Three days in Milan - architecture and art to stun the senses - day 1

Milan has a mixed reputation as a city. There are those who fondly think of fashion, a land of models strolling down the streets or those whose thoughts turn to football and the famous San Siro Stadium. Quite often people are unable to name a famous monument or gallery and while the city’s no Venice or Rome, expect to be surprised by this charming, less touristic and easy-to-get-around Italian city.

09:00 – when in Rome (or Milan)…

Start things off properly and head to the closest café (bar) nearest your apartment, go straight to the bar inside and have your coffee (and a croissant if you fancy standing). You’re sure to be impressed by the barista’s efficiency - who said Italians are always relaxed?! Opt for an espresso or a café macchiato (espresso with a dash of milk).

10:00 – the heart of the city – the Duomo

Duomo by curtis_ovid_poeAfter your morning coffee, the first thing to do in Milan is head straight into the centre and take in Piazza Duomo. Take the underground to ‘Duomo’ on the red and yellow lines or else catch one of the many trams that will drop you nearby (1,2,3,12,14, 15,16,19,24,27).

You can’t help but be impressed by the grand cathedral dominating the piazza. It also happens to be the third-largest church in the world, after St Peter’s and Seville’s Cathedral. Take a good walk around it and admire the details from every angle. A trip to the roof top (stairs or elevator) is highly recommended to get an even closer look at the many spires, each with unique statues. If it’s a sunny day you may even see the beautiful Italian Alps.

11:00 – Galleria to La Scala

The grand shopping gallery, La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is not to be missed. It was designed to assist the walk from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala - where you will find the renowned Opera House La Scala. Take a leisurely walk through the gallery and try to imagine that in its time (the 19th century) it was considered rather ugly because of its use of metal. Passing through the gallery, you will arrive in Piazza La Scala. To the left you will see La Scala, and even if you’re not a fan of opera, you should definitely take a look inside.

La Scala by John PickenAnother interesting option is the newly opened Gallery of Italy, which you will find directly opposite you. It houses a wonderful collection of 19th and 20th-century art. Just staring at the ceilings and doors of the 19th-century section can be fascinating in what used to be a bank. A third option is to take Via Verdi which becomes Via Brera. At number 28 you will find the important art gallery Pinacoteca di Brera, holding one of Italy’s most important art collections.

13:00 – a wander through ‘Brera’

All of this culture surely must be working up your appetite and the area of ‘Brera’, found at the end of Via Brera, is a lovely spot for a gentle wander along car-free streets. Turning left into its heart, you can find some lovely cafés and restaurants or just admire the amazing antique shops. For the more budget-conscious, keep going until you reach Via Mercato. There’s something for all tastes here, including some great pizza at Pizzeria Sibilla, Via Mercato 14.

14:30 – park time

Sforzesco castle by Rafel MiroAfter lunch you may need a little downtime in the park, so head towards Largo Cairoli where the park and the city’s castle (Sforzesco) can be found. It’s free to walk through the castle grounds or a mere three euros to visit the museum and important rooms. The park also houses an aquarium, a 19th-century amphitheatre, a design museum (Triennale) and at the other end of the park, the majestic Peace Arch (Arco della Pace).

16:30 – coffee or gelato?

Gelato by stu_spivackLate afternoons are for gelato or maybe a hot chocolate in the colder months. To complete this mission, head to the end of the park, take a left along Via Pagano, then another left onto Via Vincenzo Monti. This is a delightful area with many wonderful historic residential buildings and some interesting boutique shops and cafés. Just after the end of this street, heading towards Piazza Cadorna, you’ll find some top gelato at Shockolat, Via Giovanni Boccaccio, 9.

19:00 – evening options

Take a stroll down the pedestrianised Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi (metro stop Moscova) and grab an aperitif. For dinner, you’ll find many restaurants both Italian and international. For something truly Milanese try La Cotoletteria, on Corso Garibaldi 11, where they serve the local ‘schnitzel’ in many different forms. For nightlife, head down the street, away from the city where young people crowd the streets or even further up to Corso Como for some of the most famous clubs in Milan.