As a football fan, Milan has been on my radar for many years. Players like Baresi, Maldini, Gullit and Van Basten were amongst the best players I’ve ever seen and played for AC when they were an absolute powerhouse. But with age comes the realisation that European cities are about a bit more than just their football teams!
We did a day trip to Milan last week and only had a few hours in the city, but what a few hours! We arrived on the train from Bergamo (the main railway station in Milan is a magnificent building, a work of art in and of itself, probably topping Grand Central in New York and Washington’s Union Station for wow factor) and walked the half hour or so from the station into the city centre. Milan is a typical huge city: busy, fast, people racing this way and that; but as visitors we were able to saunter in, admiring the beautiful buildings and ultra-classy shops of the fashion district whilst the Milanese went about their business.
The centre of the city is clearly the Piazza Duomo, with the incredible Duomo dominating the square. It is a church if genuinely ancient origins, with records of Augustine being baptised in its baptistry in the 4th century. The Duomo takes a certain pride in being a church that is always changing, with more modern work being carried out on an ongoing basis – an unusual situation for an ancient building.
The interior of the Duomo is hugely impressive from an architectural and artistic perspective, and you can even see areas of the oldest parts of the church that have been excavated under the main floor. But the most memorable part of the Milan Duomo experience is climbing on to the roof and being able to wander around on top of the giant church. Not only do you see Milan from above, but you see incredible statues and carvings that would be absolutely impossible to see from anywhere other than the roof, which begs the question: why on earth were they out there?! The intricacy and grandeur are truly staggering.
Next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the word’s oldest shopping malls. It is elegant and grand, a building of exceptional beauty. Actually shopping there, however, is probably best left to the elite!
We enjoyed our day in Milan. It’s nowhere near enough if you really want to explore the city, but it suited our purposes perfectly. It doesn’t strike me as an ideal destination to spend a few days in the height of summer, but it would probably make an excellent city break at a cooler time of year.