Milan- Why You Must Visit  Even If You're Not Into Fashion

Here's why.

Yes-Milan is undoubtedly one of the world’s fashion capitals. 

But even if you're not into fashion, this city has a lot to offer. 

Looking for eye popping architecture?

Look no further than the iconic Duomo di Milano, one of the world's largest—and perhaps most stunning—Gothic cathedrals. 

Marvel at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, just a heartbeat away from the Duomo. The exquisite mosaics and glass vaults are as impressive as its luxury boutiques and quality restaurants.

Museums are your thing? Then visit the Castello Sforzesco, a 15th century castle housing several museums or the impressive museum Pinacoteca di Brera.

All are within walking distance from the Duomo.

If you're a bit of a culture vulture, treat yourself to an opera or ballet performance at the opulent La Scala opera house. Again just a stone's throw from the centrally situated Duomo.

No visit to Milan is complete without an inspiring visit to view the fresco The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

Experience the culture of Milan a little further and sample one of the many "unique to Milan"  food offerings at one of a plethora of restaurants, cafes and gelaterias.

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And don’t forget to indulge the longstanding Milanese tradition of aperitivo in one of many of Milan’s rooftop watering holes.

Top 5 Must See in Milan

1. The Duomo

The Duomo is an absolute must see!

It took six centuries to build this show stopper. But it was worth the wait!!

Also known as Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary of the Nativity), this jagged, "International-Gothic" style behemoth defines the city’s traditional skyline.  

The literally thousands of flying buttresses, parapets, gargoyles, pinnacles and spires, crowned with the statues of saints that decorate the exterior of this pink hued white marble edifice, are stunning!

And the interior is pretty impressive as well.

Fifty two towering sculpted-marble columns reach majestically to the ceiling. One for each week of the year. 

The eye-catching polychrome floor, created in the 15th century, is illuminated by light that floods through the numerous intricate stained glass windows.

The floor consists of large, now well-worn, square tiles made from pink Candoglia marble from the cathedral's own quarries. They are inlaid with small slabs of black and red marble in a geometric floral design.

Adorning the walls of the cathedral are large paintings, depicting scenes from the Bible. Spread throughout the building lie skeletons of various saints in glass caskets. 

Positioned in the right transept of the cathedral is the statue of St Bartholomew Flayed (1562).

This work depicts the martyred Bartholomew, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, who was flayed alive and then beheaded. 

He stands completely naked, wearing his own skin and his decapitated head thrown over his shoulder. Despite it's rather gruesome subject, it is one of the most realistic artistic depictions of the saint.

It's definitely well worth a look.

After viewing the interior, you will want to climb the stairs or take the elevator (for a fee) up to the rooftop terrace of the Duomo.

Why you may ask?

Because here you can enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Milan.

Visitors are allowed to walk the perimeter of the roof which is covered in openwork pinnacles and spires crowned with statues that overlook the city.

On the highest spire is a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary, the Madonnina, representing the heart and soul of Milan.

 So a trip to the roof is a definite must do!!

We bought the "Skip the Line" ticket which included admission and guided tour of the interior of the cathedral, then an elevator to the guided tour of the roof. 
Book your "Skip the Line" ticket here.

2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Named after Victor Emanuele II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, this stunning structure is just steps away from the Duomo.

It comprises two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in a glass domed octagon, connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala.

And yes-the Galleria boasts many of the luxury retailers.

But it is also home to some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan, such as Biffi Caffè, the Savini restaurant, Borsalino hat shop and the Art Nouveau classic, Camparino.

3. La Scala

A 3 minute walk from the Galleria is Teatro alla Scala. 

Long regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world the exterior isn't tremendously impressive. But the interior of this "Holy Grail"  of opera and ballet is sumptuous and well worth the experience.

Most of Italy's greatest operatic artists and many of the finest singers from around the world have appeared at La Scala. Maria Callas, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti to name a few. 

La Scala was the venue chosen by the composers Verdi, Puccini and others to debut their works.

Ballet greats Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn partnered for many performances at La Scala. Most renowned were Romeo and Juliet, Marguerite and Armand and Giselle.  

That said-if you don't manage to snag a ticket for a performance, consider taking a tour of Museo Teatrale Alla Scala-the La Scala museum.

Here you have the opportunity to view the opera house from one of the interior balconies, possibly listen to a rehearsal and view both opera and ballet memorabilia.

Book your "Skip the Line" ticket here for a 11/2 hour English speaking tour in the morning.

Book your "Skip the Line" ticket here for a 1 hour English speaking tour in the afternoon.

4. Sforza Castle and Museums.

Take a 15 minute walk along Via Dante from the Duomo and you will arrive at Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle). 

It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan, on on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification. His son, Ludovico became a great patron of artists. Most notably- Leonardo Da Vinci who he commissioned The Last Supper as well as numerous frescos in Sforza Castle.

There are many museums within the Castello complex.

The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco has an art collection that includes masterpieces by Canaletto, Titian, Tintoretto and more.

There is The Museum of Musical Instruments, The Egyptian Museum and The Museum of  Ancient Art.

The Antique Furniture and Wooden Sculpture Museum and others including The Museum of Rondanini Pietà which house Michelangelo’s final sculpture, “La Pietà Rondanini.

If you haven't had your fill of art- view another outstanding collection at the Pinacoteca di Brera. It's a 10 minute walk from Sforza Castle or the Duomo.

Works by Bellini, Tintoretto, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens  and Canaletto abound, as well as the iconic 'The Kiss' by Francisco Hayez

For a guided tour of the castle and Michelangelo's La Pietà Rondanini, book your "Skip the Line" ticket here. 

5. The Last Supper

This huge Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, commissioned by Ludovico of Castle Sforza fame, covers over 40 sqm of the dining room wall of the former Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The fresco depicts the emotional reactions of each Apostle the moment Christ declares that one of them will betray him.

The ever-innovative Leonardo chose to abandon the traditional method of fresco painting. Instead, he painted the scene "dry" on the wall of the refectory using tempera and oil on a gypsum preparation.

Sadly, the paint surface quickly deteriorated because it was painted using this experimental treatment. 

For centuries it was subjected to invasive restorations and heavy-handed re-touchings.

Fortunately more recent successful restorative methods have been used. They have eliminated traces of paint applied in previous attempts at restoration and brought back, as closely as possible, the original colors. 

Various measures are now in place to protect the paint from deterioration.

One of which is to restrict visitors to a group of 25 people every 15 minutes to ensure that the fresco is maintained at room temperature.

So with this in mind it is imperative to book well in advance.  

The availability of tickets to view one of the world’s most poignant and beautiful works of art is very limited so plan ahead.

To guarantee a viewing, book your "Skip the Line"  ticket here.

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