Milan, the capital of Lombardy, has captured the interest of the world with its dynamism, creativity and innovation. The world exposition has only been held in Italy once before, back in 1906, and even then the city chosen was Milan. At that time, the theme was transport, which was celebrated by the inauguration of the Milan-Paris railway line. More than a century later, the universal exposition has returned to Italy, once again in the city of Milan. The city, which is the second-most populous in Italy today, is opening its doors to the world. In addition to visiting the expo site, travelers should take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy the historic city, which is a major world fashion and design center and home to beautiful architecture and art masterpieces.
The following are some of major tourist attractions.
The Duomo di Milano, or the Milan Cathedral, is a symbol of the city and one of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedrals measuring 158 meters long, 93 meters wide and soaring to 108.5 meters at its highest spire. Its construction began in the 14th century and continued until the 19th century. In fact, the people of Milan still speak of tasks that “take as long as the construction of the Duomo.” The impressive interior reveals the cathedral’s vertical Gothic spirit. It contains numerous works of art such as the tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici by Leone Leoni (1563); a wooden choir; a Holy Nail reputedly from the crucifixion of Christ; a number of 15th and 16th century stained glass windows; and many more.
The luminous, marble façade and the roof terrace decorated with many statues of saints and a forest of openwork pinnacles and spires, give the cathedral an amazing white lace-like appearance. From the roof terrace, which is open to public and accessible by elevator, visitors can enjoy a unique panoramic view dominated by the church’s 135 pinnacles pointing towards the sky and reigning over the entire city.
To the left of the cathedral is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, another of the city’s well-known icons. Built by Giuseppe Mengoni in the late 19th century, and named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, the gallery is fundamentally two glass-vaulted pedestrian malls, intersecting each other and finished with beautiful mosaic floors. Inside are historic restaurants, bars and fashion boutiques.
When it comes to shopping in Milan, people may primarily think of fashion; after all, it is the nerve center of the “Made in Italy” industry. The showrooms of many major Italian designers are in the city, and it’s where buyers from around the world find the one and only “Italian style.” Milanese fashion is about luxury, but it also offers innovative ideas. Outside the fashion district — a must for those who want to buy designer apparel and accessories —almost everything can be found, from large international brands to small boutiques. But shopping in Milan also means exploring the many local open-air markets where all kinds of goods can be purchased, from groceries to clothing. One can also look for furniture, decorative items and works of art among the numerous shops in the Brera and Navigli areas.
Brera is one of Milan’s prettiest districts, colored by numerous restaurants, bars, antique dealers and other quaint shops and attractions. It is here that one finds the Pinacoteca di Brera and its collection of some of the most important works of art in the country. Featured artists include Raffaello, Andrea Mantegna, Piero della Francesca and Caravaggio. Another historic district in Milan is Navigli, a hub and meeting point for artists and the young. Until the 19th Century the area was a zone of canals, while today it is characterized by its art and artisan workshops.
For music lovers, Piazza della Scala is the obligatory place to go. Here one will find one of the most important opera houses in the world: La Scala. Most of Italy’s greatest operatic artists and many of the finest singers from around the world have appeared at La Scala during the past two centuries. La Scala season traditionally opens on Dec. 7 and closes in July. However, the opera house is continuously opening from May 1 through Oct. 31 this year, for the first time in history. The Museo Teatrale alla Scala (La Scala Theatre Museum), accessible from the theater’s foyer and a part of the opera house, contains a collection of paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and other documents covering La Scala’s and opera history in general.
The Sforzesco Castle, which was built for defense in the mid-14th century has been transformed into the city’s museum today. It houses art masterpieces of singular value such as the Rondanini Pieta by Michelangelo. From the castle’s courtyards, pedestrians can venture all the way to Parco Sempione, a city park of 47 hectares that are landscaped similarly to an English garden. Historic monuments and structures dot the park, from the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace), an imposing triumphal arch in the neoclassical style that commemorates the Napoleonic victories, to the Palazzo dell’Arte, (Palace of Art), in which Milan’s La Triennale is installed for the purpose of modern art exhibits and design collections.
The “Capital of the North” also bears a significant religious aspect, with its many historic churches cherished for their particular artistic attributes. Among these are the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, one of the city’s oldest churches; Sant’Ambrogio was built in the 300s and represents the height of the Lombard Romanesque style. Also of great artistic importance is the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo da Vinci painted his breathtaking “The Last Supper” between 1495 and 1497. Finally, the Basilica of San Lorenzo, a place of worship for Paleo-Christians situated near the Porta Ticinese. The San Lorenzo area of Milan is known for its Roman ruins. In time it has become the haunt of young Milanese, and is a glitzy stop on the nightlife circuit.
Information on this page excerpted from the websites of The Italian Government Tourist Board (ENIT) and turismo Milano. For more details, visit www.enit.it/en/, www.italia.it, visitaly.jp, or www.turismo.milano.it/wps/portal/tur/en
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