Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose


When people think of Rome, this is what might come to mind:




I’d be the last person to say Milan is Florence or Rome, but that is not to say it doesn’t have its own charm.


The Duomo di Milano is impressive. But perhaps you’re a little like me and wonder whether what Dylan Thomas said of death also holds true of cathedrals.  If so, one can still climb the many steps (think of it as that exercise you’ve been putting off), and you’ll be afforded a wonderful view of the city and the Italian Alps in the distance.  Within the church, I found myself enthralled by the stainglass windows.

Here’s one by Paolo Uccello:


I had little expectations for The Last Supper, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. After passing through one hermetically sealed room after another, we arrived in the chapel:


We had 15 minutes. I could have spent hours.

If you like Italian opera as much as me, a visit to the very inconspicous (from the outside at least) Teatro alla Scala is a must. The likes of Maria Callas sang there.

Part of the enjoyment I find in travel is the unexpected.

Did you know they have a canal in Milan? And did you know it was designed by Leonardo da Vinci?


It is a wonderful spot, and there are places to eat and drink.  We were lost (also a favorite activity of mine) and happened to stumble upon a restaurant where we had a wonderful meal with an excellent Gavi wine.

Gelato has a well-deserved reputation, and when I first tried it in Rome nearly thirty years back it was a revelation worthy of St. John the Divine. You will want to taste the ice-cream here as well.

On the subject of food, risotto is a must. But, of course, some risotto is more equal than others. As always the safest rule for eating while travelling is to avoid the restaurants tourists frequent and try to find a place locals visit.  In Milan you will hear beautiful Italian cadences to which your taste buds will be eternally grateful.

Finally, I would be amiss not to mention that Milan is also the perfect spot to use as a base to travel to other locations nearby.  Our excursions brought us to Lake Como, Lugano, and Verona.

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16 thoughts on “Milan

  1. All of it sounds wonderful. I would love to see The Last Supper. At first it doesn’t look like that much is going on, until you really start to look at it. 15 minutes is not enough–but I would take it.


  2. For certain it’s not enough. I could have spent hours – the only other time I had a similar feeling was in one of the rooms in the Musée d’Orsay.

    Italy is such a great place. So many places to see. And to think I haven’t been to Venice yet…


  3. You should drop by a Maserati dealership…


  4. I spent 8 months in Milan last year – I totally agree it’s a wonderful (and underrated) city. I went and sat outside or in the Duomo whenever I could, it’s such a gorgeous building, and happily a cathedral that you don’t have to pay to go in!

    Did you make it to the big cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale)? It’s a bit out of the centre, but I always took people there – it’s massive and gorgeous and there are some beautiful statues and tombs (morbid, I know, but worth it).

    Glad you enjoyed it :-)


  5. Your infrequent travel pieces make me ache to go abroad again (my days of intercontinental travel have been put on hiatus for probably a decade or so). I’ve never been to Milan, and you manage to make me regret that (for which I thank you).

    I have been to Rome and Florence, and while I do think of the Colosseum and the big naked guy for those two cities respectively, the first thoughts that come to mind are different. When I think of Rome, my first impression is of small, animated, gregarious people, and streets blurred by the dizzying, deadly traffic. When I think of Florence, I think of American students. While both of those impressions probably sound negative, only the latter do I really see that way.

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, because this sounds so…I lack the word–provincial? Ignorant?–but the thing I really LOVED about Italy was the pizza. It’s so different from American pizza, lighter and fresher. I really haven’t been able to enjoy pizza quite the same way since. I’ll go to high-end pizza places and try their margherita pizza (“just like Italy!”), and I always leave a little ticked off. Seriously, that pizza was good.


    • You’re welcome. And here I always had you pegged for Sinatra.

      I can understand your memory of Rome. I can still feel the heat and the hear the noise.

      One should never be embarrassed in my presence or even in my absence. Provincial is a word I think best suited for big-city slickers who think the beginning and end is their city, which is, of course, the center of the earth. When I made my summer-long journey across Europe following university, I had taken the GRE (without studying – no need to tell you how that turned out…) and was waiting to hear from grad schools, one of which was in Albany. Anyway, on the train a couple from New York did their best to save my soul by declaring, “No, no, not Albany. It’s so provincial!”

      Italian pizza is great. We made a pilgrimage to a place that locals raved about, and while standing in line, struck up some good conversations.

      I think what makes Italian food so great is its simplicity.

      I have to laugh. When we were in Milan, my wife finally fulfilled her dream of trying lobster and pasta, and as I was about to put cheese on it for her, I was properly scolded in the most memorable way imaginable by our waiter.


  6. I’ve been to Rome, Florence, and Venus but not Milan. Sounds (and looks!) lovely. And I agree with Smak–the pizza in Italy is pretty great. :)


  7. You were in 3 great cities. I’d love to see Venice.

    We also loved Verona, which I only just mentioned at the end as I’m planning to write about it for another post.

    The Italians know their food!


  8. well, i just read your post…must tell you one thing: the real Milan natives still love this city – but they are a minority (unfortunatelly), while most of the actual Milano’s people- imigrants, coming from all over Italy (and not only) do not love this cityn at all….you, as tourist, had a different impression…But i’m glad you saw Milan in that way!


  9. Anonymous on said:

    I’ve always wanted to get there, Tom; someday… The Duomo would be first on my list. Great write-up and images. Many thanks as well for liking some older posts “First Snow”, “Across the Great Divide”, “Monarch Lake” and “Lunar Flare”. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to catch up on more of YOUR posts!


  10. Hi Tom! Italy is a huge “bucket list” item for us; 1st in Milan would have to be the Duomo, but realize there’s so much more. Great write-up, great images! Thanks as well for liking some of my earlier posts “First Snow”, “Across the Great Divide”, “Monarch Lake” and “Lunar Flare”. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look at more of YOUR posts! Take care!


  11. Yes, Milan is a great jumping off point. My favourite places nearby are Bellagio on Como and Isola Madre on Maggiore. I could list more!


  12. We loved Bellagio as well. We didn’t get to Isola Madre but I just had a look now – I could see visiting that as well!


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