After my surprisingly pleasant visit of Turin, I travelled onwards to my next stop on the trip: Milan. To get there I used the Italian high-speed train, The Frecciarossa (Or Red Arrow).
As with all long distance trains in Italy you have to make reservations in advance, unfortunately when travelling on FIP coupons you can only make these locally and at €21 for 50 mins the reservation is still quite steeply priced. Nonetheless it was a very smooth journey across the Po plain on the new Turin to Milan High-speed line running along the motorway for most of the way.
The Frecciarossa coaches all have vis à vis seating, meaning seating bays of 4 seats with a table in between like in most “normal” trains unlike the airline style seating most other high-speed trains prefer to use. I did notice that the train shook and vibrated much more when travelling at speed compared to other high-speed trains I have used and this resulted in a rougher and noisier ride. Surprisingly we arrived in Milan quite a few minutes before schedule in the magnificent central station. It is a huge and imposing building and one of the main landmarks of the city.
After taking the Metro towards the other Milanese main station, Porta Garibaldi, and checking in to my hotel, The Holiday Inn Milan Garibaldi Station, I took a tram towards the city centre. Luckily tramline 2 served the Duomo as a direct line from the front door of my hotel. This line uses some older articulated tram stock, which gave a nice retro feeling.
The Duomo is located on a big square, fittingly named the Duomo Square. Unfortunately I immediately already some guys forcing bracelets onto unsuspecting tourists and then asking money for it, a scam which is also often used in Paris, giving me a less inviting and true tourist trap feeling.
Luckily I managed to circumvent them and went to visit the Duomo. First you have to queue to get entrance tickets in the Duomo museum building, then you have to walk back to the cathedral and queue for a security check to enter the building. While the façade of the Duomo is quite impressive in its white colour, the inside was not as stunning as what one would expect.
While it still is an impressive building with quite some very nice art pieces, I have seen much nicer churches before. Included in the ticket price of the basic ticket are also a visit to the crypt under the cathedral, which is nice to see, and a visit to the Duomo museum. In the museum you get a bit more background about the history of the Duomo and the art installed inside and outside as well as a church you get to visit in the museum complex.
After finishing up on the Duomo I walked through the famous Vittorio Emmanuelle II gallery leading from the Duomo square towards the Square in front of the Scala opera. The Gallery is a nice and imposing building with lots of small decorations all over the place, unfortunately it was very busy and crowded at the time I was there. In the Gallery there is also a museum dedicated to the inventions and art created by Leonardo da Vinci, it’s a really interesting and hands on experience but unfortunately I was not allowed to take any pictures.
I ended up on the square in front of the Scala opera house and subsequently went on to visit the museum of the Opera. It consists of a few rooms beautifully decorated and stuffed with all kinds of costumes and artifacts of the opera’s performed in the Scala. Unfortunately all explanation plaques are in Italian only so as a foreign visitor a lot gets lost in translation. The highlight of the visit is being able to take a quick look inside of the famous theatre and have a glimpse of an opera being practiced.
After about 4 hours I visited my tour of the main highlights of Milan city centre, all conveniently located close to each other. While I am sure there are some more things to see and do, I didn’t really “feel” Milan also partly because I’m not a shopper nor a fashionista. In my experience there are more interesting cities to visit in northern Italy, so unless you are into shopping and designer clothing I would not put visiting Milan as a top priority on your list.
To finish up the day I used a combination of tramlines 1 and 33 to take a bit of a longer “scenic” tour to get back to the hotel. Both lines use 1920’s built Peter Witt tramcars which are the old-timer trams Milan is famous for. They are nice to have experienced for a ride as a tourist and should be a must to do if you decided to go there. But even as this slightly longer tour of the city I did not really see nothing more that spoke to me to visit and explore.