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Touring Milano and Lombardy

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the oldest indoor shopping mall in the World.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the oldest indoor shopping mall in the World. Ph. ©Depositphoto.com/M_Prusaczyk

Milan, the capital of Lombardy, is known as the Italian Capital of Fashion, Finance and Entertainment.

While Rome is strong competition in the areas of fashion and entertainment, Milan is surely one of the most European of the Italian cities and the most sensitive to fashion and trends. Among the central streets of the city and its fashion and entertainment districts you can find echoes of London, but the quiet gardens, historical buildings, and art galleries are all there to remind you that you are still in Italy.

If you plan to tour the Milan area you’ll be pleased to learn there is much to see and do. While Milan is the second largest Italian city, its historical center is not that large, allowing us to plan several different types of tours that can be spread out over several days. Milan is also suitable for a weekend getaway in Italy!

On the first day we pay homage to the many artistic treasures of Milan. Depending on your mood, you can begin or end on a high note, viewing the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, kept at the refectory of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Then we go to the center of the city and visit the Pinacoteca of Brera, part of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. Many important paintings are on view here including works by Caravaggio, Mantegna, Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Tintoretto and Rubens. From paintings we pass to architecture, with the majestic Duomo, the Cathedral of Milan, and the mighty fortress of the Castello Sforzesco. The Duomo, with the statue of Madonna on its highest spire, is an imposing and complex Gothic building, rich both inside and out, filled with elaborate sculptures and precious decorations. The castle of the Sforza family—the clan that held the reins of the city for a very long time–is a massive structure that now houses several museums, including an art gallery rich with works by Tiepolo, Mantegna, Canaletto and the beautiful Pietà by Michelangelo Rondinini. The castle’s gardens and the Duomo square are important landmarks and meeting places of the Milanese. The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, the patron saint of the city, is a rare example of Lombard Romanesque architecture in the area.

The Duomo of Milan
The Duomo of Milan

Strolling around the Brera area you’ll see many galleries and design stores where the boundaries between art and products have been blurred.

Elegant and refined Milan is one of the world’s fashion hubs and one of the big three cities when it comes to fashion shows along with Paris and London. While strolling through Milan’s elegant neighborhoods you’ll often see designers and models relaxing between fashion shows and shoots. Via Montenapoleone is the most famous of the many streets dedicated to luxury shopping in the city. The area around Montenapoleone is basically a compendium of the best fashion brands in the world and it’s easy to spot a celebrity like Madonna, Lady Gaga or Victoria Beckham shopping in the area.

The Navigli at dusk
The Navigli at dusk. Ph. ©Depositphoto.com/savas40

Night entertainment is of course lively in Milan. Every night there’s something different going on. Check out the Corso Como, Corso Sempione, Garibaldi and Navigli areas and you’ll find something you like, whatever your tastes may be.

While Milan is a very forward thinking city, she also does not forget her roots. The traditional Christmas treat, panettone, was created here in the Middle Ages, a must-try if you visit during the holidays.

Lake Como
Lake Como

If you prefer to spend a day away from the traffic of the big city you can rent a car and head north to Como, a beautiful, elegant, and quiet town on the shores of the Lake of Como. The area has become even more famous in North America since George Clooney purchased an expansive villa here. Como was an ancient center of silk production, but after its industrial decline the town converted to tourism for revenue. The rich villas, quaint villages and breathtaking views that the areas around the lake offer are celebrated the world over. The villas here are populated by some of the world’s richest and most famous names. Como also boasts many splendid monuments, chief among them the Rococo cathedral. There is also some great luxury shopping in the area, which attracts visitors from as far as neighboring Switzerland, although shopping in the little town of Como really can’t compare to nearby Milan.

On the following day, we can leave Milan for Pavia, a small town known for the monastery of the Charterhouse, an imposing late-Gothic structure built by Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The monument is particularly representative of the wealth and the love of the art of the Visconti court.

Certosa of Pavia
Certosa of Pavia

Three days dedicated to art and shopping in Milan, a day trip to Como and a day trip to Pavia make for five intense days of touring and enjoying yourself. Lombardy still houses many more places worth a visit, but as a starting point this tour should leave you completely satisfied.

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