Those who follow me on Facebook and Instagram will already know that a few weeks ago I took part at the BIT (International Tourism Exchange) in Milan. It was a nice experience, because I got to know other people who share the same passion as me, whom I knew only through their blogs. At the same time it was a great thrill, because it was the first time I presented this blog to a trade fair. I took part only at the first two days of the fair, while on the third day I decided to visit Milan. I had already been to Milan on two other occasions, but not as a tourist and only for a few hours, so I had never had the opportunity to visit it. For this reason, I decided to take advantage of the BIT fair to visit Milan. So here’s what to see in Milan in one day.
Places to visit in Milan in one day: Piazza Gae Aulenti
As soon as I arrived at Milan Central Station, I took metro 2 towards Porta Garibaldi. At a stone’s throw from the station you arrive at the Centro Direzionale di Milano, whose centre is Piazza Gae Aulenti. It is a square of 100 meters in diameter, designed by the architect Cesar Pelli, from which it is possible to observe the very modern skyline of Milan. Besides being surrounded by ultramodern skyscrapers, it presents itself as the ideal place to take refuge from the noises and frenetic pace of Milan. In fact, the square is raised above the street level, with a very long bench on which to relax listening to the rustling of the water of the trick fountain in the centre of the square. In Piazza Gae Aulenti you can also see the Unicredit Tower, which is the highest skyscraper in Italy.
In close proximity of Piazza Gae Aulenti, you can admire two skyscrapers that form one of the most innovative and beautiful complexes in the world: the Vertical Forest. This is an example of metropolitan reforestation that brings so many benefits. In addition to having a beautiful visual effect, the plants housed in the two buildings create a microclimate that generates humidity, filters pollution and fine dust, absorbs carbon dioxide and returns oxygen, just to mention some of the benefits. Being February, I certainly didn’t see it in the most beautiful period of the year, since most of the plants were not in their moment of maximum splendour.
What to see in Milan in one day: Castello Sforzesco
Starting from Porta Garibaldi, I moved by metro to the Castello Sforzesco (Cadorna metro station). I arrived in Piazza Castello, where you can admire the main facade of Castello Sforzesco, one of the undisputed symbols of Milan, and the Fountain of the Castle.
The oldest nucleus of Castello Sforzesco dates back to the mid-fourteenth century, although it is from the following century that it began its real development, with the Viscontis. It was Francesco Sforza, after becoming lord of Milan in 1450, who ordered the reconstruction of the castle. Today it houses various museums, including the Museum of Ancient Art, an art gallery, the Egyptian Museum, the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Historical Archive, etc. Once I entered from the main entrance, I just walked around the inner courtyard, looking at the various areas of the castle.
Places to visit in Milan in one day: Parco Sempione and the Arco della Pace
Having left Castello Sforzesco on the opposite side of the main entrance, I found myself in Parco Sempione, where I enjoyed a pleasant walk to the Arco della Pace. In the midst of Parco Sempione there is also a small lake with turtles and various water birds. It was a pity to be there in winter, because this park must have been really beautiful to see in the summer months!
At the end of Parco Sempione you can admire the Arco della Pace, built after the Congress of Vienna to celebrate the peace achieved. It was inaugurated in 1838 by Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg and is one of the most important neoclassical monuments of the city. On the top, it has a sestige with the statue of Minerva of Peace and four figures of the Victory on horseback, while along the walls several bas-reliefs telling important facts of European history.
What to see in Milan in one day: Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
From Castello Sforzesco I moved to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It is a fifteenth-century church declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, for being one of the main examples of Renaissance architecture in Milan.
The tribune was built between 1492 and 1493 by order of Ludovico Sforza as a mausoleum for his family. It is attributed to Bramante, although there is no certainty about it, except that he was the ducal engineer. The church inside has seven chapels on each side, which were decorated by various artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, commissioned by the most important families of Milan, who wanted to use the chapels as burials for family members.
Next to the church is the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses one of the most famous masterpieces in the world: the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately I couldn’t see it, because there was no more availability and you need to book your visit in advance. I therefore advise you to get tickets in advance!
