Milan, a renowned Mecca of shopping and fashion, is rarely considered to be a sightseeing destination. That reputation is largely deserved, as even the most ardently patriotic locals are likely to agree that their city is not at all pretty. Impressive buildings pop up here or there, some residential streets are lined by fetching rows of houses, but sore spots and haphazardly incongruent architectural solutions abound. And yet, walk the central streets of Milan enough, and you will regularly come across eye-catching details. This opening shot is a good illustration: we are walking on Via Sant’Agnese towards Corso Magenta, to the left of us is an industrial-age department of Università Cattolica, to the right is some nondescript residential house, but in front of us is the lovely Baroque façade of Palazzo Litta.
This was our third visit to Milan – and the first at which we specifically budgeted time to get to know the city in some depth. Although it did not bowl us over exactly, it did offer a fair amount of highlights and points of interest.
These eight omenoni (“big men” in Milanese dialect) give name to both the 18th-century house they adorn and the entire street on which the house is located.
Even a decidedly contemporary building can sport a decorative bas-relief.
Old trams, serving several central routes, always enliven the scene.
The area around the cathedral is the most monumental. This 16th-century palace is called Palazzo Giureconsulti, an erstwhile seat of the local chamber of commerce.
Train stations in Europe are frequently among the most striking buildings. Milano Centrale is no exception.
A self-respecting metropolitan city has to have a triumphal arch somewhere within its boundaries. The neoclassical Arco della Pace was built at the request of Napoleon.
One of the unmissable visual highlights – even though it has shades of contrived – Castello Sforzesco.
The somber Tempio della Vittoria, commemorating the casualties of WWI.
Church façades are invariably among the most attractive spots in any city. This is Santuario di Santa Maria dei Miracoli presso San Celso.
And this is the inner courtyard of Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.
The church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is less striking from the outside, but inside it is one of the most incredibly painted houses of worship.
And then, the Duomo. If there is a must-see sight in Milan, this is it.
I suspect that in any other city, a cathedral like this would be a slam-dunk World Heritage site, but the Duomo di Milano is not even on the tentative list. Weird!
Exploring the roof of this cathedral, with its hundreds of spires, statues, and gargoyles, is a fascinating treat, but we have done it on both of our prior visits to the city, so this time around we limited ourselves with revisiting its interior. As behooves a Gothic basilica, it is to a degree dark and glum, but the altar and the choir, and the brilliant stained glass throughout compensate for that a lot.
The reliefs at the top of the columns are just exquisite!
Next to the cathedral stands the famous shopping arcade of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Teatro alla Scala is another top-billing sight. We do not love the genre enough to budget time for actually seeing an opera performance, but the museum tour offered us an opportunity to look out on the famous auditorium from a row of boxes.
This is the courtyard of Pinacoteca di Brera, the major art museum in town.
And these are a couple of interior shots in the Museo Bagatti-Valsecchi, a 19th-century mansion that was designed and decorated to evoke a 16th-century nobleman palace.
In a city as big as Milan, there are definitely plenty of points of interest to satisfy various tastes.
The cathedral, of course, is something else. Our rented apartment was around the corner from the Duomo, so we walked by it probably a dozen of times during a 4-night stay. Here are a few more pictures of it.
I don’t believe I will elevate Milan above some other of my favorite cities in the world based on this trip. But it is definitely not without charms!