OPULENT INDULGENCE IN MILAN
Image: Shopping in Milan
Italy is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and diverse places to travel. Cycling the Amalfi coast, breakfasting on the shores of Lake Como or taking in the highlights of ancient Rome – each is a unique and quintessentially Italian experience. And we must not forget… Milan.
Milan – the sumptuous hub of industry, fashion and the arts – dominates the landscape of European culture, but has a kind of understated charm that takes a bit of time to appreciate. After a visit here, you certainly will.
This city has something for everyone – world-renowned architecture, a thriving cultural scene, fantastic dining and world class shopping. It has designer wine bars, and family-run trattorie, open-air discos and contemporary art centres. While many Milanese have a reputation for being busy, fine art, opera and aperitivos (pre-dinner drinks and snacks) are more the order of the day. You only need to visit one of Milan’s marvelous bars at aperitivo time to find that their real obsession is having a good time.
There is no better city in which to indulge in a few unforgettable days of cultural sights, shopping and wine tasting.
Sights of Milan
Image: Sightseeing in Milan
Source: Road Affair
Unlike Rome or Venice, Milan is known more for its stylish shops and galleries than for its history. Yet, Milan has a surprisingly rich cultural heritage and you don’t have to look too deeply to find the city’s unique gems.
The cultural sights of Milan are best visited on foot as the city is compact and the iconic sights closely situated. Start at the one and only Piazza del Duomo. This is the city’s heart and standing in its centre you can truly take in its crowning glory – the Milan Cathedral. Taking over 600 years to complete and known for its sublime architecture, including grand towers, statues and elaborate decoration, the cathedral is a truly awe-inspiring building.
Stepping inside you will be treated to beautiful stained glass windows, which glow in a multitude of colours as the sunlight streams through them. Rows of fine columns, statues and a truly fantastic display of artwork reside inside the cathedral as well.
After the Piazza del Duomo, you can walk over to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, nicknamed il salotto di Milano or Milan’s drawing room. The Galleria is an opulent and extravagant indoor shopping area, and with its glass vaulted arcades is a major landmark of Milan. Look for the image of a bull on the mosaic floor. Local superstition claims that spinning three times on the bull will bring you good luck.
Of course, the Piazza della Scala, the square that houses the world-renowned Scala Theatre (Milan’s Opera House), must be next on the list. Known for its opulence and acoustic qualities, there are few buildings in the world that have hosted as many great artists as the Scala Theatre. If you enjoy your walk through, consider booking a guided tour or even purchasing tickets to see a show.
From here you can easily walk through the charming cobbled streets of the Brera District. Home to a multitude of historical buildings, Brera has long been associated with artists and intellectuals. A distinctly bohemian atmosphere prevails here, with its art academies, galleries and bars.
Leaving the bohemian and heading to the royal, your next stop should be the Castello Sforzesco. This imposing 15th century castle and fortress was once the home and seat of power of the Sforza family, the ruling family of Milan. Though the family governed by force, ruse and power politics, under their rule the city-state flourished and expanded. This area has a host of small museums as well if you would like to learn more.
If the Piazza del Duomo is the heart of Milan, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is its soul, though you may wonder why at first. Built of red bricks in the Gothic style, the exterior of the Church is charming but not overtly so. However, inside lies one of the greatest artistic masterpieces in the world – Leonardo Da Vinci’s, The Last Supper. This sublime artwork is not to be missed, and the perfect culmination to a day of walking Milan.
Image: Opulent Indulgence in Milan
Milan is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most important fashion capitals. In fact, the city seems to breathe fashion, design, style and luxury. Second only perhaps to Dubai, Milan is a city for shopping. From high-end designers to emerging-label boutiques, Milan has it all.
The upscale quadrilatero della moda should be the top of your list. This opulent shopping district is bounded on four sides by streets lined with boutiques, jewelers and furniture showrooms, and is home to some of the biggest designers, such as Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Gucci.
The artsy Brera district also has unique little shops housed in beautiful, historic buildings. This is the place for the trendy and young, yet still chic, boutiques, and many of the young up-and-coming designers have shops here.
Of course, we can’t forget the Galleria. High-end shops line the mall and you can find names such as Prada, Versace and Luis Vuitton among them.
Don’t be afraid to stray from the well-worn shopping paths of the city center. Try Vercelli Avenue or Buenos Aires Avenue, for beautiful, but slightly less pricey pieces. Or the Porta Ticinese area, which is a great place for second-hand clothes and furniture.
Milan offers a wide range of retail options for all styles and budgets. It is well worth exploring some of the lesser-known areas. You may just find the perfect thing.
The Wines of the Lombardy Region
Image: Wines of the Lombardy Region
Now that you have seen the sights and returned to your hotel laden with packages, it is time to relax with a glass (or two!) of bubbles. Milan is the perfect city from which to embark on a trip to Lombardy’s picturesque wine region, Franciacorta.
Nestled between the shores of Lake Iseo and the foothills of the Alps, the Franciacorta wine region is easy to overlook. But don’t make that mistake. Here you will find vines heavy with Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianca grapes. While these lovely fruits may make you think of France with its famed Champagne region, here they give us Lombardy’s answer to Champagne – Franciacorta.
Franciacorta is a sparkling wine produced only from grapes grown on the hills that rise between the southern shore of Lake Iseo and the city of Brescia. It is a high quality and consistent wine, and many believe is the only sparkling wine that rivals French champagne. It is becoming increasingly popular with those in the industry, and is even served in the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant of Heston Blumenthal fame.
The first bottle was corked in 1961 and, possibly because of its relative newness, the wineries in Franciacorta have a lovely casual vibe. Tours are usually led by the owners who treat visitors like old friends and tastings are more likely to be held out among the vines then in a sterile tasting room.
This lovely region is only an hour’s drive from Milan and well worth the trip, and not just for the wine. Lake Iseo is an outstanding beauty, with lush green mountains surrounding a crystal blue lake. Its beaches are accessible and uncluttered and local boatmen will vie to take you around to Monte Isola, the unspoiled island at the heart of Lake Iseo.
When you return from a day on the water, head to one of the local rustic restaurants, tuck into a plate of salted lake sardines and open a bottle of Franciacotra Satèn. The perfect ending to the perfect indulgent Milanese weekend.