Warning: image-heavy post to follow. Said images may or may not provoke extreme desire to be in Milan rather than your current location.
My extended weekend jaunt to Milan was actually back in October, but as I sit in my apartment in Paris listening to the rain patter outside I can’t help but wish I was back in the beautiful Italian sunshine. I have to say I didn’t have high expectations for Milan because many people had told me it was just another commercial city with not much to do but shop. While I did notice it was like one giant shopping mall, I have to say that there was so much more to the city and I really enjoyed my time there.
I’ve listed seven of the things I loved seeing and doing in Milan below…
1. The Duomo.
It’s an obvious one to start… Anyone who has visited Milan has of course seen this beautiful church and example of gothic architecture. It was my first stop after I put my bag down at my accommodation. It’s definitely worth going to the top to enjoy the views and all the intricate details of the building’s exterior. I took the stairs as a way of counteracting the pizza I was about to eat and to be honest it wasn’t that bad! The worst part about taking the stairs is that they are quite narrow and winding, making you feel a bit dizzy and having to be careful of other people taking the same staircase in the other direction to you. I went in the morning around 10-11am and the light was perfect.
2. Looking at vintage stores in the Brera neighbourhood.
Brera is quite an upmarket area but it’s also quite artsy, with a few little boutiques and vintage stores. I took a peak inside Cavalli e Nastri, a beautiful and quite well-known vintage store with deigner gems from 1920 to 1980. There is also Vintage Delirium and Madame Pauline Vintage, which I didn’t get to.
The area is also very close to Castello Sforzesco, where I enjoyed walking through the grounds and taking some pictures of the exterior façades in the courtyards. It was even more pleasant to then continue the walk up through Parco Sempione and bask in the sunshine for a while before eventually reaching the Arco della Pace.
3. Visiting a bustling weekend market
This was definitely a highlight during my stay. There are markets in every city and town, but while I was wandering through this one on a Saturday morning, I watched the locals buying their fresh fish, meat, vegetables, spices, flowers and almost anything you could imagine. I pictured them going back home afterward to prepare a big meal for their family and I couldn’t help but take joy from the fact that the stereotype is true — these are people who enjoy the simple pleasures in life: food and family.
The market also has many shoes, clothing, homewares and fabric stalls. I picked up the cutest pair of earrings from one of them… The only thing I actually bought for myself in Milan due to easyjet’s terrible one item of hand luggage policy!
4. Peeking inside one of the city’s many churches.
I’m not usually interested in churches… A church is a church, right? But there was something about San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (La Sistina di Milano) that made me really appreciate the beauty of their interiors and the attention to detail that is required to make them so stunning. Perhaps it’s an Italian thing?
5. Sipping an Aperol Spritz as the sun goes down over the Naviglio Grande canal
The light reflecting off the water of the canal was one of the most beautiful things, and made wandering along the edge such a pleasant experience. It’s also a great spot for people watching — with families and tourists enjoying their gelati in the October sun, and young and old groups of friends having an aperitivo on the terrace of a café. It was also the perfect way to end a day of touring the city on the back of a scooter (grazie Federico)!
6. Seeing Milan from above at the Palazzo Lombardia
This building is the main seat of government for the Lombardy region, and is open to the public on Sundays. It’s free to go to the top floor and take in the 360 degree view of the city. You can see the coming together of the old and the new, with a view including both the Duomo (if you squint quite hard) and the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest); two residential buildings that mitigate smog and produce oxygen thanks to the trees around the outside.
7. Simply wandering the streets and finding beautiful things everywhere
Even the public transportation is beautiful in Milan… the old trams are still functioning and are a beautiful juxtaposition to the modern boutiques and apartments.
The Milanese also dress impeccably. Coming from Paris, which has a reputation for being chic in a je ne sais quoi effortlessly cool way, I can honestly say the people in Milan were just oozing style and taste. Here, it was the attention to detail that made someone look chic (which was almost everyone). Whereas in Paris, it’s not a large part of the population who actually seem to have good taste in style and it’s also a different kind of style. Among the Milanese it could be just the flash of a silk scarf around a woman’s neck, a refined leather accessory, a suit tailored to perfection or the way playful socks peak out from under very serious trousers.