Milan is definitely not a city to be missed on your Italian odyssey. But if your visit to Milan is limited to a brief two days as mine was, you can still cram a lot in – including a visit to Lake Como. So, put on your most fashionable shoes and let’s get going…
My first piece of advice as you’ve probably heard a million times while travelling is to start your day early. We arrived in Milan at 7am groggy and bleary-eyed, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise when we got to the Duomo, our first stop, far earlier than expected. Grab some gelato for second breakfast and marvel at the gothic masterpiece, its spires towering over the fast-paced city.
Although it can look imposing from afar, understandable since it is the secound largest cathedral in Italy (the larger St. Peter’s Basilica is in Vatican City), close up it is a delicate array of intricate sculptures that you could gape at for hours. Conveniently right next door is the world’s oldest shopping centre, our next stop, the majestic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Light filters through the glass ceiling as you wander over mosaics amongst luxury brands, and, if you’re like me, pretending you could afford anything there and being thoroughly disappointed when you look at your bank balance.
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Today the metro is your best friend so jump on and head to your next stop, Parco Sempione to have an Aperol spritz at 11 am (a must) before exploring Castello Sforzesco. Built by the Duke of Milan in the 15th Century the courtyards and the neighbouring park, where we had our 11 am beverage, are beautiful spots for a walk and are most importantly, free! The museums inside the castle (unfortunately not free) are a cultural insight into Milan’s history and include an unfinished Michelangelo sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà. The highlight of the castle for me was, of course, the number of cats I saw there.
If you’re a football fan do not fret as Milan is home to the magnificent San Siro Stadium. Ranking in the top 10 largest stadiums in Europe and the largest football stadium in Italy, San Siro is home to one of football’s greatest rivalries, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Get a ticket to explore inside to gain an insight into the history of football in Milan. Finally, exhausted from your jam-packed day, settle down for some of Italy’s famous food. Try to find a local place, i.e. wherever the menu is not in English. Tripadvisor has some great recommendations. With our very limited Italian and a bit of help from our old friend Google Translate, we managed to order Calzones in a small local restaurant and I could not have been happier as I was in food-heaven. If you were wondering, my food-heaven, like a Calzone, involves a lot of cheese.
Another early start as you grab a bag and rush to Milano Centrale (the Central train station) and get the train to Varenna on Lake Como. When you arrive at the village wrapped around a corner of the lake, with small stone bridges arching over the deep blue water, there’s a lot to take in as you grab your morning espresso (and gelato). At some point throughout your day when you’ve explored the many Instagram-worthy views of Lake Como from Varenna, take the ferry over to what is known as the “Pearl of the Lake”, Bellagio.
Despite the visitors, I didn’t find the town to be too overcrowded, and the cobbled streets framed by rust coloured buildings and little shops are so charming that it wouldn’t have mattered. The food was delicious, as was the Aperol spritz and especially, my personal highlight, the small bottle of prosecco I was able to drink against the tree-lined foreshore of Lake Como, thanks to Europe’s open container laws. On the ferry back we got a glorious view not only of the lake but of Bellagio from afar, perched on the water’s edge and on the other side, the picturesque Varenna nestled in the hills as we made our way back there.
A short train ride later and we were back in Milan, just in time for aperitivo. A hubbub of activity around this time and late into the night is Navigli, an area along a canal in Southern Milan. Restaurants and bars line the shores spilling out onto the streets, so find yourself a spot outside and order some drinks as sunset blankets the city in orange and pink hues. If you’re looking for a great night out for your final night in Milan you can definitely stay there for hours, hopping from one bar to another and finally ending up at one of the legendary clubs in the area. It truly is the heart of Milan’s nightlife.
It’s hard to wave goodbye to the sophistication, mouth-watering meals and architectural intricacy of Milan but before you know it you’re whisked away onto your next adventure.
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