Thursday, November 7, 2019

Milan Italy :Top 10 Things to See

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Buongiorno everyone! I just returned from an amazing trip to Italy.  I was not supposed to go solo, but that is how it worked out.  A friend and I planned it together, and at last minute she could not make the trip.
No one from my family could swing the cost on short notice either.  I decided to put on my big girl pants and be brave.  I'm not gonna lie , I was very scared and almost backed out.  I 'm so glad I made the choice to go!  Hang on to your seat, as I take you on a whirlwind tour of the beautiful city of Milano.

 The top ten sights for a first time visit to Milan

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The Duomo

There are no words for the awe you experience after setting eyes on the Duomo. As you can see the architecture is so stunning. Equally amazing is the history behind this timeless structure.  I had to pinch myself - it seemed like a dream to be standing in front of it.

You can take a guided tour inside the majestic cathedral, and take in the views from the rooftop.  If you wish to explore on your own, tickets are available at a booth nearby. I'm glad I opted for the guide- she shared many historical facts with the group. I found the best prices for the Duomo tour on Get Your Guide.

The Duomo took 6 centuries to build and is the 2nd largest church in Italy.  There are 52 pillars and 3500 statues inside-wow!  Although the views inside are very impressive: the rooftop views were even more stunning.  I will be sharing more details and pictures from above in another post coming soon!

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Costello Sforzesco

Ever dream of setting foot in a real castle?  I stumbled on Castello Sforzeco  on accident, what a fun surprise! When I was researching what to see in Milan , this castle never surfaced.  I was actually looking for Torre Branca: a tower with a panoramic view of the city.  The tower is located in Sempione park, somewhere behind the castle. I never did find it.  At that point, I was wishing I  reserved a guided tour.

 The GPS on my phone was out of commission most days, even though I had Internet.  My advice: plan your trip several months out - so you have time to learn the language.  Most people I asked about directions, did not speak English.

Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century by Fransesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. It was constructed on the remains of a 14th century fortification. In the 16th and 17th century, the castle was renovated and enlarged. At that time, it was one of the largest citadels in Europe.

 I was so excited to  see a real moat! Sforza had a total of 4, two in the back and two in the front.  My favorite furry friends: kitty cats- were taking up residence in the moats.

 The GPS on my phone would not w even though I had Internet.  My advice: plan your trip several months out - so you have time to learn the language.  Better yet, take a language course at your local college.

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

If you are a fashionista like I am, then it's very fitting your first stop in Italy, should be Milan. As one of the 7 fashion capitals of the world: you will discover a universe of timeless style and haute couture shopping, like never before.

Galleria Vittoria Emmanuel is located in the same square of the Duomo.  After you finish at the Duomo, just walk a few steps into this majestic luxury shopping world.  All the world's top designers have a shop located here.The design and architecture is also breathtaking. Forget shopping ha, I could stare at that rooftop for hours!

The Galleria and its fabulous roof was built at the end of 1800 and dedicated to Vittorio Emanuel II, the king that made Milan join the reign of Italy.  The luxurious mall was built by Giuseppe Mengoni. The Octagon in the center court is considered the "living room" of the city. On the floor in the center, is a mosaic with the emblem of the Royal House of Savoy.

You can also capture amazing rooftop views from Vittorio Emanuele, which I didn't know til after I got home. While you are visiting the Galleria, do mind your P's & Q's: there are lotsa Poliza in the area.

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Corso Buenos Aires

If you are looking for the deals, this is the street for you. It  goes on for miles. Shops galore, street vendors and restaurants will keep you entertained for hours. Corso Buenos Aires is reputed to be one of the longest shopping streets in Europe.

I visited Corso Buenos Aires more than once, and still didn't cover it all.  I had to really exercise discipline here, as the prices were fantastic. I stayed near the train station, and only had a 10  minute walk to this shopping haven. On the metro, it's located between Porta Venezia and Loreto stations.

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Monte Napoleone

This street  is the seat of luxury shopping in Milano.  Elegant shop windows beckon you in. I behaved and did just that: window shop. The best labels in the fashion industry can be found here. This includes designer jewelry, shoes and watches.  Monte Napoleone is known as the living symbol of "Made in Italy", that attracts tourists from every part of the globe.

Via Monte Napoleone is the gateway to good taste and fabulous stylists.  The shop windows are in constant change and are always on show for the world to see.  Many fashion events take place around the city, including Milan Fashion Week in September.  During these times the blocks of Monte Napoleone come alive with models from across the globe.  

The dynamic aura of this famous fashion row, will forever be etched in my memory. I hope to see it again someday soon.

If you'd rather find Fashion in Milan on a guided tour,  I highly recommend it! Unfortunately my 7 days in Italy were packed full, no time for a tour.  I will save that for next time.

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Starbucks Roastery Reserve

Seattlelite visiting Milano, seeks out Starbucks?! Oh yes I did!  I have to confess I'm not a cult follower of Starbucks: but I had to check this Roastery Reserve out.  I read rave reviews about it online.  The coffee blends here in the USA: I do not care for- they taste very bitter.

No bad tasting coffee at the Starbucks Reserve in Milano!  The coffee was smooth, and delicious. I wanted to drink 3 cups in a row, but controlled the urge. Not only is the coffee awesome, the sweet treats are more decadent then in the US. The lemon pie was so good, what a taste sensation!  The menu also offers lunch items: such as salads, tortes etc.

