European travelFamily Travel

A Winter Weekend in Milan

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November may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect time to spend a weekend break in Milan! But these days, we all lead very busy lives and have to take travel opportunities when they arise – whether or not the weather permits! And Milan offers so much to see and do; a chance to be charmed by this amazing city is not to be missed.

Milan

Arriving in central Milan on a Friday evening, the place was bustling. Alive with shoppers everywhere, twinklingly illuminated stylish shops and hardly a tourist in site!  In addition, style is everywhere – even the city dogs saunter around exuding a certain je ne sais quoi…..

The drizzle even adds to the atmosphere – reflecting the lights on the pavements below. The ideal place to head for to get a flavour of Milan over the centuries is the Duomo di Milano. The cathedral is absolutely magnificent. Having taken some 600 years to build you can imagine there is a lot of detail! Against a midnight blue sky, this fabulous edifice stands proud in all its glory, beautifully illuminated and majestic. The feeling that generation after generation dedicated their lives’ work to the completion of the cathedral makes you stop in your tracks. The brevity of the circle of life and the reality of life passing so very quickly rings out loud and clear when you stand in the beautiful piazza below.

Italy has style…..

Beside the cathedral, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a great place to wander and enjoy the stylish ambiance. This magnificent building houses prestigious Italian brands which are now renowned throughout the world for their style and elegance. For example Prada, Versace to name but a few. And shop windows are adorned with understated festive touches as Christmas fast approaches. The clothing, leather luggage and jewellery are superbly displayed in glistening shop windows. And our four-legged friends are well catered for too. Moncler even boasts a selection of puffa jackets to protect the stylish French bulldog about town from the harshest winter elements…..

The Duomo di Milano

Taking a walk into the city the following day, it was still raining, as it did throughout the whole weekend! But we couldn’t resist the idea of a walk on the rooftops of the fabulous Gothic cathedral to enjoy the spectacular views.  The two tier queueing system with a fast track option, suggested that we might have had a long wait ahead of us. But in fact we went straight in.

On ground level, the cathedral is magnificent – a massively impressive space. Ornately adorned with intricate paintings and carvings the interior of the cathedral is remarkable. And although the building exists on a huge scale, the smallest attention to every minor detail is apparent in every nook and cranny, both inside and out.

And visitors can visit the St Charles Crypt – a quaintly atmospheric, eerie chamber nestling on the lower levels of the cathedral and also visible from above.

The lift to the rooftops is very quick. And once atop this massive edifice, there are steps and uneven surfaces to negotiate so it is not ideal for the less nimble! The roof slopes gently down to parapets supported by elegant ribbed stone.

The rooftop is surrounded by dozens and dozens or ornate spires.  Most bear the weather and wear of centuries gone by. And a programme of refurbishment is under way repairing many of the eroded blocks of stone.

Views across Milan are spectacular, even on a grey day. This is an adventure not to be missed. And for Instagrammers there are some amazing photography viewing angles.

Cuisine in Milan

And the cuisine…. well this is Italy of course! Fabulous restaurants abound in Milan. We enjoyed a superb meal at the Osteria Mamma Rosa. Service with a smile and delicious cuisine. Not to mention a huge selection of wine. Wine, of course, abounds in Italy and is inexpensive. And even in Milan’s superior restaurants bottles of good wine are priced below €20.

The Lombardy region is well known for its rice and polenta dishes as they are cultivated extensively in this part of Italy. Risotto alla milanese is a firm favourite. And veal shanks in the form of ossobuco alla milanese are a delicious treat for carnivores. And of course, as in all Italy, delicious fresh pizza and pasta abounds. Fish is plentiful. You won’t go hungry here!

Salmon tartare

And panettone originated in this region. We enjoyed coffee and gelato in the eclectic Pasticceria San Gregorio’s  where they had even decorated their ceilings with row after row of them!

Pannetonne ceiling decoration

Milan hotels

In November, accommodation is plentiful and inexpensive in Milan. We stayed at the centrally located Ibis Styles Milano – a charming hotel just off the Corso Buenos Aires. The hotel is an excellent place to recharge your batteries after a long day of sightseeing. They provide an excellent continental breakfast and unlimited coffee is available throughout the day. The rooms are compact but ideal for a family just looking for a bolthole in the centre of the city. The rooms are located around a central atrium which is light, bright and airy. WiFi is included.

The central station

Railway stations provide a profound sense of contrast in history and time. And Milan station is no exception. With its huge, imposing facade and solid architecture the station dominates the Piazza Duca d’Aosta. Once inside, there is an abundance of modern cafes and shops bustling with stylish passengers in a hurry.

Then you can walk onto the 24 platforms and see the big beasts of high speed trains arriving and departing for destinations throughout Italy and beyond.

And the local Metro stations are not without their charm. Graffiti appears in various places and provides a charming contrast to the stark, simple lines of the stations.

Graffiti

Quaint streets

The charm of the streets of Milan just keeps on giving. Quiet little roads and pathways with fascinating shops, restaurants and bars to explore.

Milano

And with Christmas on the horizon, the lights are out and even that is done so tastefully.  It seems that the only festive lights allowed to adorn the shop exteriors and the streets are just white so it gives the place a stylish glow. Tacky it ain’t! The November drizzle enhances this effect by creating dazzling reflections off the damp pavements and cobbles.

East market – where old meets new meets creative

And no trip to Milan is complete without a visit to the flea market in Via Mecenate. Simply take the tram from downtown Milan and you will find a huge series of warehouses devoted to a fascinating array of wares from today and yesterday.

East Market Milano

Vintage clothes and jewellery abound – particularly from the 70’s and 80’s. Odd objets d’art – throwbacks to the age of psychedelia are for sale on the stalls. And the stall holders themselves are dressed in the most fascinating ways with style accents harking back to years gone by. You can buy yourself an old record to bring home – vinyl is well represented here! I had no idea that everything Beatles is still so popular! Music booms out through the speakers and the whole place has a very cool vibe.  Modern day artists and designers are display their eclectic wares for sale.

Refreshments are brilliant too! An abundance of tasty street food and international delicacies. Just sit on simple stacks of pallets topped with chipboard and enjoy a beer and a bite to eat.

In conclusion, Milan has something for everyone.  So you will not be bored – even in the rain! We recommend it very highly!

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