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.
Metros are not famous for their civility. Eyes rarely meet. The only unifying factor seems to be distance. While above ground one might be charmed by a flowing Renoir dress or enraptured by a Viennese delicacy, underground things are rather pedestrian. Not so in Barcelona. During our week there I have never been offered more seats by complete strangers, smiled at by workers coming home from a long shift at work or just felt perfectly at home with a people whose tongue I did not share but whose spirit I admired.
Street musicians play superbly, but then again considering that those licensed to do so have to pass exams, it probably makes sense. The mimes on Las Ramblas are delightful. Park Güell and Casa Batlló are enchanting. The interior of Sagrada Familia is breathtaking.
As you pass from one room to another of the Picasso Museum, each dedicated to particular years of the artist’s life, his experimentation and mastery of different styles will be evident. Clearly he was looking for his own unique style.
I’ve never eaten better food than the tapas in the Santa Caterina Market: grilled/breaded calamari, asparagus tempura with Romesco sauce, marinated/salted anchovies, cod canape topped with Samfaina, crusty bread topped with La Pena sardines.
One late evening, on our way back from tapas, we looked up at the sky above the Barcelona Cathedral, and I swear it was something out of El Greco.