for the Carnevale Ambrosiano.
At one end of the park is the Arco de la Paz, and on the other the Sforzesco Castle. The latter was built in the 14th century. Although it has suffered destruction and reforms throughout its history, it still conserves the moat that surrounds it. At the end of the 15th century it was one of the most luxurious Cortes of the time. It was to the point that artists of the relevance of Leonardo da Vinci or Bramante were called to decorate some of their rooms.
In the interior of the Castle there are museums and exhibition halls, but we are not very keen to invest time in museums when we have few hours to visit a city. So we continue to the center of Milan. We arrived immediately at the Piazza del Duomo.
The facades of the Duomo are incredibly beautiful. It is impressive to think how much work those medieval craftsmen had to invest in carving all that decoration in stone. It is a pity the horrific advertising screen that they have hung on the left side. The ticket offices are on the street, on the right side of the cathedral, but there are also others in the back, where there are a lot less people and they are also covered.
We bought the vouchers and went to find a place to eat. We ate at the pizzeria, very close to the Duomo with the new Milanese trend, Brazilian sushi, a pizza of anchovies and olives, a plate of pasta with swordfish and tomato, and coffee. The pasta was good, but the pizza was very poor. It was big but fine as cigarette paper and with very little ingredients. If we went back to Milan we would not repeat there because the place was not special at all.
On the top floor of the museum, which houses Yves Klein exhibition, the restaurant offers a breathtaking view of the Duomo. We returned to the Duomo to climb the decks. They are about 200 steps to end in a hallucinating forest of buttresses, pinnacles and gargoyles. Here there is not a single corner without decorations. It is absolutely worth climbing, not only for the views that are there from above. It is for that feeling of finding myself immersed in such a special place.
On the highest spire is the statue of Madonnina. The symbol of the city is made in golden copper and placed in its vantage point 108 meters above the ground of Milan in 1774. By the time we passed, a parade had just finished. We could observe from the corner of the eye the fashionistas who took pictures.
We then enter the interior of the Duomo. What a beautiful thing! It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals we have seen. Apart from its majestic dimensions (the central nave is 45 meters high and inside the cathedral can hold up to 40,000 people) and the impressive size of its stained glass windows, the elegant styling of the vaults of the aisles, the decoration is striking from the capitals of the pillars, and up to the design of the cutting of the ground.
It is a pity that they do not let us go close to the stained glass windows of the choir, in the head. They are the biggest that are known and it must be impressive to see them up close, especially on a sunny day. We had the bad luck to have such a gray day.
Inside the Duomo it is interesting to also come to see the macabre statue of St Bartholomew flayed, from the sixteenth century. It represents the saint with muscles and veins in the air and holding his own skin over his shoulders as if it were a mantle. The expression on his face is very realistic, and chilling.
Through a small stairway inside the Duomo, next to the main facade, we go down to the archaeological excavations. They are remains of the Basilica di Santa Tecla that was where today is the Piazza del Duomo, and a Christian baptistery of the IV century that had an intelligent system of water supply. It is quite interesting to see the plans of the reconstruction of these remains that are exposed there.
We left the Cathedral and went to see the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a grandiose Baroque style gallery with prestigious boutiques, including the very first Prada house. Its main access is in the same square. These are two galleries arranged in the shape of a cross and covered by a vaulted metal and glass structure. At the intersection of the two galleries, an octagonal dome 47 meters high above the ground is formed.
The complex was built at the end of the 19th century and is considered a precursor of modern covered shopping centers. There you can find the shops of the most prestigious fashion and restaurant brands.
Under the central dome there is a mosaic on the floor that represents the shield of the Savoia, which is the figure of a bull. According to tradition, if you want to return to Milan you have to go around three times with the heel of one foot on the manly attributes of the poor bull. The animal already had such wear in that delicate area, that the authorities decided to directly cut a hole.
Leaving the galleries at the opposite end we went to the square where the Teatro alla Scala is located, which on the outside is not nothing special and inside we did not see it. From here we went to the ice cream shop in the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, very close to the Duomo. We had a couple of ice creams of two balls, but the truth is that we did not think anything of the other world for the fame of Italian ice cream.
It was almost 6:00 pm and we had to hurry to get to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Here there is the mural of The Last Supper (Cenacolo Vinciano) by Leonardo da Vinci. We had tickets to see it at 18:30. We were clueless with time in the ice cream parlor and the hour was on us.
We had taken the tickets in advance on the internet on this website. It is convenient to take them out as soon as possible because they tend to run out. Almost running through the already dark streets of Milan we arrived quite overwhelmed, at the limit of 18:30, to Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Once there we go to a ticket office that is about fifty meters to the left of the entrance, to get the receipt of the tickets. Finally, with our tickets in hand, we were able to join the group at 6:30 pm, which was already entering the site where the painting is located.
