Milan was not a destination that I thought of visiting. A friend of mine moved to the city a while ago so it was a great excuse to visit and catch up and I discovered just how easy it was to see Milan in one day.
The first thing that surprised me about the city was that part of it was built on a canal, much like Venice. This area is known as Navigli and it is undoubtedly the party district. It’s the perfect place to sip an aperitivo and watch the sunset and let’s not forget people watching. I was stunned by the style all around me and it left me feeling a bit like a drab country mouse.
How to see Milan in one day
My day started with taking the M1 metro line to town. As I stepped off the escalator my jaw dropped. In front of me was a newly cleaned, sparkling white, stunning Duomo.
The queue was incredibly long and it would have been advisable to purchase the tickets in advance, but it was worth the wait! There were automatic machines available, but these were not working when I was there.
This beautiful gothic church began its construction at the beginning of the 14th century and was finally complete in 1965. It has 3600 statues, 135 gargoyles, 700 figures and 135 spires. There is more than enough to see to keep you busy for quite some time. The Duomo is the 5th largest Christian church in the world.
Be sure to either climb the stairs to the roof or take a lift (on the left-hand side of the cathedral). The view from the top and seeing the spectacular spires up close is more than worth the wait. Look out for the famous gilded Madonnina on the tallest spire.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
You can’t visit Milan and not go shopping! Just across from the Duomo is one of the world’s oldest shopping arcades. The neoclassic building was finished in 1877. The glass roof is amazing! If you are in the market for a new Louis Vuitton bag, Prada sunglasses or a Versace outfit they are all here. You can also relax after a hectic morning at any of the huge selection of restaurants and cafés.
Luini for lunch
By now we were pretty hungry so we headed to an institution in Milan, Luini for panzerotti. Originally from Pugli, this savoury stuffed pastry soon became a favourite of the Milanese. The bakery was started in 1949 and Nonna Giuseppina’s recipe is still followed and kept a secret to this day. Get there before the lunchtime rush if you want to avoid the queue for these pillows of cheesy deliciousness.
With lunch over the next stop was La Scala one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Even if you are not an opera fan it is still worth a visit. The interior is opulent and has a baroque feel to it, with stunning chandeliers everywhere. The original building was destroyed by fire then rebuilt and opened in 1778. There is also a museum to visit with costumes, manuscripts and some really good interactive displays.
I did not have enough time to visit the castle but did stroll through the courtyard area to admire the architecture followed by a walk in the beautiful Sempione Park. The park was a great respite from the heat of the day.
The Arch of Peace
This neoclassical arch marks one of the historic gateways to the city, Porta Sempione. Napoleon originally planned that it would be a triumphal arch, but with his defeat, the name was changed in 1815. If you look carefully you can see the clock tower from the castle in the background.
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is painted on the walls of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. It is an extremely delicate work of art. For this reason, the number of people allowed in each day is very limited. I was incredibly lucky to be able to see it, thanks to my wonderful friend who arranged the ticket for me. It was a highlight of my day in Milan. They allow a maximum of 25 people in at a time and then limit you to a 15 minute viewing period. If you want to visit you need to book months in advance.
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
This church is also known as Milan’s Sistine Chapel. It took 30 years to restore. The vibrant frescos dating from the 16th century are breathtaking. There are around 4000 sq metres painted on the walls and the roof. They are incredibly beautiful. I spent about 20 minutes here, but I honestly could have spent an hour or more. If I ever go back to Milan this will be one of my first stops.
We ended our day back where we started having seen an incredible amount of Milan in one day. We jumped on a tram and made our way back to the Duomo. La Rinascente is a fancy department store, with an amazing array of gifts for foodies on the top floor. They also have a rooftop bar and restaurant with some of the best views of the spires of the Duomo. It is a very stylish venue so we just had to end the day with a glass of prosecco.
If you are looking for nightlife this is the only place to go. Restaurants and bars line the canals and the choice is daunting in itself. Enjoy la dolce vita, listen to the live music and just watch the world by. What could be a better way to end the perfect day?
I stayed at the upmarket Atmos Luxe Design Hotel which you can read about in a separate post I wrote.
I had no idea what Milan was like or even if it was possible to see Milan in one day. I was pleasantly surprised by the city. It’s open spaces, the stylish people and the beautiful architecture make it a destination that is worth a visit. Would I go back? In a heartbeat!
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