Being a recently inducted recessionista, I was determined to do minimal shopping in Milan and take my fill of sightseeing instead. Well, as they say, resistance is futile. Milan is the Lourdes of shopping so the sooner you can get the sightseeing out of the way, the better! Of course, I jest. Milan may not be as pretty as it's other Italian counterparts like Firenze and Roma, it's still just as interesting and charming. And those with stronger sales resistance will have a field day as well as the pilgrim shoppers.
The Central Station is a good start since you can reach most, if not all, of Milan from here. This was the station that Mussolini built. Aside from being known as Il Duce, he was famous for making the Italian trains run on time.
The Public Gardens or Giardini Pubblici is a welcome respite with plenty of shady tree lanes and a dog park. This is one of the oldest parks in Europe and was built on the site of two monasteries. You can reach Corso Buenos Aires (read as: shopping!) from one of the corners.
If you are an opera fan, you must make a stop and worship at Teatro alla Scala. The theatre does not look like much but if you can catch an opera here, it's really worth the time and money. All the opera greats have performed here like Callas, Pavarotti and Domingo.
Literally at the center of Milan is the Duomo Cathedral. It took 600 years to build this church and it looks like they forgot to build a bell tower. The city radiates from this point.
The interior is very serene and services were actually being held as well-behaved tourists walked along the perimeter.
(View from the Duomo spires)
The church has more than 100 spires each topped by a saint. The tallest spire is topped by a gold leaf Madonnina, the patron of the city of Milan. Not to be confused with Madonna, patron saint of Malawi.
You can climb to the top of the spire via stairs or elevator. We took the stairs for €5 fee.
This is the amazing view of the piazza from the very top of the Duomo. To the right is the temple of shopping, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
(Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II)
One of the oldest malls in the world, this atrium style shopping paradise has Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton among its illustrious tenants.
(The Little Bull)
One of the lovely mosaics on the floor is the famous Little Bull. It is said that if you step on the bulls balls with your heel and spin around, you will have good luck. I hope it works, even though, I'm wearing my $23 plastic ShoeMart shoes (hey, don't judge!)
It may be appalling for some to see a McCafe accross from Louis Vuitton and Prada. The Filipino staff at the counter were very nice though.
The Castello Sforzesco is were the dukes of Milan lived. Another famous resident is Leonardo Da Vinci who lived here for some time. He designed a canal system for transporting material to build the Duomo, among other things.
(Castello Sforzesco Courtyard)
(Santa Maria della Grazie)
For all you Da Vinci Code fans, this church might look familiar. The Santa Maria della Grazie contains the famous Last Supper by Da Vinci. If you would like to see the fresco, you would have to book waaaaay in advance. They only allow 25 people per hour to view the painting to control the humidity since the painting is deteriorating fast.
(Santa Maria della Grazie)
You may want to conclude your sightseeing at one of the local bars for an aperitivo. It's basically happy hour where the price of the drink doubles but you get some chichetta or little bites with your drink. Some places have unlimited buffet while the Bar Magenta gives you one small plate per drink. It's a lovely little Art Noveau bar southeast of the Duomo on Corso Magenta.