It is the refectory of the church, former convent of the Dominicans. Leonardo painted "The Last Supper" between 1495 and 1497 on one of the short sides of the room. The work measures 8.80 meters wide and 4.60 meters high, and was made with tempera and oil on a plaster preparation. At the moment it is quite discolored with regard to what must have been originally, in spite of the restoration.
I wonder if that door in the middle of the wall was already when Leonardo painted the mural or was later opened by some fool. On the opposite wall there is another mural, La Crucifixion by Giovanni Montorfano. The visit lasts fifteen minutes. An employee enters the room warning that we have to go out thorough the other end because the next group have to enter. It has lasted more the race that we have stuck to get here than the contemplation of the mural.
We went outside and walked to the area of the Navigli. It is one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the city, thanks to its restaurants, pubs and its lively nightlife. Our intention is to enjoy the atmosphere and have something to eat there. The Naviglithey are artificial canals that were built between the 12th and 16th centuries to transport goods to Milan from lakes and rivers in the surrounding area.
Leonardo Da Vinci himself intervened in his design. The neighborhood became a fundamental point of communication for Milan and reached great splendor until the mid-nineteenth century. After the emergence of other more efficient means of transport, the channels fell into disuse and virtually all ended up covered.
Currently only a few remain, of which are the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese. They are the most important. These two streets remind a bit of Amsterdam, although with a much less elegant character. We walk back to the hotel to change before heading to discover a fashion week parade.
Fashion designers are present in the room as well as a whole swarm of journalists from all over Europe. The latest designs is of course in the spotlight. Models are present to wear the clothes and allow us to discover them in another way.
Suddenly, a crowd is formed and we find in the middle a little blonde lady followed by half of the room. This is the editor-in-chief of a famous Italian magazine. Her arrival totally eclipses the models that are in the ramp. We transform ourselves into happy onlookers and the evening continues.
At the end of the show, we go around the area trying to find a place to take the famous pub consisting of paying a fixed amount for a drink and with it being entitled to a free buffet. The evening of course (I had long booked) I gave myself a romantic dinner. Dining during Milan Fashion Week it is a luxury!
We must find time and above all place! All the restaurants were overflowing. There were even queues in some, and it started to rain. So we finally got into the only place we found a barge anchored in the Naviglio Pavese. It was the most expensive place of all, but neither did it seem excessive for a dinner if we were really satisfied.
The truth is that the site was fine, and if some day we return to Milan we will surely repeat. Near me is a Brazilian model and a German designer. We could choose any drink from the menu (there were even cocktails) and take as many times as you wanted from the buffet. We thought that the buffet would be a snack, but what a deal!
It was not very big, but there was a bit of everything with pasta, rice, chicken, pizza, salads, and cold cuts. We had a really good dinner at the end. I do not know if in the other cheaper places the buffet would be like this or more simple, but of course it was worth it.
When we left Il Barcone, it was a quarter to ten. It had stopped raining and the atmosphere was quite lively, so we wanted to walk back to the hotel, although the distance was almost 5 kilometers. As we had to cross the center, we could see the cathedral with night lighting.
The Duomo at night is beautiful and, since there are hardly any people in the square, its beauty shines with more intensity. That night, the wet pavement reflected flashes of light, creating an even more dramatic scene. We continue on our way to the hotel, advancing along the Via Alessandro Manzoni, leaving on our right the Fashion Quadrilateral.
There we find the embouchure of the Via Della Spiga very lovingly decorated on the occasion of Valentine's Day. We arrived at the hotel tired and rested like little angels. We estimate that we had walked around 20 kilometers that day.
We decided to have breakfast at the hotel buffet because we had to leave Milan at 3:00 pm. We did not want to waste the little time we had today. The place is very beautiful, the food is good but the service leaves a lot to be desired. I do not know if the waiters had benefited too much from aftershows of the fashion week but they were of a rather incredible inefficiency.
The buffet was not cheap but it was not bad either. We had a bit of everything from cereals, pastries (very rich stuffed donuts), fruit, breads, eggs, and sausages. The coffee was prepared by the waitress to taste. Of course, the juices were in tetrapak. We left there sated for several hours. We would not have to waste time in restaurants before going to the airport.
Our plans for Sunday were to go for a walk around Milan's fashion district and then go downtown to see a little something that we had left the day before in the inkwell. But before we wanted to see a little the Central Station. It is an imposing building, that we had not been able to see when the bus that brought us from the airport left us next to its lateral facade, because it was at night.
