Milan Things to Do Tips by antistar
Milan Things to Do: 1,011 reviews and 2,187 photos
Perelli Building, Milan
One of the few office towers in Milan that is visually appealing, the Pirelli building also became a part of history itself when some crazed pilot decided to fly his small plane into the top floors and commit suicide shortly after 9/11. This caused the death of a couple of office workers, and also set the world on edge as they braced for the news of another 9/11 style suicide bombing. The Pirelli building has now been almost fully repaired, and it stands proudly just outside the Central Station's main exit on Piazza Duca D'Aosta. Despite its sleek modern lines, it was actually completed in 1959.
Address: Piazza Duca D'Aosta
Directions: Outside the main exit to the Central Station.
Peter Witt Streetcar, Milan
American visitors to Milan may be forgiven for feeling that they've just stepped into a time machine when they see the quaint old orange trams trundling about the city. Milan has a wide range of trams, both old and new, but there are many of old Peter Witt streetcar still running. These trams were designed by Cleveland transit leader Peter Witt, and ran in many US cities earlier in the last century (although never in San Francisco as is commonly believed in Milan). In 1928 Milan built hundreds of Peter Witts and put them into service, and many still remain in service. The source of the myth of San Francisco's famous Muni using the streetcars may have been the result of a gift of ten of the Peter Witts from Milan to that city, as these distinctive orange streetcars can now be seen running on the west coast of California.
One of the two Bastioni di Porta Venezia, Milan
At the end of Corso Buenos Aires are two huge bastions, built on either side of the road on Porta Venezia. These two towering, solid square structures straddle the traffic, and stand in the place of the original bastions of the city gates.
La Scala, Milan
After the stunning cathedral and galleria I was expecting something special from the world famous La Scala opera house, but it struck me as a little ordinary after the wonders of the Piazzo Duomo. Still, what the opera house may lack in extravagant exterior design, it more than makes up for in prestige, and will now again play host to the best musicians on the planet, night after night. Tickets for the opera can be bought for as little as €12, for seats in the central circle, and you can even get them online following the link given below.
The La Scala opera house is now fully restored and operational again after much time under wraps.
Address: Piazza della Scala
Directions: On the left side of the Piazza della Scala after you exit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
Roof of the Cathedral, Milan
You can even go up onto the cathedral's roof for sensational views of the city, and some nice close up views of the impossible statues on the pinnacles. On rare days, when the sky is clear blue and the smog is not too thick, like the day I went up, you will be lucky enough to see all the way to the Alps (see my main Milan page for pictures of this). Unfortunately, and I don't know if this will change once the work on the front of the cathedral is completed, you can't look over the forward most wall of the cathedral into the Piazzo Duomo below. This is a shame due to the square below being so grand, but you can get a few views of the piazza from the sides of the cathedral.
There are two ways up the cathedral, one is by walking and the other is by lift. The walk is quite strenuous. I do a lot of walking, and my legs were wobbly by the time I got to the top. It costs €3.50 to walk up a seemingly endless spiral staircase, and you can access these stairs by the long queues on the left hand wall of the cathedral (as you face it). The lift costs €5.00 and can be accessed on the right hand wall of the cathedral (as you face it).
Address: Piazzo Duomo
Bull Mosaic, Milan
Right underneath the glass dome in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is the emblem of Turin, a bull, on the mosaic floor. It is meant to bring you good luck if you spin around on your right heel on the bull's most treasured possession. I kid you not, there was a crowd of people queuing up to crush the testicles of the bull of Turin, in order to bring themselves good luck. I don't know if this is a tradition imported from Turin, or if the Milanese are showing a great disrespect to their neighbours, but it was a fun to watch people grinding their heels on the poor bull's private parts.
Address: Piazza Duomo-Piazza della Scala
Directions: Metro 1 & 3 - Duomo
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
The shopping gallery of Vittorio Emanuele II is just astonishing, and unlike any arcade I have seen anywhere in the world. Its cavernous interior is akin to the nearby cathedral , and is very much a place to worship at the altar of capitalistic consumerism. Right in the centre, underneath the fabulous glass dome, are some of the greatest names in fashion and good taste, such as Prada, Savini and .... McDonalds? Right next to some of the most exclusive shops and restaurants on the planet, in one of the grandest shopping arcades in the world, is an enormous, and to me wholly inappropriate, McDonalds restaurant. Still, the restaurant is fairly tasteful, and doesn't really detract from the whole glamour and glory of the galleria, but it is an amusing sight.
Address: Piazza Duomo-Piazza della Scala
Directions: Metro 1 & 3 - Duomo
The construction of this vast Gothic cathedral was started in 1386, and built on a former medieval church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is one huge mass of marble, containing about 3,500 statues, nearly 100 gargoyles, and far more buttresses, pinnacles, pillars and arches than necessary. The vastness, covering an area of nearly 12,000 square meters, has to be seen to be appreciated. It is third in size, after St. Peter's cathedral in Rome, and the Cathedral of Seville. Its highest pinnacle, at 109 meters, is topped by the golden statue of the Virgin Mary, covered in nearly 4,000 gold leaves. This towers over the cathedral's roof, which you can climb up and admire the views of Milan from, and also wonder at how they ever managed to put all those statues on all those pinnacles without either falling to their deaths, or getting a really bad bout of vertigo.
You can also go inside the cathedral. Entry is free, but you will have to go through fairly strict security.
Piazza Duomo, Milan
Even with the cathedral covered up for restoration work, and the square filled with fences, signs and platforms for the New Year's Eve celebrations, like in the picture, the Piazzo Duomo (Cathedral Square) is still an grand and awe inspiring square, just like the designers would have intended. The effect that the enormous and extravagant cathedral would have upon this atmosphere in its fully restored state is a sight which I will have to behold by returning to the city one day. The Piazza itself contains some wonderful baroque and renaissance buildings, including two of the most stunning pieces of architecture in the world, the cathedral itself, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, to the right and left of the picture respectively. There is also, out of picture to the right, the slightly shabby, but highly important, Palazzo Reale.
The Piazza Duomo is central to Milan's finest sights, and a good place to base yourself and orientate yourself from. It is also home to an phenomenal amount of pigeons, being foolishly fed by unthinking tourists adding to this plague of "rats with wings" (Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London). The tourists also attract another plague, of tat sellers and scam artists, and no doubt a number of pickpockets too. The tat sellers are harmless, and the scam artists are pretty easy to avoid. The common theme seemed to be to offer you a "gift" of some worthless item, such as a coloured piece of string or pigeon food. I don't know how the scam would proceed after that, but it was definitely a scam! The pick-pockets and snatch thieves are there, but they didn't seem to be a particular concern for my friend, a born and bred Milanese, and he walked around with his flash camera around his neck without much of a care.
Basilica San Lorenzo, Milan
The foundations of the Basilica San Lorenzo make it possibly the oldest surviving building in Milan. There's little left of the significant Roman presence in the city, which made Milan one of the foremost cities outside Rome at the time, but outside the Basilica is a row of Corinthian columns, the last vestiges of a third century Roman temple. The rest of the buildings that form part of the Basilica were constructed or reconstructed at various times over the last two millennia.
Address: Corso Ticinese
Directions: From the Duomo square, walk down Via Torino (opposite the cathedral) and take a left down corso di Porta Ticinese.
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