The other day I shared a couple of photos of Milan’s impressive Duomo, but today I have some more details about Milan I’d like to share from my recent day trip. One thing that my Italian professors at school drove into my head in the semesters before I left for Italy was that Italy varies greatly from north to south, and there’s even a political group from the country’s wealthy, industrial north that wants to separate from the poorer, agrarian south. Another idea I came to Italy with drilled in my head is that Italy’s three biggest cities are sorts of capitals of each region: Rome, the country’s capital is also the biggest city in central Italy, Milan the biggest in the north, and Naples the southern metropolis. Despite my Milanese Italian professor’s advice to not bother visiting Milan, I was determined to visit so that I could see Italy’s biggest cities and compare. Milan is forty minutes from Bologna on the high speed Frecciarossa (a trip which would otherwise take three hours), so it’s an easy day trip if you plan well. Now, without further rambling, here are some highlights.
Duomo—Milan’s cathedral is the fourth biggest in Europe after St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London, and the cathedral in Seville. Its gothic interior is very impressive and dark with a beautiful stained glass depiction of Jesus’s life. One of the highlights, in my opinion, was climbing the steps up to the roof. While Milan from high up looks like it could be an American city, what struck me most were the details on the facade of the Duomo itself. Even high up in small, hidden places there are incredible statues. It costs seven or eight euros to ascend on the stairs (or twelve if you take the elevator), but it’s absolutely worth the trip up, and the stairs aren’t treacherous like those in Bologna’s Torre degli Asinelli.
Marc Chagall Exhibit–In Milan’s Palazzo Reale, there is currently a fantastic exhibit of Marc Chagall’s paintings. If you show your train tickets for same day from the Freccia, you get two tickets for the price of one, and showing your student ID also gets you a discount. I hadn’t seen much of Chagall’s work before visiting this show, and after visiting he became one of my favorite artists. The exhibition organizes the paintings according to different periods of Chagall’s life, so it’s easy to glean something about his background (ties to homeland Russia and new home France, his first wife and her subsequent death, his second wife, his views on the war, etc.). All in all, it’s very well curated with an extensive collection and definitely merits the trip to Milan.
La Scala Museum–Milan’s opera house, La Scala, is among the most famous in Italy. My parents and I didn’t make it to see an opera during our day trip, but we did visit the museum. In truth, it was slightly disappointing. If you visit the museum, you get to step into one of the theater’s boxes and look out over the hall, and that was quite impressive, but there wasn’t much to the rest of the museum. It was cool to see La Scala, but I think I’d rather go and actually see an opera instead of visiting the museum in the future.
Pizzeria Sibilia—For lunch, we stopped by a pizzeria crowded with Milanese business men and women on their lunch break. The pizza was fantastic, but the service was relatively abrupt and we felt much more rushed (which is really rare to feel rushed out of your table at a restaurant in Italy). The pace of life in Milan struck me as much faster with people bumping into you without an apology as they run to catch their train at the station or people at restaurants who don’t linger. That said, the pizza was among the best I’ve had in Italy. The restaurant isn’t too far from the Sforzesco Castle, so we went for a walk through the grounds after eating but didn’t visit the museums inside as we wanted to make sure we had enough time to devote to the Chagall exhibit.
Overall, I had a good introduction to Milan. I’m flying in and out of the city a couple of times to go on other trips before I leave, so seeing da Vinci’s The Last Supper, going to the opera at La Scala, and exploring Milan’s Naviglio neighborhood all top my list for a return visit.