Years ago, I spent the better part of 2 months in Italy. Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Siena, Naples. But I never managed to make it to Milan. Everyone I talked to at the time commented on the expense of visiting Milan. There wasn’t much to see or do. Everyone was a Milan critic. Thanks to a 25 SFr fare and the perspective that comes with living in Zurich, I spent a day and night exploring the city.
An Italian friend of mine scoffed at the idea of visiting Milan in August and upon arriving, I saw why. Walking around Milan’s main train station, store after store was closed with handwritten signs saying ‘chiuso per ferie’ with a month long period from the end of July to the end of August. Fortunately churches don’t close for holiday so the first post-lunch stop was the Duomo di Milano.
Oscar Wilde told his mother about the Duomo in a letter, “The Cathedral is an awful failure. Outside the design is monstrous and inartistic. The over-elaborated details stuck high up where no one can see them; everything is vile in it; it is, however, imposing and gigantic as a failure, through its great size and elaborate execution.”
Well, Oscar Wilde might not have been impressed but my 18 month old pointed and awed at the gold painted ceiling just before darting off to check out the crypt. The roof of the Duomo is also accessible for a fee but since I had adventure baby with me, I skipped the view from up high.
Tip: When visiting the Catholic cathedral, wear more modest clothing. Visitors with bare arms or wearing shorts were turned away. Also? If you are lucky enough to have a curious toddler, you might get a glimpse at an off limits section when the toddler darts off under the roped off area.
To the side of the Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, offers a shopping break from the pigeons begging in the cathedral square. Various high end retailers, restaurants, McDonalds, and gelato shops line the tiled promenade. The 150 year old arcade offers something for just about everyone. I am not the type to bring home a Prada purse as a souvenir but I did grab a memory card for my camera from the multilevel electronics shop. As a bonus, I got to practice my rusty Italian.
The next day, we headed to Venice on one of the high speed trains. More on Venice later.