Visiting Milan, Italy

By Yale Braunstein on 15 March 2009
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Milan is the commercial hub of northern Italy, the capital of the financial, business, and fashion worlds.  As a result, visitors to the city are more typically business travelers than traditional tourists.  Milan is the second largest in Italy, with a population of ca.1.3 million.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

While Milan is big, crowded, expensive, and has car restrictions in the city center if you are driving, it is also filled with history and sophistication. Milan has great food, top hotels, interesting tourist sites, and art by Michelangelo (his last scupture) and Leonardo da Vinci (The Last Supper). Shopping is also big here and the city boasts numerous designer shops.  Visit Via Della Spiga, closed to traffic,  for its stores including Bottega Veneta, Bvlgari, and Prada, and Via Montenapoleone, where you will find Cartier, Gucci, Prada Uomo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Valentino, and Versace Donna.   Armani has its flagship store on the Via Manzoni.  The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, dating from the nineteenth century, is a cool oasis of commerce.

No visit to Milan would be complete without visiting two of the major sites are the Duomo (a Gothic cathedral of immense proportion) and the Castello Sforzesco (official website here; the only castle I know with a car emblem over the entrance).  The Pinacoteca di Brera, which houses one of the leading collections of medieval and Renaissance art, should be next on your list.  If you can, plan a night at the opera at La Scala, the world’s most storied opera house, which was recently renovated.

To get around in the city, walk or take the Metro (subway).  Taxi stands are numerous, typically near the major Metro stops and piazze.  Parking in central Milan is so complicated (and expensive) that even the official city tourist website has difficulty explaining it.

Don’t drive in the central area anyway! The “Sosta Milano” parking system – tickets to be bought at newstands and placed in your car after “scratching” day and time – is so complicated and expensive that if you really want to take the car, the best solution is to leave it in one of the twenty or so guarded parking lots in the downtown area.

If that weren’t bad enough, there is also a congestion charge to just drive into the center.

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