If you’re staying at Lake Garda and fancy venturing further afield to explore more of Italy, Milan should be on your list.
Milan is situated in the north east of the country, just over an hour from Lake Garda. The city is most famous for being the fashion and design capital of the world and is home to every designer store going. For football fans, the city’s also home to two of Italy’s best football teams.
Arriving in Milan is like arriving in any big city, it’s never the nicest area. The station itself is magnificent and it’s almost worth spending a little bit of time having a nosy round. Having spent time in Verona, Venice and Peschiera-del-Garda, Milan was a bit of a shock to the senses. There are cars everywhere, horns beeping and mopeds weaving in and out of the traffic. The calmness that comes with exploring cities where cars are banned in the centres is truly washed away. However, Milan has that exciting feeling of being in the heart of a busy, bustling place.
What to experience in Milan
Duomo di Milano
The fantastic white Gothic cathedral is right in the heart of Milan and is truly impressive whichever angle you see it from. When you first set eyes on it, it’s breathtaking! All around the top of the cathedral are 135 of spires and 3400 statues. To get the best view of the spires and the city, head up to the terraces on the roof, here you can truly appreciate the surroundings. Its intricate architecture makes it easier to understand how it could take nearly 600 years to build.
For up to date opening hours and pricing, take a look at the Duomo’s website.
Suggestion for lunch in the Piazza del Duomo:
Have lunch at McDonalds in front of the Duomo. I kid you not. The views from this McDonalds are incredible – it’s directly across the square from the beautiful Duomo and has lovely arched windows so you can sit and enjoy the view. We stumbled upon it looking for somewhere to shelter during a torrential downpour and realised we were in fact starving. We were travelling on a budget so it was perfect for food with a view that didn’t break the bank.
You can’t come to Milan and avoid shopping. Known as one of the shopping capitals of the world, there is everything you could possibly imagine. In the area surrounding the Duomo, there is a fantastic mix of shops from the designers in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to the high street stores on the adjacent streets.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Surrounding the Piazza del Duomo are many beautiful buildings with lots of little café’s and boutiques. One in particular that stands out is the grand 150-year-old galleria. This ‘shopping centre’ is beautiful with high arches, glass ceilings and polished floors. It’s home to some high end shops and quite a few cafés and restaurants that look as if they’ve stepped back in time. Waiters are clad in grand immaculate uniforms with white gloves and those partaking in a coffee are dressed for the occasion too. It’s definitely worth wandering through and doing a spot of window shopping. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle for a little bit then step into Rizzoli Galleria Bookshop. It’s beautiful inside and has a huge collection of books, both in English and Italian. There’s free wi-fi too.
To get a real feel of the high end designers that are based in Milan, take a wander around the Quadrilatero d’Oro, translated as the ‘rectangle of gold’. This is a group of streets including Via Montenapoleone and Via Manzone that house the top designers. It’s a beautiful area to wander around and admire the window displays and shop fronts. The narrow streets make it feel like another world, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
A bit further out of the city, but still easily within walking distance is Sforza Castle. This grand sprawling red-brick castle is a rather impressive sight. Seven museums telling the history of Italy and Milan including art and architecture are housed here, but even if you don’t fancy exploring any of the museums, you can still wander around the grounds and enjoy the views over the castle and surrounding parkland.
Top tip: Every Tuesday from 2pm you can access all of the museums for free. Also Wednesday to Sunday there is free access for the last hour of the day. For up to date information regarding opening hours and prices.
Travel in Milan
Milan is an easily walkable city and there are maps on many street corners to help keep you on track. There are trams and an underground system that cover most of the city. Public transport is very cheap in Milan with one journey costing €1.50 or a ticket valid for 24 hours costing €4.50.
Trains leave Peschiera-del-Garda and Desenzano/ Sirmione roughly every hour and take between 1hr 7mins and 1hr 38. In Italy, there are trains in the mornings and late afternoons but there seems to be a couple of hours break in the middle of the day. Check either at the station or online before you decide to travel.