From time to time I go to Milan for a walk. For those living in the North of Italy it’s quite easy to get there by train, and it makes a perfect day trip destination.
There are 5 places in particular that I like. And they can all be visited on foot.
Duomo and Gallery
Duomo e gallery don’t have much in common, but they are so close one to the other that I consider them part of the same stop.
The Duomo is the symbol of Milan. It’s the largest church in Italy and it took almost five centuries to build it. Its beauty is impressive, so rich in details, with these pinnacles that you can see from close if you go up to the terrace.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built at the end of the XIX Century in a Renaissance style. It’s Milan’s living room, a pedestrian path lined with historic and luxurious restaurants and shops. The central dome in glass and iron is what captures my mind mostly, in particular with the late afternoon light.
At the other end of the gallery, when coming from Piazza Duomo, you end up in Piazza della Scala, where you can find the Opera House of Milan, one of the most prestigious in the world.
Piazza Gae Aulenti
Piazza Gae Aulenti is one of the most recent areas of Milan, inaugurated in 2012. It represents the contemporary Milan, and I link it to the City in London because of the skyscrapers occupied by offices. Here you can see the Unicredit Tower, that with its 231 meters is the tallest skyscraper in Italy.
From this square you can also see the palace with the Vertical Forest.
I don’t particularly love skyscrapers, but this area is very nice, a good example of urban redevelopment. It’s a very green place, despite all the concrete, because it was built with a great attention to the environment: some windows around the square and the tree lamp have photovoltaic cells that produce power for the buildings.
The Sforza Castle dates back to the XV Century and is situated at one end of Parco Sempione. In the past it was one of the most important fortresses of Europe, and together with the Duomo it’s one of the landmarks of Milan.
Nowadays here you can find some museums and interesting exhibitions.
The Navigli are channels that connect Milan to lakes Maggiore and Como and to Po river. In the past they were used to reclaim the land, water the plantations and for trade (for centuries Milan was a fluvial harbor).
Today, the area is best known fo the spritz aperol and the aperitivo. There are traces of its old history, like the “Vicolo dei Lavandai”, the alley of the laundrymen, that still displays an old basin used until the 1950s; there are art galleries, many cafes and restaurants. It’s a hipster area of Milan.
I’ve kept the Monumental Cemetery as last site, but it’s actually my favorite. Maybe because a cemetery is not the first place you think of visiting when you are in a new city.
Ho tenuto il Cimitero Monumentale per ultimo ma in realtà è quello che mi piace di più. Forse perché un cimitero non è il primo posto che ti viene in mente di visitare quando sei in un posto nuovo.
The Monumentale was inaugurated in 1866 and hosts the remains of important figures of Milanese society. What I like are the statues, the chapels, the amazing funeral works, most of which cost more than my apartment. You should spend a day there to see enough of them.
These five sites can be seen in one day during a walk around Milan.
From the train station you can walk to Piazza Gae Aulenti, and from here heading West you get to the Monumental Cemetery.
The Sforza Castle is at one end of Parco Sempione, that you can reach following an alley that starts from the entrance of the cemetery. You can cross the castle and if you take the alley right at your front you can get to Piazza Cardusio, from where you can see the Duomo.
From the Duomo it’s a 30 minutes walk to the Naviglio Grande. Probably by the time you are here it’s the right time for an aperitivo. From here you can go back to the station on foot (about one hour, but I was quite tired at this point), or you can take the underground at Porta Genova station.
I suggest to walk in Milan, as it is beautiful, full of palaces, small gardens and arches that surprise you at any corner.
These are the last weeks available to visit the Expo, that closes at the end of October.
Probably someone hasn’t been yet and is wondering if it’s worth it. It’s difficult to answer.
Letting aside the annoying Mc Donald’s that has a huge space for eating and is one of the main sponsors of the Expo (I mean, we are in Italy, we are proud of our healthy natural food etc and Mc Donald’s sponsors this event based on food and nutrition!), probably I would say Yes, go! It’s a worldwide event that takes place every 5 years, who knows when you’ll have a similar occasion?
I was there mid August. It was a full and tiring day, because there’s really a lot to see and when you are there you want to take most than you can.
At the end of the day I was “Wow, that was amazing! It was like traveling the world in one day”. The following day, after one night sleep, I had completely changed my mind: “At the end what did I see? What have I learnt? What did I experience? The Ethiopian dish at 8 euro that after I ate it I was still hungry? How nice the Japanese pavilion must be if some people are eager to queue for 3 hours to visit it? The wooden statues on sale at some african pavilions, like those that you find at any market in any place of the World?”.
