This post was most recently updated on August 6th, 2019
Milan is still a mystery to me. With a two-day introduction, I left without really getting a feel for the place. That’s okay. All the more reason to go back some day! But here’s what I did while I was there…
Where to start?
I traveled to Milan with my husband, daughter and son-in-law (who had lived in Milan for several months as a missionary). We arrived on a sunny afternoon in late April, checked into our rented Milan apartment, and then went exploring. First task? Creating a menu and finding a market. We were anxious to prepare some home-cooked meals now that we were in an apartment with a kitchen. We bought food for breakfasts and two nights worth of Italian pasta dinners for the four of us for about 50 euros. Who says you can’t eat great food on a budget?
National Monument Cemetery in Milan
We then headed to the National Monument Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale). A graveyard?Really? Yes! The sculptures in this cemetery are amazing! Many of the people buried here were honored citizens or wealthy merchants, and their memorials were made by renowned artists. Not only are they beautiful, but the sculptures also provoke an emotional response as they depict the mourning of family members left behind. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because when we arrived at the cemetery, it was closed. 🙁
I’d been anxious to see the Milan Duomo, known as one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. So that’s where we headed next. It really is an amazing structure! It is the fifth largest church in the world and it took nearly six centuries to build. The details are incredible, and it kind of reminds me of lace because it is so intricate.
We didn’t stay long because we wanted to see the Milan Galleria and the Sforza Castle, too. The Galleria is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, and you can only describe it as elegant. And quite captivating! This is what it looked like in 1880, three years after it was finished:
It really is the glass ceiling that is so amazing, and there are some very beautiful and high-class stores in this mall. There was also a chocolate fountain in one of the windows!
Now to the castle of Milan — also known as the Sforza Castle. It was built during the 15th century by the duke of Milan, and at one time, was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Some of its original frescoes were created by Leonardo da Vinci. Although heavily damaged during WWII bombing, it has been restored and now houses several museums. The castle is situated in the midst of a beautiful park with fountain and modern art, right in the city!
Because we arrived after museum hours, we enjoyed lazily sitting on the lawn, people-watching, and working on our appetite. Finally it was time to head back to our apartment to make dinner: ravioli with pesto sauce, bruschetta with olive oil and mozzarella cheese, and a spring salad. Plus our favorite Oasis orange drink!
A more indepth exploration
Our first full day in Milan, we awoke with great anticipation. Day one was just a preview; now we were going back to explore everything in greater detail! But we weren’t welcomed by the sunshine that graced us the day before. Out came the umbrellas and we headed back to the Cimitiere Monumentale. Here, I guess it was fitting to have the rain. It certainly cast an air of melancholy over the visit. One could really spend hours in the cemetery, studying the detailed sculptures, looking for well-known Milanese graves, and appreciating the solitude and peace.
Back to the Milan Duomo
Eventually the rain started to let up a little and we went back to the Duomo, this time to explore inside and out (and on top!). Not all cathedrals allow one to explore the rooftop, so this is a real treat. Tickets for the roof are 8 euros for adults, if you are willing to climb the steps…and 13 euros if you prefer to use an elevator. There is no charge to enter the inside of the cathedral, unless you want permission to take photos. There’s a small fee of 2 euros for that privilege.
Inside the Duomo:
On top of the Duomo:
Details on the outside of the Duomo:
The best place for Panzerotti!
After visiting the Duomo, we were ready for a hearty lunch. And we knew exactly where to go!
Less than a half block from the Galleria, on via Santa Radegonda, you will find this amazing Panzerotti shop. You won’t have any problem finding it, because there will most likely be a long line of people waiting to buy these amazing “bread-stuffed-with-meat-or-cheese-or-tomato” sandwiches. Only they’re not really sandwiches. Maybe more like a pizza folded in half with softer dough, but better. And very reasonable! You can buy two for about 5 euros.
Sforza Castle and museums
With a full stomach, we were ready to explore the many museums at the Sforza castle. It started raining again, so we were glad to be headed indoors. The museums include ancient art, musical instruments, Egyptian antiquities, archaelogy, and antique wooden furniture. There were some amazing exhibits! Admission to the museums is 8 euros for adults.
And the Sforza’s most renowned piece: an unfinished Pieta by Michelangelo:
So you see, I really only caught a very small glimpse of all that Milan has to offer. That’s why much of it is still a mystery to me. I’d love to return someday and explore it more, but for now I will be grateful for that glimpse. It may be a mystery yet, but it was a wonderful one!
Tips and Info:
- The apartment we stayed in (in April 2014) was about 375 euros for three nights. It had everything we needed for two couples.
- There is no charge to enter the Cimitero Monumentale, the Milan Duomo, or the courtyard of the Sforza castle.
- If you’re having a hard time finding a public restroom, there’s a McDonald’s near the Galleria and Duomo.
