A couple of weeks ago, I took a short weekend trip to Milan for just 24 hours. I don't think I've ever flown anywhere for such a short period of time, much less to another country - the perks of living in continental Europe I guess. So, along with two willing friends, I took an early morning flight from Manchester International Airport reaching Milan's Orio al Serio International Airport (Bergamo) by 10:30am. A €5, one-hour shuttle from the airport got us to Milano Centrale Railway Station in city center by noon.
Initially, I was worried about what all we could actually see and do in such a short time frame (we had to leave for Bergamo by 7am the next morning. But, in this instance, I'd been well informed by friends and fellow bloggers that Milan could actually be enjoyed in just a day or two. And truthfully, after our 24 hours in the city, I can agree.
Our first stop after checking into our hostel, was the beautiful Duomo di Milano. You must devote a few hours at least to experience the Duomo or, believe me, you've done Milan wrong. And considering there isn't much ground to cover to begin with, missing out on the Duomo would be a huge mistake.
The Duomo is by far Milan's most known attraction. It stands in the Piazza del Duomo and holds the title for the third largest cathedral in the world. For €16 per person (unfortunately there is no additional student discount), you can gain access to the museum, the Duomo (a guide would be extra) and its roof (via escalator if your crunched for time like us). Every part was absolutely worth it.
The Duomo's size and design are magnificent. There is so much detail in its architecture, you can probably spend hours just walking around the circumference contemplating the expressions of all the sculpted figures. We started with the museum, which featured sculptures and stained glass from the cathedral's walls and gave us a brief history of the cathedral. Then we wandered through the cathedral itself. While we didn't have a guide of our own, we piggy-backed of of one group's while they surrounded one sculpture that I was especially amazed by.
It was Saint Bartholomew Flayed, a gruesome depiction of a man holding his own skin, created by Marco d'Agrate in the 1500s. While I didn't hear the history behind the work in the moment, just seeing the intricacies of the masterpiece was incredible - he was so realistic and painful, yet incredible to see in person.
By this point, it was 3pm. After a quick espresso and cannoli break at the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II, we joined the cue for the roof. We had perfect timing as we were able to enjoy the scenery before, during and after the sunset. This was hands down my favorite part of the trip, as we saw so much more of the architecture than possible from the ground, and that too against a stunning sunset.
A little past 4pm, we left the Duomo and took the subway - completely unnecessary as we realized afterwords we were only a five minute walk from the Piazza to Castello Sforzesco, a castle that once served as a defense fortress, military barracks, private residence and center of cultural institutions and museums. The subway though was fairly easy to navigate, which was helpful to know for our night out, and it let us out in front of a gelateria...so not a complete waste.
After walking around Castella Sforzesco (no ticket needed) for a while, we walked back towards the Piazza and started looking for a place to eat. It is a waste of time looking at the many restaurant menus lining the strada - they are all similar, and they are all a tourist trap. We could tell because within seconds of perusing a menu, the owner or manager would come and try to sell us on their traditional cooking, often making a point to say all the other restaurants nearby use frozen food. Personally, the sales pitch turns me off to the place completely.
Luckily, we ran into Granaio, which was recommended to us for its coffee, but its dinner menu looked good too. We knew it would be better than what we walked away from by the fact that we had to go up to the waiter and ask for a table. For €40, I devoured eggplant parmigiana as an antipasti, spaghetti pomodoro as a main, and three glasses of a Tuscan Pinot Grigio. While €40 is a bit pricey, I'd say for good food at Milan's Piazza del Duomo, that's pretty decent.
After dinner, we walked through the Galleria (the stores close at 7pm, but the Galleria itself is open 24 hours), to get a glimpse of the designer boutiques. It's worth seeing not just because Milan is a fashion capital of the world, but because the interiors of the Galleria are as stunning as the designers they house.
Our night ended in the Navigli district, an area along the canals known for its bars offering apertivo (pre-dinner drinks), a long-standing tradition in the city. While we missed out on apertivo, the area is known to attract a lot of young adults with its nightlife as well. We found a place along the water we felt comfortable in, until of course a couple brought in their two year old with them (not sure how to feel about that, although the munchkin was dancing just as much as we were). It turned out to be a really popular bar, Dazio Cafe' SRL, which had two floors, one with live music and the other a DJ. The drinks were around the €10 range, but they were pretty strong, so we ended up having a lot of fun.
The best part about going out in Milan though, at least I think, was the food afterwords. Leaving the bar around 3:30 am, we ran into so many people eating cannoli, so of course we had to too. While the journey back to our hostel was a bit complicated (trains stopped running at 2 am), we made it back to our hostel with a pizza in one hand and a cannoli in the other. The perfect end.