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Visiting Milan (Milano) in Italy

Milan's Stadio Giuseppe Meazza
Milan's Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, where the final of the UEFA Champions League was held on 28 May 2016.

Milan, the capital of Lombardy and the largest Italian city after Rome, was host to the World Expo 2015 (Universal Exposition) which ended on 31 October 2015.

Five of the 140 pavilions built for World Expo 2015 (from left: USA, UK, Malaysia, Italy, France).

This page details some of the not-to-be-missed places to visit in Milano (its local name). If you have the time you should also consider going on day trips outside Milan city to the surrounding lakes such as Lake Como (Lago di Como) less than an hour by train or Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore), which is the second largest lake in Italy.

Picture of "The Last Supper" from http://renoutfitters.com. The public is not allowed to take any pictures of the painting.

If Madrid can boast of Pablo Picasso's Guernica at the Museo Reina Sofía, Milan can equally boast of Leonardo da Vinci's fresco entitled "The Last Supper" (Il Cenacolo or L'Ultima Cena in Italian), which can be seen at the Cenacolo Vinciano, an annexe to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Since only a small group of the public (about 20) are allowed viewing at a time "in order to preserve the painting" - and for only 15 minutes - it is practically impossible to enter without prior reservation. To be sure of a ticket you normally have to book at least one week ahead, I was told by a receptionist at the Cenacolo Vinciano. So no use making a trip all the way there unless you already have a booking. Otherwise, instead of seeing "The Last Supper" you will only be seeing a "Sold Out" sign! You can book online from their website here.

But "The Last Supper" is not the only main attraction in Milan. There is also its Duomo (picture below). Duomo of Milan
Almost every Italian city has its duomo (cathedral) but I think the one in Milan beats them all. It really has to be seen to be believed. I guess it has to do with its 135 spires, giving it a very particular appearance. While admission to the cathedral itself is free, you have to pay € 12.00 to go up to the terrace by lift (7 euros if you want to climb up). You can find full details here.

€17.50 for risotto alla milanese in Milan's Rinascente
€17.50 for rice at Maio Restaurant.
For a closer look at the spires, go up to the terrace at the 7th floor of the very popular Rinascente shopping mall by the side of it. Tip: Take the lift at the little street called Via San Raffaele next to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele as it goes directly to the 7th floor (and very few people know about it, so there's no queuing up!) You can have a drink or lunch there if your budget allows for it but you are not obliged to do so. Be prepared to pay through your nose though if you want to lunch at the Maio Restaurant there. A plate of risotto alla milanese, which is simply rice cooked in chicken stock with saffron thrown in for the yellow colour (picture on right), for example costs €17.50 (the menu card shows €15.00 but when the bill comes it's €17.50 as €2.50 is added for the government tax). I later found the same dish for 8 euros in a restaurant behind the Duomo.

Click on the pictures for a bigger version.
Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper at Cenacolo Vinciano The Cenacolo Vinciano (left), an annexe to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie on the right, is where you enter to see Leonardo da Vinci's world-famous fresco. Statue of King Victor Emmanuel II at Piazza del Duomo
Tourists and students mingle around the statue of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy in the Piazza del Duomo with the iconic cathedral in the background.
Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) is at one end of the Sempione Park
Another tourist spot in Milan that draws huge crowds is the vast grounds of the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) at one end of the Sempione Park.

Pinacoteca di Brera
The courtyard leading to the Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery) which has a very good collection of Italian paintings from as far back as the 15th century. Get off at Montenapoleone but be prepared to do some walking. It's closed on Mondays.
Navigli area in Milan
The Navigli area is lined with local restaurants, cafes, bars and bookshops and is always crowded despite its unsightly* canal. To go there by the underground take the green line M2 to Porta Genova, then walk down the little street called Via Casale.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan
The illuminant glass dome of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, precursor of the shopping malls that we know today. Built in the 19th century, it still moves visitors with admiration despite the presence of the very modern Rinascente shopping mall nearby.
*I was told by a shopkeeper there that water will be pumped into the Navigli canal by the time Expo 2015 starts, so hopefully the above picture of the hideous canal (taken on 12 October, 2014) will be a thing of the past.