At the reception of the hotel they stored our bags for free and we went out again to kick the streets of Milan, as covered in clouds as the day before. The Central Station is one of the largest and most monumental in Europe. Its design was inspired by the modernism of its time, with a mixture of styles between Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
At first the project was less ambitious, but Mussolini wanted the station to represent the great power of the fascist regime. So it was modified to become a much more majestic construction. In front of the Central Station there are ugly buildings that do not allow photographing the entire facade.
Next we went to the fashion quadrilateral. It is the area bounded by Via Alessandro Manzoni, Via della Spiga, Via Sant'Andrea and Via Monte Napoleone. We start with Via Monte Napoleone, one of the high fashion streets of Milan that even offers the luxury of having designer plaques on the floor, much like Hollywood and its stars but with big names in fashion.
We quickly note a few perpendicular street names to return later to take some pictures. The mansions and the shops hide many courses all more beautiful than the others. Even being Sunday, most of the stores in this area were open. However, our intention was not to buy but simply to do window shopping, because everything was too costly for us there.
There were really signatures with very nice items like clothes, shoes, and decorative objects. We will have to reincarnate as millionaires in some other life. Well, what can I say about fashion? It is a feast for the eyes! And be careful, I did not yet entered the catwalk. Milan is the glory of good dress and the fashion show is enjoyed on the street, 24/7!
Unlike other parts of the world, in Milan, people dare to wear radical designs that do not come down from the catwalk in other cities. From the boy to the old man, regardless of social or economic status carries with style the weight of living in the fashion capital of the world! The afternoon went on between events and fashion shows until I attend a street party.
The installation of colored umbrellas brought color and joy in via Fiori Chiari, in the elegant Brera district. The neighborhood is very romantic with its small pedestrian streets and its many shops. We go through the art gallery and then in front of a building that reminds me of the images of the hanging gardens of Babylon, then in front of the San Marco church, and finally in front of huge modern buildings, a visit through the centuries in a few steps.
From there we went to the center. We come to see the Casa degli Omenoni, whose main interest is in the eight large male sculptures that adorn the ground floor of its facade. This house was built around 1565 and was the home and workshop of Leone, a famous sculptor. It is located in Via degli Omenoni 3, very close to the Teatro Alla Scala.
We then go to the Jesuit Church of San Fedele, in the square of the same name. It was built in the middle of the XVI century. The wooden choir in the apse was brought from the Santa Maria della Scala when it was demolished to build the famous theater in its place.
In this church we were struck by this interesting altarpiece, in which two angels hold two columns unhinged from their vertical position, framing a central composition of modern polychrome ceramics, 1956. In World War II this church was badly damaged by the bombings, but it was restored and is now well preserved. Access is free.
We wanted to take some sweet artisan typical of Milan, but we went around the streets downtown. The only thing we found that convinced us was a very old Genovese bakery in Via Speronari 3. They had some authentic panettones artisans. It looks great, but it did not fit in the suitcases, so in the end we took a brioche that we later opened at home and we can certify that it was quite good.
We did not have much time in Milan. We went to see if there was luck and the San Bernardino alle Ossa was open, in Via Verziere 2, because it has a chapel all lined with human skulls that must be quite spooky. But when we arrived we found that on Sundays they closed at 12:30 and it was almost 2:00 pm.
We had been recommended another ice cream parlor in Via Pattari, behind the Duomo. So, as we were passing on the way back to the hotel, there we went to make a new tasting of Italian ice cream. This time we liked them a lot more than the previous day.
Apart from entering more by the eyes because they were presented in the more artistic buckets. The flavors were much richer and above all cheaper. We tried the spicy chocolate, the coffee, the yogurt and the lemon flavors. All were delicious.
We returned to the hotel to collect our bags. We organized a little luggage to put the brioche and other things that we were not going to need and we went to the bus stop that would take us to the airport. The buses that connect Milan with Malpensa leave from Via Giovanni Battista Sammartini, on the left side of the Central Station. There is not much problem of schedule because there are three bus companies that operate from the same point.
On the way to the bus stop, we bought some snacks at the Central Station to keep ourselves entertained while waiting at the airport. We took the first bus that went to Malpensa and in 50 minutes we were in Terminal 2. I think that Terminal 1 takes ten more minutes.
And here ends this chronicle of our weekend in Milan. It was exhausting but very comforting. Maybe we lost a foolish time in seeing shop windows on the streets of fashion, when we had no intention of buying anything. But hey, we must not stress either. We wanted to go in a relaxed way and that was what we wanted at that moment. I published some photos on my Instagram for those who would not have seen.
These escapades are a beating for the body, but an extraordinary rest for the mind. The penalty is not being able to do them more often. For the next reincarnation, when I become millionaire, in addition to returning to Milan to buy designer fashion dresses, I want to go on a trip every weekend.
In short, Milan gracefully carries the delicate balance between being an urban metropolis, without losing that cultural marrow that defines and distinguishes the peoples.