Milan has its origins in the ancient Insubres, a Celtic people. These northern origins should give you an idea of how international its cultural background is. As a matter of fact, Milan is one of the most internationalized cities in Italy – people from all over the world come and go at all times of the year. Together with Rome and Venice, Milan is one of the most visited towns in the world. You will never have a problem finding a place to sleep or dine – you are in Italy, after all!
Museums are definitely worth a visit in Milan. Don’t miss the Palazzo Reale (the Royal Palace) and the Museo del Novecento (the Museum of the Twentieth Century) where you will find gorgeous exhibitions, rich with masterpieces.
Of course, you can’t miss a visit to the Duomo. With its magnificent gothic style and structure, this cathedral will leave you open-mouthed. One of the symbols of the city, this church was partly devoted to the Devil, after Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the Duke of Milan, had a terrible nightmare, in which Satan told him he would take the Duke’s soul unless he built a cathedral rich with images of the Devil. The Duomo is decorated with 96 sculptures portraying devils and demons. Also worth a look is the Madonnina, the statue of the Virgin Mary, on the top of the church. Looking at Milan from the top of the Duomo is an experience that you have to live once in your life.
Travellers still in the mood for creepy legends can also visit the Parco Sempione (Simplon Park). Legend has it that at the end of the nineteenth century, a lady in black used to wander through the park with her face completely covered by a black veil. She would attract men to her magnificent villa, sleep with them and then uncover her face to show a skull with empty eye sockets. From that moment on, those men were hopelessly in love with the lady in black: legend says that she drove them crazy for ever more. So, if you go to Parco Sempione, keep your eyes open and be careful!
Places to Visit in Milan
- The church of St. Ambrose
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a beautiful gallery rich with luxurious shops and boutiques
- Piazza Gae Aulenti – it will remind you of the squares in New York City!
- The Navigli district
Unique Things to See and Do in Milan
- Take a selfie with the magnificent Duomo in the background
- Try some typical Milanese dishes, such as some saffron risotto – it is simply divine!
- Go to Villa Invernizzi in Corso Venezia and see the flamingos in its garden – yes, you read that right, flamingos
- Visit the Castle of the city (Castello Sforzesco) and feel as if you have turned back time
- Experience the ‘dark side’ of Milan and go to San Bernardino alle Ossa, a mysterious church with a creepy ossuary, the walls of which are completely covered with human bones
Panettone – the Symbol of Milan
Ever tried the Milanese dessert par excellence? Its name is ‘panettone’ and tradition has it that Milanese people, and Italians in general, eat it on Christmas. It is a particular cake made of sugar, butter, candied fruits and sultanas, and, as with almost everything in Italy, there is a legend for it. And as with 90% of these legends, this one has to do with a love affair.
Once upon a time, there was a boy called Ugo who was in love with a beautiful girl whose name was Adalgisa. She was the daughter of Toni the baker. The family of the girl fought against their love and for this reason, Ugo started working for their bakery at night, when nobody could see him. This way, he could see Adalgisa and spend some time with her.
The business began to fail but Ugo came up with a great idea: he added some butter and sugar to the bread produced in Toni’s bakery. The result was a delicious bread which was nothing like any other Milan. One day Ugo decided to add something else, making this bread even better – eggs, sultanas and some candied citron.
This was the recipe for the perfect panettone, which means Toni’s bread, from the Italian ‘pane’ (bread) ‘di Toni’. In this way, the business of Toni’s bakery started improving - and Adalgisa and Toni were free to live out their love affair.
Getting Around Milan
If you want to move around Milan – do not be afraid – this city has a highly organized public transport system. There are several bus and tram lines which connect to every corner of Milan, as well as the Metro, which consists of four lines (red, yellow, green and purple). And not to worry – all are reliable and comfortable.
If you want to go to other Italian or foreign cities, there are many possibilities from Milan. There are five train stations in the city: Centrale, Lambrate, Rogoredo, Cadorna and Garibaldi, all connected via Metro, buses and trams. From these stations, you can reach cities such as Rome or Venice as well as foreign cities such as Zurich. There are also three airports in Milan; Linate, Malpensa and Orio al Serio, where you can catch flights to and from destinations all over the world.
If you like driving, there are also some car and motor sharing services. However, we do not suggest you drive in the city – the traffic jams are a disaster and if you are not familiar with daring drivers, driving in Milan may turn out to be a real nightmare!
Best Time of Year to Travel to Milan
Keep in mind that Milan is a northern city, meaning that the weather is cold and the sun does not shine so often, even in the summer time.
Did you know…?
Rome has not always been the capital of Italy. But Milan has been the capital of the Italian peninsula four times – first under the Western Roman Empire (286 BC-402 CE), second under the Cisalpine Republic (1796-1799), third under the Italian Republic (1802-1805) and fourth under the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814).
Did you ALSO know…?
Ambrose, the protector of Milan, was not Italian: he was born in Germany .
Travellers may have heard of the so-called ‘giorni della merla’ – whose Italian name means “the days of blackbirds” which takes place between January 29 to 31. This name derives from a legend which explains how blackbirds got their colour.
Once upon a time, blackbirds were white. One calm winter day, a family of white birds were looking for food when all of a sudden, a freezing wind rose and the family of birds had to seek shelter. They had to find it quickly otherwise the baby birds would have died. The only shelter they could find was a chimney, where they became completely black because of the soot. This way they managed to survive until the temperatures rose again and those freezing days were over. Hence, these 3 days are called “the days of blackbirds”.
Ready to plan your visit to Milan? Check out these popular guides and trips.