Sempione Park (Parco Sempione) in Milan
The part of Sempione Park (Parco Sempione) that is on the side of the Sforza castle. On the opposite end of the huge park is the Peace Arch (Arco della Pace). It was on the grounds of the Sempione Park that Milan hosted the World Expo in 1906.
Cadorna railway station in Milan
The Cadorna station (above) has more trains (one train every half hour) to and from Malpensa airport than the central station (Stazione Centrale). It is also closer to the city centre and just a short walk away from Sempione park and the Sforza castle.
cotoletta alla milanese
About the most typical Milanese dish found in all restaurants here is called "cotoletta alla milanese", a breaded butter-fried cutlet (picture above). Another Milanese dish you might want to try is "ossobuco con risotto alla milanese" (stewed marrowbones with saffron rice).

Teatro alla Scala, known simply as La Scala
Behind this humble-looking building is the world-famous Teatro alla Scala, known simply as La Scala. Inaugurated in 1778, not only Italian but other world-famous opera singers have also performed here during its long history. You cannot miss the Teatro alla Scala since one end of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele passageway leads to Piazza della Scala (the other end leading to Duomo Square).

Odds and Ends

MilanoCard for hassle-free travel in MilanTo have hassle-free travel on public transport (metro, bus or tram) you can either buy a MilanoCard or an ATM urban ticket (Abbonamento Bigiornaliero Urbano). The latter does not allow for discounts to museums but is much cheaper. Thus a 48-hour (starts from time of stamping) unlimited travel card on Milan's public transport costs €13.00 for a MilanoCard and only €8.25 for an ATM Urbano card.

Luxury shops are to be found in what is known as the "golden rectangle of fashion" (Quadrilatero d'Oro della moda) that is, the area bounded by Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant' Andrea and Via Manzoni. The nearest underground station to get off is Montenapoleone.

Chinese street craftsman at the very animated Via Dante in MilanMilan has the biggest Chinese population in the whole of Italy. As a result there is a Chinatown to the north of Sempione Park, especially along Via Paolo Sarpi and Via Bramante. Picture on the right shows a Chinese street craftsman in the very animated Via Dante (near Piazza Duomo) earning a livelihood out of carving red roses from beetroots or birds and animals out of carrots and other vegetables.

Malpensa airport:
Milan's principal airport is Malpensa airport, which is about 50 km from the city centre. There is a free shuttle bus connecting Terminal 2 with Terminal 1 but the trip takes nearly 10 minutes. So take this into account on your way home if your plane departs from Terminal 2 (which is the case with low-cost planes such as EasyJet). A one-way train ticket from Malpensa airport's Terminal 1 to the city (or vice versa) costs €12.00 and there is no reduction for a return ticket (unless it's on the same day). And don't forget to validate your ticket before you board the train! For those who prefer the bus, there are also buses from Malpensa airport to the city centre.

Tramlines criss-crossing each other in the city centre of MilanYou will find tramlines criss-crossing each other throughout the city centre of Milan. Among the numerous trams, the one that is most interesting for tourists is Tram No. 1 which passes the Cadorna train station and the city centre as well. Trams are to be avoided though unless you are in no hurry, as there are no priority lanes for them and they are often caught up in traffic jams.

Tax on prices:
When in Milan be aware that the compulsory government tax is not mentioned in hotel tariffs or restaurant menu cards in many cases. So don't be surprised when you have to pay more than what is mentioned. A bed in a hostel might cost €20 but when it's time to pay they will add €2 for the tax making it €22. And when you see a dish on a restaurant menu carte for €15 you can expect to pay €2.50 more for the tax, making it €17.50.

Apart from the museums, there is no better way to spend a rainy day than at an indoor swimming pool. So if you are a swimmer you will be glad to learn that there is a good swimming pool (la piscina Cozzi) at Viale Tunisia, 35 (metro Repubblica). You can find its opening hours at their website here. Admission fee is 7 euros. There are huge lockers but don't forget to bring a padlock. This is the first time I have come across a swimming pool where both ends are about 2m deep (at least my feet didn't touch the bottom). This is great for swimmers as it will prevent non-swimmers from crowding around the end side of the pool thus avoiding the risk of bumping into strangers!

Useful Links for Milan

Milano tourism office
Turismo Milan website
Shopping in Milan
Waiting for Expo
Public transport
Tourist Information Offices
Milano Card
Detailed tram routes
Train departure times
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