The next stop on this one-day itinerary in Milan was to be the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, but unfortunately I arrived too late, because it had closed for the “lunch break”.
Places to visit in Milan in one day: the Duomo di Milano
Immediately after lunch, I headed to Piazza del Duomo and after buying the entrance ticket to the Duomo, I lined up to enter. Fortunately I managed to get in after about 15 minutes, despite security checks. It was a long time since I wanted to visit the Milan Cathedral and I was finally doing it.
Inside the Milan Cathedral
I am a great admirer of the Gothic style and the Duomo di Milano could only leave me speechless. It is in fact the largest Gothic-style building in Italy. The measurements are impressive: it is about 157 metres long and its highest spire reaches 108 metres, for an area of almost 12 thousand square meters. And indeed when you are inside, you feel really small.
It took five centuries for the construction of the Milan Cathedral, in which artists from all over Europe took turns at the construction site. It is a unique architectural result of its kind, with a mixture of styles, from late Gothic (the predominant one) to a more classical one dating back to the Counter-Reformation period. Its decoration is majestic, with spires, pinnacles, countless statues, sculptures in cornices, colorful windows, etc. I was particularly struck by how the windows reflected their colors on the columns of the Duomo.
Walking in the apse area, I came across a copy of the statue of the Madonnina placed on the highest spire of the Duomo. Also worth seeing is the Crypt of San Carlo Borromeo, where the remains of the saint rest in a rock crystal urn.
On the terraces of the Duomo di Milano
After seeing the interiors of the Milan Cathedral, I lined up again to enter from a side entrance of the cathedral, which allows access to its terraces. You can climb the terraces using the stairs or the elevator, with a price difference of course. I chose to climb using stairs, but once I got up there, the view repaid the fatigue of the climb.
Places to visit in Milan in one day: Piazza del Duomo
After descending, I took a tour of Piazza del Duomo, admiring its elegance… and the many, many pigeons! 😀 It is the heart of the city, a meeting point for young and old, tourists and not. In the centre of the square, you can admire is the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, placed in line with the central door of the Cathedral. This square must be included in your list of the things to see in Milan.
To frame this rectangular square, there are several monuments dating from different eras, including the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It is the elegant living room of Milan, a 146 metres long pedestrian walkway that connects Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala. Inside we find restaurants, bars, exclusive boutiques. The roof of the entire gallery consists of an iron and glass structure, which culminates with the dome at the meeting point of the two arms. In the vault, under the dome, the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and America are depicted.
At the end of the Galleria, I arrived in Piazza della Scala, where La Scala theatre, one of the most famous of the world, is located.
What to see in Milan in one day: the Columns of San Lorenzo
Next stop of my one-day itinerary in Milan was the Basilica of San Lorenzo, famous above all for the colonnade in front of it, the so-called Columns of San Lorenzo. These columns are one of the few surviving examples of imperial Milan. Yes, because for a period Mediolanum (the Latin name of Milan) was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The columns date back from the 5th century, although some parts of them belong to older buildings. The Basilica has maintained the early Christian structure over the years, although it has been modified over the centuries.
What to see in Milan in one day: the Navigli
As the last leg of my one-day itinerary in Milan I left an area of the city that deserves to be seen: the Navigli. Coming from San Lorenzo and Porta Ticinese, shortly after I met the Darsena, the ancient river port of the city. The Darsena is the meeting point between the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese. If in the past it covered the function of a commercial port, today it is a meeting point and a place to relax, with benches where to sit and relax and clubs. Thanks to a redevelopment work for Expo, in 2015 the city of Milan has regained its port.
My one-day itinerary in Milan ended at the Naviglio Grande, where I felt to be in another city. The chaotic and always rushing Milan seemed to be a distant memory. The watchword was tranquility. At times it seemed to me to be among the canals of Venice or Amsterdam. This place fascinated me so much, that I almost consumed my camera… the houses reflecting themselves in the canal were a call to take many photos!
So, this is my one-day itinerary in Milan. In this itinerary, a tour of the Brera district was included, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time. Visiting Milan in just one day is not possible, because there are so many interesting museums to see, but a day is still enough to see the main attractions and the different souls of this metropolis.