When one thinks of Milan, one often thinks of only one thing… fashion. And it is true, for out of this world shopping Milan has few rivals, but there is so much more on offer in this busy metropolis. So see the art, see the architecture, and be sure you see the city’s surroundings.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Whilst not quite the oldest shopping centre in the world, Galleria Vittoria Emmanuele certainly makes the top ten list. Designed by Mengoni in 1877, the galleria was opened without the architect’s presence as he had tumbled to his death from his own construction just days before its completion!
The beautiful structure with its high glass domed roof offers photo opportunities galore. For those with loaded wallets, there are a fantastic array of luxury shop ranging from mid-range designer brands to top of the range clothing boutiques. For those not quite so willing to splash out on designer gear, the galleria is right next to the Duomo with views over its roof tops. There are plenty of affordable places to eat in the galleria and there is no better way to kill an hour than window-shopping and people-watching from one of the bars or restaurants.
Hidden amongst the mosaics on the floor of the galleria is an image of a bull to represent the tradition of bull fighting in the city. It is a popular tourist ritual to spin on your heel on the bull’s testicles grant yourself good luck. Unfortunately, repeated heel grinding over the years has worn a hole into this mosaic work!
Lake Como has something to offer for both the summer and winter visitor. Make the one hour drive out from Milan to enjoy the lakeside scenery and the stylish town of Como itself. The third largest Italian lake, Lake Como is popular with watersports and boating enthusiasts, with sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing on offer in the summer and more peaceful cruises and gondola rides in the winter. At Christmas time there is even skating on the lake!
There are great shops and restaurants in the city of Como along with two historical sites (the Basilica of Sant’Abbondio and Villa Olmo) which are both worth sticking your nose into. For refreshments on the lake, Lido di Lenno is the place. The bar and restaurant has its own manmade beach perfect for dabbling your toes in the water as you drink and there is a natural beach of the same name to bask on after you have rehydrated and re-energised. If you make it to the fork in the lake, stop in the pretty town of Bellagio for a look around and to enjoy the colourful waterside houses.
The Last Supper
A trip to see Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ is on many people’s ‘bucket lists’ and so it’s not surprising that it is often difficult to gain tickets. Fortunately, viewing groups are limited, so if you are lucky enough to secure a ticket, you will usually get a quiet and unobstructed viewing experience. Situated inside the food hall of Santa Maria delle Grazie, this vast masterpiece is breathtakingly beautiful and fragile. The painting is constantly being restored due to the painting technique used to create it, the rough treatment it received during the Napoleonic war, the collapse of the convent during the bombing in World War II, and poor restoration work in the 19th Century. The painting shows the moment of Christ’s betrayal by Judas and is a wonderful study of human emotion and, like da Vinci’s other masterpieces, leaves a lasting impression on a observer.
Monumental in both name and nature, this colossal cemetery sits a fifteen minute drive from the city centre. Whilst graveyards are not normally a destination for holidaymakers, Monumental Cemetery is one of a kind and should not be missed. The scale of the place hits you at the imposing entrance gates and continues throughout as you wend your way past over ornate tombs and the human sized statues of angels, nymphs, soldiers and Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Some of the family mausoleums are even as large as small houses! If you don’t make it to see The Last Supper in the flesh, then there is a bronze version to be admired at the cemetery. Admission is free and you can easily spend several hours exploring without seeing all there is to see.