Life is Beautiful in Milan
· Stazione Centrale · Duomo di Milano · Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II · Prada · Teatro alla Scala · Saffron Risotto · Castello Sforzesco · Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà · Parco Sempione · Santa Maria delle Grazie · Da Vinci’s The Last Supper · Torre Unicredit · Bosco Verticale · Limoncello ·
Every once in a while, you find a day that surprises you in the best of ways. When I found out I was flying to Milan, I was thrilled to be returning to my favorite country, but had no idea what I would discover there. Join me as I walk through the day’s adventures.
We arrived in Milan early in the morning, and didn’t waste any time in getting ready to seize the day. Running on zero sleep, I was joined by my flying partners Donald and Joel. She was fortunate enough to receive free tickets for the City Sightseeing (hop-on hop-off) bus from a departing tourist! Taking it as a sign for a fantastic day to come, we set off right away.
Passing by the stunning Stazione Centrale, we took in Milan‘s major railway station. Later on we had the chance to walk up and peek inside, weaving between the scattered groups of skateboarders that seemed to make the space in front their own. The inside is just as insane as outside, filled with shops, dining and even a grocery store.
I was practically giddy to be back in Italy sitting on the bus’ upper deck. The weather was astonishingly perfect, and conversation was endless.
Side Note: When flight attendants go to work, more often than not they fly with a completely new group of people. It’s exhilarating to have the chance to connect with so many, and like this day, it can create the sweetest of friendships.
Our first stop couldn’t be anything other than Duomo di Milano. Probably the most distinctive landmark of the city, this Gothic cathedral took over 600 years to complete. The photograph doesn’t do the architecture’s intricacy justice, but you get the idea. The only thing distracting me from staring at it with my mouth gaping open were the huge clusters of pigeons, that oddly had no fear of humans.
Duomo di Milano
Facing Duomo we turned left and entered Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. It’s covered by a stunning glass roof (pictured below), and houses 4-stories of luxury retail shops. Most notable here is the world’s first ever Prada. We had a chance to walk inside, and I had love affairs with shoes that will live on in my dreams forever.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II / Prada
Directly in front of the 2 Prada storefronts (women and men), there is an circle covered by a huge dome. The ground is covered in mosaic, featuring coats of arms for the Kingdom of Italy’s 3 capitals (Rome, Florence, Turin), and also Milan. An infamous bull lies representing Turin, and has become an impassable landmark. Be it some unknown legend, if a person spins around 3 times with their heels in his balls, it will bring them good luck. If you look closely, you’ll see there is a hole worn into the ground where eager feet have tread! Too bad the bull doesn’t get the luck he gives.
Walking through the other side of the shopping center, we wound our way to Teatro alla Scala, one of Milan‘s most notable opera houses. If you aren’t there in time to see a show, pay just a few euros to walk through the museum and see the interior from box seats (P.S. they have student discounts!)! I loved getting a chance to see the red velvet seats and draping. On the right side of the image below, you can see the scaffolding allowing maintenance to refurbish the space. The museum was mostly forgettable, although I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the array of costumes and chandeliers.
Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala
At this point we had worked up quite an appetite, so we stepped into a small diner for lunch. We caffeinated (remember we still haven’t slept) with espresso and Coca-Cola, and I enjoyed a delicious saffron risotto. Although Italy is known for it’s pasta, risotto is a preferred delicacy of the northern region. The rice is grown mostly along the Po River, and is a particularly yummy way to fill up in the middle of the day.
Afterwards, we set off to explore Castello Sforzesco. Built 15th century on the remains of a 14th century fortification, this castle is built around a huge square. There’s no mistake of the structure’s original intent, but it is now used as a space for art and museums. We first stopped to take a break next to the large fountain out front, and even dipped our feet in to cool off!
Donald, Joel, Kate
Our primary goal here was to get a chance to see Michelangelo‘s Rondanini Pietà. This unfinished Renaissance sculpture was actually the last work Michelangelo created, up until his final days. It revisited his previous Pietà (housed in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City), in which the Virgin Mary mourns over the body of Christ. In this final sculpture however, we find different meaning even from the unfinished work. From the rear it appears that Jesus is actually holding Mary up with his back, instead of being cradled in the aforementioned Pietà. This may be interpreted as Jesus‘ comfort to Mary in her loss, as opposed to remaining lifeless. Because it will remain finished, sit in silence and take in Rondanini Pietà‘s captivating ambiguity.
Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà
As you exit behind Castello Sforzesco, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a grand park. Parco Sempione is the largest in Milan, and is full of all sorts of surprises. We noticed a huge white tent filled with people, and went to take a peek. As if this day couldn’t be more perfect, we found that the group was there to dance! We couldn’t resist joining them in the twist, and all seemed right in the world. I love when an adventure surprises me.
Leaving we grabbed a couple beers and continued our way through the park. We stumbled upon Ponte de Sirenette, which is a bridge adorned with mermaid statues (my favorite)! I could’ve stayed there all day watching the fish and turtles move through the clear water. This spot would be perfect for a picnic, because it’s large enough to offer anonymity, while still giving you a feeling of community.
Our last stop proved to be unsuccessful as we made our way to Santa Maria delle Grazie, which is a church that contains The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. One of the world’s most famous paintings, this piece depicts the final meal the 12 disciples shared with Jesus before he was crucified. Although there are many artist interpretations, this one has always held the highest esteem, and is a must for your trip to Milan. They only allow 15 people in to see the painting every 30 minutes, so make sure to book ahead so you don’t miss this.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
On our way back, we took in the 3 stunning structures pictured below. On the left is Torre Unicredit, the tallest building in Italy. It is a new addition to the Milan skyline, having been completed recently in 2011. On the right side are some of the most phenomenal structures I have ever seen. Bosco Verticale, literally meaning vertical forest, is a pair of residential towers that hosts over 900 trees. You can see in the picture how the greenery works to mitigate smog and produce oxygen. I can’t get over how incredible it looks!
Torre Unicredit / Bosco Verticale
Dinner was joined by a few more of our crew as we made our way to a small Italian restaurant. These off-the-beaten-path spots are my absolute favorite, because of each one’s individual character and quality of food. We were flooded with all the red wine we could consume, and enjoyed caprese before our main dishes arrived. A thin layer of dough was baked over a pan of pasta, dressed with mussels, clams, scallops, calamari and shrimp. I was in heaven.
Seafood Pasta and Red Wine
As is the Italian way, we sipped on limoncello after our meal, and bid the kind restaurant staff a good night. How much did all this cost you ask? Less than 15€. Italy rules.
I could not have asked for a more magical experience in Milan, and I was even more grateful for the lovely Donald and Joel for joining me. This was one of those days that I know I will remember forever, and I’m already eager to see more!
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