Milan is truly a unique and upcoming city. Recently there has been new building developments, hotel and restaurant openings, and historic monument restorations as Milan prepares for the expected 20 million visitors to arrive next May for the World EXPO 2015. As the business, fashion and design headquarters of Italy, it’s the perfect mixture of a modern city with Italian charm. However, shopping isn’t the only thing to do in Milan, as it is home to some of Italy’s most important museums, churches and art.
A half-day tour of Milan is the perfect way to see all the sites in a compact amount of time, and it finishes early enough to partake in Milan’s famous aperitivo or “happy hour” scene. The tour began as our lovely guide, Lorella, introduced herself and clearly explained the schedule for the afternoon. Having a clear accent and being completely fluent in English, along with four other languages, she was very helpful with questions and easy to understand.
The bus pulled away and shortly arrived in front of the Teatro alla Scala, where guests were able to visit both the museum and theater. It was absolutely breathtaking, and an opportunity not all tourists of Milan get the chance to experience. The view of the theater was from a private box, and you couldn’t help but imagine yourself later that evening enjoying an Italian opera with all of the city’s finest. The museum is host to old instruments, costumes and artifacts, but the true beauty lies within the buildings and rooms themselves.
The walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was a treat; while window-shopping the famous Italian brands like Gucci and Prada, Lorella explained the history and customs of the Milanese, which are the people of Milan. The end of the grand shopping mall, leads to Piazza del Duomo, which is the most well-known tourist attraction in Milan. The Duomo, a cathedral not to be missed, is the center meeting place for both tourists and locals, and proved to be the perfect spot to enjoy an Italian caffè since Lorella gave us a small break. I chose to head down a side street to find something, and knew I was in the right place as locals zipped by me speaking their beautiful native language.
A prompt meeting on the bus 15 minutes later led us to a short tour of the small, charming streets of the upscale and artsy Brera neighborhood, and we were able to peek through the windows of the quirky cafes and restaurants, only to promise ourselves a later return for dinner. We pulled in front of the grand fountain of The Sforzesco Castle, which our tour guide pointed out resembles a wedding cake, and it really does. Lorella had a fantastic insight on what it truly means to be Milanese, and shared fantastic stories, both current and historic, of the people of this fascinating city.
After a stroll around the castle, the bus took the group to the long awaited Ultima Cena, also commonly known as The Last Supper. The group was split in two since only small amounts of people are allowed in the room at a time, which makes the experience much more intimate and special. What most people don’t know is that the famous painting is not actually located in a church, but in a Dining Hall of an old Monastery. The church, nearly almost as beautiful, stands next door and generously offers free entry like the rest of the churches of Milan!
The day closed with Lorella answering any questions, and guests chose whether to get back on the bus or walk to their next destination. I would call it a fabulous day in a fabulous city, and a fantastic way to see the “musts” of Milan on a tight schedule from a friendly, helpful local! Make sure to find some alfresco seating afterwards to enjoy an Aperol Spritz!
– Contributed by Christine Vittorio