At first glance Milan can be a little intimidating. It doesn’t have the historical familiarity of Rome or the landscape setting of the Tuscan hill towns and for this reason many tourists tend to avoid spending time there. But that would be a pity because Milan has a style all its own, a style worth taking the time to see and get to know.
So I’ve come up with an A-list of must do’s for first time travelers to Milan. Sights and sounds they need to take the time to see and savor. I call it the M-List.
- Take the tube to the city center to see Milan’s great cathedral, the Duomo, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world. It is 515 feet long, 302 feet wide and 148 feet in height. Made from Candolglia marble, there are 3.400 statues both inside and out and 135 spires with 1800 statutes up on the roof
- Walk through the rarified air of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the 4 story glass and iron shopping arcade that is home to some of the most expensive shops on the planet to spin on the Zodiac of Taurus the Bull for good luck
- Stop at an aperitivo bar for a Campari and Soda, Milan’s iconic “happy hour” drink (the evocative atmosphere of historic Café Zucca at the Galleria would be a pricey but good choice)
- Travel around the corner of Piazza Duomo to Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, the Ambrosian Art Gallery and Library to see a manuscript of Dante’s Divine Comedy , Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus and Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit
- Window shop Via Montenapoleone, Milan’s Golden Triangle, (Quadrilatero d’Oro), for a fashionista inspired experience
- Shop at La Rinascente, Milan’s venerable department store, ascending to the terrace top restaurant and food pavilions on 7th floor that overlook the spires of the Duomo
- Visit the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie to stand in awe of Leonardo’s il Cenacolo, the Last Supper simply displayed on the refectory wall of this Dominican friary
- Stroll through Piazza Sempione, Milan’s 116 acre Central Park with a promenade of formal gardens, monuments, fountains and the Neo- Classical Arco della Pace commissioned by Napoleon after the battle of Waterloo
- Get up close and personal with the fashionable Milanese walking and stopping to see and savor the city (Zara, Geoxx, Pecks) on your way to Castello Sforza, once a Visconti Palace now a series of museums
- Eat a risotto alla Milanese and costoletta alla Milanese (crunchy cutlet made from the veal chop) for a simple yet sublime interpretation of Milanese cuisine
- Sample the wines of the Oltrepo Pavese (the other side of the Po River) including Bonarda. Dark garnet in color, with an aroma of roses and a whiff of anise, it was one of my cousin Roberto’s favorite wines
- Wander through Navigli, Milan’s hip canal district with eclectic boutique shops, cafes and restaurants