- Sforza Castle and Museums
- Milan Duomo
- Luini Panzerotti review by Spotted by Locals
The best part about this article is that you can download it free and take it with you. Just go to this link at GPSmyCity to download; if you pay a small fee to upgrade, it will be your GPS tour guide. Then you can view it without internet or data charges! I’ll get a few cents, and you’ll enjoy a great trip to Milan!
When we stayed in Milan, we also made a day trip by train to Lake Como, an incredibly beautiful area, which I highly recommend. Click here for a photo essay of our Lake Como adventure.
Where would you like to return to, so that you can explore some more?
Oh man!! Those panzerotti we ate are enough reason for me to return to Milan some day! 🙂 I also loved getting to see the city of Milan from the top of the duomo, even if I huffed and puffed up all those stairs to the rooftop. I would DEFINITELY go back to Milan someday to explore more. 🙂
Milan is a great city to visit.
I only regret visiting it in winter – it was not possible to go to the roof of the Cathedral and the photos of it look amazing!
I didn’t make it out to Milan on my Italy trip last year but you’ve just made me want to go back and visit Milan INSTANTLY! And as always, I am now hungry for Italian food. Great post!
Thanks for this post! Definitely gave me a bit of insight into Milan even though I’ve never been there before (or Italy). Hope you get a chance to go back there too someday! 🙂
I have no real knowledge of Milan (other than its place in the fashion world) so I enjoyed your post and what you were able to experience. Good idea on saving money on the food and I for one absolutely love visiting cemeteries. The stained glass is gorgeous!
Did you visit the Santa Maria della Grazie to see the Last Supper? Did you visit La Scala? We will be visiting Milan next summer and I want to visit both of these sites and want to know how difficult it is to get in.
No, unfortunately we didn’t make it to either. Our son-in-law had tried to get us tickets to a show at the Opera house, but it just didn’t work out with our schedule. But we have something to look forward to if we ever return.
Love this post! I have never been to the Cimitero Monumentale…an excuse to go back to Milan! My favourite area is the Navigli neighborhood, check it out if you get the chance to go back there.
Thank you, Davide, for the tip. I hope I do get to return!
I loved everything about Milan! I would love to visit. Everything was
amazing to see. Would be so interesting to see it in person, I love to
travel most anywhere:) Thank you for your time. It was so interesting
to learn about Milan:)
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We’ve been to Italy a number of times but somehow haven’t gotten to Milan yet. Your photos make me want to book a trip right now! I am already drooling over the Panzerotti, which look delicious!
And of all the places we ate panzarotti, this place in Milan was hands down the best!
I have yet to explore Italy but Milan will most certainly be high on the list of Cities to visit. Being a football (Soccer) fan I know most about the city from a football standpoint so your post here has been very helpful in having a bit more of an insight to the City.
What a whilrlwind adventure! The Milan Galleria looks magnificent and definitely something to check out. I’ve only been to Milan for a single day in 1989 so I need to get back there asap!
Loved the architecture! Loved the detail on Milan Galleria and the Sforza Castle. Surely refer to this post in future! Too many to see here. Thanks for narrowing them down a little!
I would love to explore Milan, I have changed lots of trains there, but never explored the city and I’m only 2 hours away! The architecture of the Duomo looks beautiful and I didn’t know you could go up to the top, I bet the view is good up there. The castle looks good and I need to check out the mall too!
The view is spectacular from the roof of the Duomo! If you’re only two hours away, be sure to go! And also go to Lake Como – one of my favorite places in Italy. Ever!
You packed a TON into a short trip! And you’re right, the Duomo really does look like lace – I’d never actually thought about it in those terms before 🙂 Milan has never been at the top of my list of Italian cities, but it looks like I need to move it up a slot or two… thank you for sharing!
Especially since it’s a good jumping off place for Lake Como!
That’s funny. I was in Milan for an equally short time but I felt I got to know it well – no doubt I was naive. It helped to stay just steps away from the Duomo and the Galleria, and I agree that they are both spectacular. My biggest regret was not being able to get tickets for the Last Supper. I never thought of visiting the castle though. Great tip.
You took us on a virtual tour of Milan with your pictures! The church looks so beautiful, and I totally fell for that picture of the Galleria! The glass ceiling looks so perfect! The castle is stunning as well! Hope to be here soon!
I must admit I was in Milan years ago at the start of my honeymoon. We were in a rush to get to Venice and didn’t give Milan the time it deserves. Like you said, though, all the more reason to go back! I can’t believe it took 600 years to build the Duomo! When I hear facts like that, it just just blows my mind. I love those statues in the cemetery and can see why it’s a big draw. Such amazing artwork! Just what you’d expect from Italy.
Before i visited Milan, I thought it to be a fashion capital of the world. However, it’s beautiful architecture (as shown in your pics and description) and the food blew my mind. I can go back just for the panzerotti
Saved as a favorite, I like your blog!