After you finish your snack head over to the opposite counter to order gelato-nitro style. It was fascinating to watch it being made. There's a lot to see at the Reserve, so plan to spend a few hours. If you'd rather enjoy " Appertivo" : there is classy lounge located on the 2nd floor balcony. Here you can enjoy a view of the entire store.

The weather in the 3rd week of October, was still quite balmy. Daytime temps were around 68-70 and evening was not bad either.  Several coffee lovers were seated outside in the park-like terrace. The Roastery is housed in one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen.  It stands at 25,000 square feet and is located in the square Piazza Cordusio.  It's just a few streets away from  the Duomo and other iconic sights.

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The Canals at Navigli

The city famous for canals in Italy, is of course Venice. However, not to be missed are the canals in Milan at the southwest part of town. This area is known as Nivigli District. In the evening, the canals come alive with nightlife. Some of the best bars and boutiques can be found here. I missed out seeing it at night, but heard it's amazing when all lit up.

It's a beautiful spot to take in a day of rest and relaxation. I arrived in this area in the afternoon. It was bustling with activity as people went to and fro for lunch etc. Along the canals though , it was quiet and peaceful. The perfect scenario to enjoy a walk, and all the best of European charm.

This neighborhood is famed for the Naviglio Gande and Naviglio Pavese Canals. History here dates back to 1179. The waterways were built to connect Milan to nearby lakes. The canals were used to transport materials used to construct the Duomo. The canals are no longer used for shipping, but you may see a sightseeing tour float by

Candoglia marble in Milan’s Duomo, transported via Milan’s canals. Photo by Br
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Milano Centrale Station

For most this may not be a "must see", but I do recommend spending time at Milan Central Station. Most tourists just pass through it to catch a train to another city.  I was in absolute awe of this station: a city in itself.

There are 4 floors outside of the main train platform . There are 24 docks in the station, serving around 320,000 people a day. This is the 2nd biggest station in Europe, but largest by volume. Train Service is available to many points in Italy, as well as international destinations throughout Europe. The Metro (Subway) for transit around Milan, is conveniently located at this station too.

I based myself near the station because of the day trips I reserved on the trains. I did two trips to Cinque Terre and Venice on my own. It was really easy to plan, more about these cities coming later.

I arrived into Milan on the train, and it was overwhelming to say the least. When I first arrived, I had a bit of a melt down.  My phone carrier does not offer international service, and no internet for directions were available.

Even though my hotel ( Best Western: Madisen) was just 100 meters away: all the streets looked like a maze.  Thank goodness for the English speaking bus driver outside, who directed me to my hotel.  I did purchase a "Tim Card"( Italian version of Sim Card) for internet service: still my GPS would not work.

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Porta Nuova

Puorto Nuova is a new, vibrant and exciting area of Milan. It actually not new.  The historical district has been transformed by a complex redevelopment plan, and is considered Milan's most futuristic district. An urban makeover, was planned by the most renowned architectural firms of the world. 

Porta Nuova is linked to nearby districts of Garibaldi and Isola. This makes for a very vibrant scene. Here you will find : high tech stores, arcades, bookstores, bars, cafes, pizzerias and discotheques.

Upon arrival in Porta Nuova, you will notice two unusual apartment buildings overshadowing the area. I could not believe my eyes, as we whizzed by on the tour bus. The guide on board, shared interesting details about the structures.

The garden wonders are called " Bosco Verticale" : which means vertical forest.  The apartment towers takes the idea of sustainable housing to a a new level.  The building are inhabited by several celebrities. It would be amazing to live here. Can you imagine being surrounded by forest of shrubs while standing on your balcony ?!?

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Piazza Cordusio

This square is the center for finance in the city of Milan. Everyone walking on the street is dressed to the nines in business class attire.  Here are located many banks and history that dates back to 900.

Fashionistas will be in their element at Piazza Cordusio.  Several well known brands are housed in this area.  Uniqlo a very popular retailer from Asia, just opened a 3 story mega store in September of 2019. They offer basic fashion staples at very affordable prices. I was honestly in shock of the many affordable options to shop in Milan.

I'm totally hooked on the street views of Piazza Cordusio. Postcard views are offered from every corner.  This scene was one of my favorites in Milan.  I loved watching the trams and street cars buzz back and forth. The Duomo is very close too, just around the corner.

It's  hard to believe I made the trip half way across the world by myself. Going solo is not as scary as you might think. If I can do it, anyone can!  I planned this entire trip on a budget in less than 6 weeks.

Thanks for following my journey. Stay tuned:  I will be sharing tips on how to plan a trip to Italy, where to find the deals, &  details about doing day trips.

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  1. I need to get to Milan soon! It looks so beautiful and love your photos.

    1. OH yes you gotta go...I am in LOVE with Milan..such a fabulous city and thank you!

  2. Italy is def on my bucket list, and this post made me move it closer to the top!

    1. Awe thank you Dara, I am so glad my post inspired you to make it a will be obessed..I can't wait to go back!

  3. You are making me want to visit Milan soon! It looks so beautiful and lovely.

  4. Nice list you've put together! Milan is such a beautiful city to walk around. I would recommend going on a walking food tour the next time you're in Milan - it's so much fun!

  5. Milan is such a beautiful city! Unfortunately I only had half a day when I had a layover there. Would love to see more of it, great post! :)

  6. So pretty! I've never been to Milan, but I would love to see the The Duomo! It's on my list.

  7. Milan looks gorgeous! Love these shots... and also your red sunnies!

  8. Great post! This brought back good memories of my first European trip with my sister. We had fun exploring the city and shopping. I mean, you can't go to Milan without shopping, right? I would love to go back again.