After spending 3 days chilling out on the shores of Lake Como, we jumped on the train and made our way to Milan's Central Station. There are direct trains from the local stations round Como and the outlying towns and the journey isn't overly long or too taxing. We did have a bit of excitement when the Garda stormed the train at one of the stops and began hunting through the carriages for some bloke who had, presumably, committed some heinous crime. OR, he may not have paid his fare. I wasn't entirely sure and thought it inappropriate to ask. Once the serial killer/fare dodger was ejected from the train and escorted from the station in the back of a police van, we were able to continue on our merry way to Milano.
Our first port of call was the Duomo di Milano, which you cannot fail to gape at when you enter from any side of the central Piazza. I wasn't sure anything could top The Vatican but the Duomo manages. You might not have quite the same chance of spotting the Pope as you might at St Peter's Basilica, but you'll just have to get over that particular disappointment.
The incredible Duomo Milano
One of the many views from the roof of the Duomo
The cathedral is of gothic design and took six centuries to complete. My Mum has often told me that Rome wasn't built in a day and this is further proof that the Italians are not ones for rushing into hastily constructed buildings. Fair play to them, though, because there isn't a part of the Duomo that fails to impress. It really is incredible.
The Duomo is the second largest church in Italy and 5th in the world. In addition to this, it also boasts the largest organ in Italy with a staggering 225 pipes, which was built at the request of Mussolini. I always thought of him more as a trumpet man, but there you go.
Entry to the Duomo is free, but you need a ticket to access the roof. The price might seem a little high at first glance, but getting up close to the intricate facades of the building and the views afforded across the city are worth every Euro. There is also a museum dedicated to the Duomo, located in nearby Piazza Reale. This shows a collection of works associated with the cathedral and is worth visiting if you're interested in finding out more about its history.
Maybe don't go if you're afraid of heights. Otherwise, what are you waiting for??
Szforza Castle was originally built in the 15thCentury and has been expanded over the years. Sitting on a 14th Century fortification, it now hosts a number of the city's important historical museums and artworks.
The Castle is set next to the ancient city walls of Milan and you do not have to pay to enter the courtyard and admire the buildings. There are charges in place for some of the museums, though. However, since you're in Italy, you can guarantee that you'll end up surrounded by works of some of the finest artists in history. Who could argue with Tintoretto, Canaletto and Michelangelo? They also have manuscripts by some bloke called Leonardo da Vinci.
The grounds at Sforza Castle
The Castle's interior grounds
On Via Filodrammatici sits the leading Italian Opera House and world famous venue, Teatro alla Scala. La Scala has a long and diverse history and has welcomed many of the world's leading singers and composers. You can purchase tickets for performances via their website, but do bear in mind that, depending what's on, these can be quite pricey.
If you don't fancy sitting through an operatic performance, you can visit La Scala's onsite museum. This displays collections of costumes, painting and sculptures which detail the history of the Teatro, as well as Opera in general. AND you won't have to listen to any high pitched singing.
La Scala underwent a major transformation from 2004-2006 and then an unfortunate period of infighting between leading members of staff. They all seem to be speaking now, though. No doubt they talked their problems out over an espresso and some panettone.
On the evening I visited, it was rainy and wet and yet there was a long line of smartly dressed Italians, patiently waiting to enter for an evening of entertainment. I felt slightly undressed and made a quick exit so that no one suspected me of being a local down and out.
Connecting the Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza della Scala is the wonderful Galleria Vittoria Emmanuel 11. This is one of the world's oldest shopping centres and is entirely covered with cast iron and glass roof which covers the street between the two main squares.
I'm not a fan of shopping because I have no patience, but it's well worth the frustration of being stuck behind glamorous ladies with tiny Chihuahuas and numerous Prada shopping bags, just to stand in the middle of the passageway and have a look at the four mosaics displaying the coats of arms of the capitals of the old Italian kingdom.
Tradition dictates that you should spin around three times on your heels on the testicles of the Bull depicted in Turin's coat or arms in order to bring you good luck. It seems that this popular practice has resulted in the bull now having a hole where his testicles used to be. I didn't try it myself, but do let me know how you get on if you do. I'd like photographic evidence, if you don't mind.
Take the bull by the....
Galleria Vittoria Emmanuel 11
Across the Piazza from the Duomo is the Museo del Novecento, where we bought tickets for a temporary Andy Warhol exhibition that happened to be on when we were in town. The gallery is in a beautiful building, which is used to permanently house works by twentieth century artists. It boasts the country's widest collection of home grown and international art. The Museum also has a Café (with views of the Piazza) and a book shop.
The Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci is another great stop in Milan. It's absolutely massive inside and out and you could easily spend a day learning about transport, energy, space, science and, not forgetting, the works of LDV. From the interactive displays and the fabulous original Da Vinci sketches and drawings, you could easily miss the fact that this museum has a war arsenal in their back lot.
Seriously, there's a full submarine parked outside, in addition to various planes, spitfires and all manner of locomotives. it's a really impressive museum and its all encompassing nature ensures that there's something to interest everyone.
Stuff your metro...surely THIS is the way to travel around Milan, no?
Because every museum should have a submarine parked at the back of their building
Whatever you choose to do with your time in Milan, there's no shortage of sights to keep you busy.