We started from the Oman pavilion, which was flowing and quite interesting, even though I can’t remember much of what I saw. A bit of interactivity, photo games and multimedia tools, a nice reproduction of a tea room. In Russia we walked to the roof, from where you can enjoy a nice view of the Expo. With 10 euro you could have a glass of Champagne with some caviar. Well, not for my pockets. There was a food tasting in 15 minutes, but it was already crowded, I guess only few lucky people would have made it. To enter the Japan pavilion there was a waiting line of 2 and a half hours. The futuristic clock at the entrance was quite inviting, but we probably wouldn’t be able to get close. We went back at 7 pm, hoping that the queue was shorter, it looked much quieter. Yes, it was closed.
A quick tour of the Turkish garden. A nice environment, beautiful majolica and turkish coffee. All outdoor, a very pleasant walk.
And the morning was over. We had the Ethiopian lunch. Then something Palestinian, we were still hungry. It’s nice to find different food in a small space, but I would have preferred to try a little bit of everything, have a bite here and there. But no. Unless you have a big amount of money, you can only try one or two dishes. That is a shame. If there were small bites from all the countries, at one euro or so, not even free, you could have tasted a bit of everything. Or what you were most interested in.
Near the area “Africa-MiddleEast Food” (Bio-Mediterraneo in the map) there were some nice big pictures by George Steinmetz, a National Geographic photographer. Really beautiful. In the area of the Expo dedicated to coffee there were beautiful images by Sebastiao Salgado, an interesting reportage on the coffee growing in the world (all mini-pavilions of the coffee area were selling souvenirs and giving away touristic flyers, all but a couple that also served coffee).
Then it was Chile time. A nice video to introduce you to Chile and its very different areas, an interactive room showing the various Chilean produce, a cozy restaurant. Well, all in all a one hour queue well worth it. Further on Hungary, a good option, considering that there was no waiting line. A little orchestra was playing while a couple was dancing, very appealing. Some nice pictures, nothing more.
Next destination: Kazakhstan. Two more hours wait. Ok, let’s keep walking. So Thailand. Half an hour and we are inside. In the meantime outside there’s a thai fight demo, but we can’t see it because we have to follow the queue. Three rooms in the Thailand pavilion: in the first one, you sit on the floor and watch some images about rice fields in Thailand displayed on the walls and ceiling. Quite nice. Second room: you are all standing around a hole; a dancer comes out carrying baskets, while images of Thai produce are displayed. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I am not an artist, but I didn’t understand this. Third room: a video about the righteousness of the king and how good he his for his people. How well he’s doing to develop the agriculture and feed everyone. A true and nauseating propaganda. And the day before there had been a bomb in Bangkok. Maybe he’s not as good in making everyone happy as he claims.
In Brazil you could climb a huge net. Probably funny, but what is the link with “feed the planet”?
Angola. Interesting and well structured. Tools used in agriculture, cultivations, a bit of touristic advertisement, an invitation to visit Angola, a very safe country. See it with your eyes. And the capital of Angola is the most expensive in the world. People die of hunger, but there’s oil and those that have money spend it; so if you want to visit you also have to pay.
Nepal. It’s almost 6 pm and there’s less people. Or maybe because we are at the end of the boulevard and it’s less crowded. Most people stop at the beginning and in the middle, where the most interesting pavilions are. That of Nepal wasn’t supposed to be here, because after the earthquake they had no money/time/will to do it. They’ve been helped. It’s nothing special, but nice, if you have never been to Nepal even more. A buddhist temple, the nepalese flags, the most expensive ravioli of the world and not even tasty.
It’s beer time because we are getting tired. At the Belgium pavilion there were many different beers, but so expensive! 4 or 5 euro for a small glass. Ok, we’re going back to the Moretti.
At 8 pm there’s the light and music show at the Tree of Life. Not bad, I would say.
There’s not much open now, not even something to eat, so we leave. If you come in after 6 pm the entrance fee is cheaper (or after 7 pm, can’t remember), but I don’t know what the point is. It’s 5 or 10 euro, but 5 or 10 euro completely wasted.
Luckily I had found an offer, so we paid 40 euro for 2 instead of one person, otherwise I would have been a bit annoyed. 40 euro for 9 hours (the Expo opens at 10 am and at 7 pm most pavilions are closed) seems quite expensive to me. And there’s who can afford to spend 6 of the 9 hours queueing (apparently this is the waiting time for the Japanese pavilion during weekends – and it’s of no help running there as soon as yo arrive, because it’s the same thought everyone has), but everyone is free to do as they please.
Maybe those that live near Milan bought a seasonal ticket, so come back many times and can enjoy the Expo better. About me, I don’t know. I’m happy I visited, because I was curious. But I think it was very badly organized. I understand you need to earn as much money as you can from it, but you should find a way to reduce the waiting lines. For example you should limit the number of visitors to the Expo or give the opportunity to book the entrance to a pavilion. And the food. I mean, an Expo with “feed the planet” motto and you can’t taste the specialties from all the countries; shame.
I have always loved traveling, since I was in my mother's womb. I love to see new places, meet new cultures, eat the food of the world. Recently I discovered that pictures can sometimes show more than I can do in words.
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