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.
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?