Must Visit Attractions in Milan

07 Nov 2019
As a blooming metropolis, Milan has an incredibly diverse and rich landscape which makes any kind of selection very difficult. However, a visit to the northern capital can’t be complete without a stroll around Piazza del Duomo, with its flamboyant Gothic cathedral towering over Piazza Mercanti, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele and Museo del Novecento. Heading north-west, you’ll meet the magnificent Sforza Castle, surrounded by Parco Sempione - the perfect place where to walk during hot summer days. Going further west Santa Maria delle Grazie, the splendid renaissance church which hosts Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper. You also don’t want to miss the incredible art collection inside the Pinacoteca di Brera, located in the namesake district. However, Milan hides its beauties often behind its gates: you can visit some of the gardens in the city’s private villas, some of which are actual museums, such as Villa Necchi Campiglio or Poldi Pezzoli. Flow through the history of the city following its waterways, the Navigli, or head to Porta Nuova or City Life with their modern skylines to live the future of this city.

Piazza del Duomo

The central hub for the city's celebrations and festivities, this historic piazza takes its name from the looming cathedral that dominates the northeast edge of the square. It is significant not only for its geographic prominence, but also from an artistic, cultural and social point of view. The piazza is flanked by some of the most important buildings in Milan, and widely recognized as the preeminent tourist attraction in town. Originally built in the 14th century under the direction of Azzone Visconti, lord of Milan, the space developed over the passing centuries until it obtained, more or less, its current form from architect Giuseppe Mengoni in the second half of the 19th century. Today, the elegant arches and porticos that line the square and the imposing grandeur of the Duomo certainly make this the loveliest and most important spot to see in Milan. Relish the view from one of the many cafes that surround it.

Piazza San Marco

The heart and soul of historic Venice, the drawing room of Europe (according to Napoleon), ground zero for the millions of tourists that pour into the city each year - Piazza San Marco is truly one of the world's most famous and impressive squares. Not overwhelmingly massive in size, it does feel quite large relative to the labyrinth of narrow streets, passageways and canals that most visitors have to navigate to arrive there. When the Basilica of San Marco was first constructed at the beginning of the 9th century, the square that lay in front of it was little more than a grassy patch of land no more than 60 metres in length, but as Venice's wealth and power grew so to did its central public space.

Regus Milano Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele centre in Milan occupies an historic building beside piazza Duomo, Milan's main and most central square, surrounded by important buildings including the Duomo, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The square is sometimes described as the world's oldest shopping mall because of the fashion houses and shops it houses in the heart of Milan, the hub of the global fashion industry and home to all the leading designers. The centre faces galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the first examples of Liberty architecture in Italy but it's also at walking distance from the Teatro alla Scala, from the city's financial district and from the stock exchange. It is well served by public transport, close to two underground stations, and only 20 minutes from the Milan Linate Airport.

Museo del Novecento

Just adjacent to the Duomo, this museum features one of the largest national collections of Italian and international 20th century art, with sections dedicated to Futurism, Spatialism, and Arte Povera. For students and connoisseurs of design or Italian art, it is not to be missed, and everyone can enjoy the uninterrupted view of piazza del Duomo from the wall of windows on the first floor and the rooftop restaurant-bar. Among the Italian masters with work on display are Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio de Chirico, Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà, Lucio Fontana, and Giorgio Morandi. The masterpieces of international artists such as Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Henri Matisse can also be seen.

Castello Sforzesco & Civici Musei

At the northern end of via Dante stands the imposing Castello Sforzesco, the city's greatest attraction after the Duomo and bursting at the seams with twelve small museums and archives referencing everything from Palaeolithic history through 20th century furniture. It was first constructed in 1358 for the noble Visconti family, and was destroyed when they were ousted. The Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, restored it to its original splendour in the 1450s to be his princely residence, enlisting such painters as da Vinci and Bramante to create the frescoes. During Napoleonic rule its use was reduced to military purposes, and it was not until the unification of Italy in the 19th century that the castle was transferred to the city of Milan. The sprawling Parco Sempione just behind, one of the largest parks in the city, was created on the former parade grounds.

Parco Sempione

To the north of Castello Sforzesco a green expanse of 47 hectares stretches all the way to Napoleon's neoclassical Arco della Pace, making it the largest park in Milan. The Arena Civica, a small-scale colosseum towards the back, is another addition from the Napoleonic era, and was used for outdoor entertainment. The city's French rulers first carved out the space in the early 19th century, and it was finally landscaped in 1893 by Emilio Alemagna in the then-popular English garden style. Within the park today are a handful of cafés and restaurants, the Triennale Design Museum, the small Acquario, and Giò Ponti's Torre Branca with sweeping views of the city. On sunny days this is the place to be; the park is packed with runners, cyclists, sunbathers, and teenagers kicking around a football.

Santa Maria delle Grazie

This terracotta church and the adjoining Dominican convent, today a UNESCO World Heritage site, were begun in 1465. The Renaissance apse is credited to Donato Bramante, but the refectory houses the star of the show and one of the world's most iconic images, Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper (Cenacolo Vinciano). Because Da Vinci worked on a dry wall over three years, rather than on wet plaster over a week, the masterpiece is not a fresco, and began to deterioriate within a few weeks of completion in 1498. It miraculously survived Allied bombing in 1943, and has since undergone extensive restoration to preserve its colour. To see the painting, book tickets well in advance over the phone or online. You will be allotted a visiting time and reservation number, which must be presented 30 minutes before your visit. Vacancies may be available for those who turn up at the last moment but don't count on it!

Pinacoteca di Brera

This formidable art collection, housed in the picturesque Palazzo di Brera, was amassed (or appropriated) from churches and monasteries by none other than Napoleon. The palace itself was built in 1651 for the Jesuits; in 1776 a wing was allocated to the Accademia di Belle Arti, still in operation today on the lower level. The size of the collection makes for an easy visit with exquisite pieces, including works by major Italian painters from the 13th through the 20th centuries. On show are pieces by Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, Piero della Francesca, Donato Bramante, and Caravaggio. The Orto Botanico behind the Pinacoteca is also a peaceful haven from the city buzz.

Museo Poldi Pezzoli

This quirky museum first opened to the public in 1881, two years after the death of art enthusiast and founder Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli. Each room contains a tasteful collection of antique and decorative arts inspired by a particular style from the past, from early gold timepieces, jewellery and porcelain to glasswork, books, carpets, tapestries and sculptures spanning the 14th to 19th centuries. An armoury downstairs boasts more than 100 coats of armour worn by European princes, and the admirable round-up of paintings includes Botticelli, Foppa, and Montegna. The rooms have been restored to evoke the eccentric nature of the collectors and are certain to suit the visitor's fancy.

Porta Nuova

Oristano's biggest shopping centre (centro commerciale in Italian) is located north of the city, a five minutes' drive from piazza Roma. Shopping includes an E.Leclerc-Conad hypermarket and more than 40 retail outlets selling everything from fashion to beauty products to electrical household goods. Also find a pizzeria, a fast food restaurant and two cafés.


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