Italy is a very diverse and big country, located in Southern Europe.You will find magnificent mountains in the North, beautiful beaches in the South, the most picturesque coastline in the East , stunning landscapes and rolling hills rising all throughout Italy.Impressive architectural masterpieces, fashion and artistic works show off proudly in Italy. They exist besides ancient cities and a very rich and tumultuous history that shines through all in Italy.Italian cities and villages have  character , almost a personality.In general Italians are warm-hearted and generous people and their cuisine is delicious and universally loved.It should not surprise anyone, Italy is in the third most visited country in the world . According to the The Italian Government Tourist Board, Italy welcomes 94 million tourists a year (2019). The most favourite places to visit are Milan, Rome, Pisa, Florence, Lake Como.
Here are some fun facts about Italy:
  1. Italy is world’s largest wine producer and one of the world’s largest wine exporters.
  2. Europe’s three active volcanoes are in Italy: the Vesuvius, the Etna and the Stromboli.
  3. Vatican city in Rome is world’s smallest country.
  4. Almost one-fifth of Italy’s population is over 65 years old and they have a low birth rate.
  5.  There is a free wine fountain in Caldari di Ortona in Italy. (We really should have written this blog post before going to Italy and not afterwards!)
  6. The first pizza with a tomato base was prepared in 1860 in Naples, Italy.
  7. With 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Italy has more World Heritage sites than any other country in the world.
  8. Italians started preparing pasta since the 4th century BC.
  9. Rome was founded 753 BC. The Kingdom of Italy we know nowadays, was founded in 1861.
  10. More than half of Italy’s males between 24 yrs and 35 yrs still live with their parents.
  11. Pinocchio was written by an Italian.
We planned a roadtrip throughout Italy during 3 weeks and we assumed we would have plenty of time to see the country and to understand culture and history.Nothing could be further from the truth. Too many stories, too many ancient and historical sites, too many museums and amazing landscapes.Even a year would not be sufficient to truly understand Italy!
We went to Italy by car in Summer 2021. The SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant flourished as never before and infected cases rose exponentially. In the week before we left, cases multiplied 50 times!! It was only a matter of time before the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control would color the Netherlands red. This would result in countless cancelled holidays for most people since they get 2 to 3 weeks off of work and being quarantined during a holiday is not an attractive option.Get Out of the Netherlands as Soon as Possible. This was what we kept in mind. We had been looking at possible trips around Europe for weeks and were confused. The rules were different per country and changed continuously! The timespan in which antigen tests were considered valid, the minimum age for which a test was required, the costs of tests, whether we would have to be quarantined or not upon arrival…
We decided to go to only one country: Italy and keep things simple. We would visit beaches, mountains, great ancient cities and historical sites.That Friday at 3.00 am, Rakesh passed his European exam to fly the DJI air 2S after a few hours of studying. At 3.00 am I was packing, cleaning and busy with our next IGTV. Have you read our blog post about ‘ how to plan travels with kids’; click here. You can obviously trust our advice, since we are experts in knowing How Not to Prepare! Our kids attended their last school day. The antigen test for all of us except our two youngest, was scheduled at 3 pm. We received the negative test results by email at 4.30 pm and planned to leave home at 7 pm.We still needed to pack, to have dinner and clean up. Suddenly our second son lost his phone, which was found an hour later but caused extra stress.
When we left hours later than planned at 10 pm, we did not have an itinerary or accommodation yet. We only knew we were heading to Italy.5 days later, on July 15th, the Netherlands colored red on the European Corona cases map. The news popped up on our phones when we were driving through an apple orchard on our way to Venice. We had been so lucky !!
 
Milan is regarded as one of the Fashion Capitals of the world and the economic heart of Italy. It is the capital of Lombardy and known as Italy’s second-most populous city. The wider Milan metropolitan area has a population of over 8 million people. Milan has very stylish and modern looks nowadays and a very rich and tumultuous history.
 
Milan was first settled by the Celtics around 400 BC and conquered by the Romans 200 yrs later. In the next centuries, Milan was defeated and under rule of the Lombards, the Franks and the Germans. During the Middle Ages Milan flourished with great financial power and the church had a strong political role. In 1450 Francesco Sforza conquered the city. This was the time of the Renaissance and many buildings in Milan were erected or restored which still stand today; the Ospedale Maggiore, the Palazzo dell’Arengo and the Naviglio d’Adda. Francesco’s fourth son Ludovico invited Leonardo da Vinci and other artists to decorate Milan’s structures and produce great artistic works. Leonardo’s most famous work from his time in Milan is ‘The Last Supper’; a huge mural painting representing the scene of Jesus’ last supper.
The following centuries, dominion over Milan was under French, Swiss, and Spain control before it was restored to the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Milan progressed as one of the leading financial centres in Italy. During the First and Second World War, Milan suffered great financial loss and severe bombing. Countless Italian soldiers never returned from the battle fields. Italian forces managed to rebuilt Milan after the devastating wars. Milan became a prosperous industrial city. In March 2020, the majority of Italy’s cases of COVID-19 was in Lombardy, with the highest rate of death worldwide. Nowadays Milan is Italy’s main industrial, financial and commercial centre. Milan is also Europe’s fashion and design capital, along with Paris.

In Milan nowadays you will find  impressive architectural design along with great historical sites, excellent cuisines and luxurious shops. Milan is one of the must-see places in Italy.

We only stayed two nights in Milan, but we wished we had stayed a bit longer. Our youngest fell ill and we could not visit all the places we had in mind.If you want a lively impression of our time in Milan, watch: our Reel on Instagram.

I compiled an itinerary for Milan which is not complete, but will give you an overview of some main sites of interest and also some less known nice places in Milan.

Here are some great tips on what to see and do in Milan in one day:

 

Duomo di Milano
The Milan Cathedral is the world’s third-largest catholic cathedral and the biggest in Italy. There are more statues on this church than on any other building in the world: 3400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures decorate the magnificent cathedral.

The construction of the Duomo di Milano started in 1386 and it took more than 6 centuries to complete. The remains of ancient basilica’s are still visible in the archaeological area of the Duomo. It is a gothic style designed cathedral. Sculptors, architects and engineers from all over Europe contributed to the splendid looks of the cathedral.

In the Middle Ages Pope Martin V declared the church’s high altar to be sacred. Leonardo da Vinci designed the tiburium (the architectural element that encloses the dome in its interior) at the end of the 15th century.

In 1774 Giuseppe Perego sculpted the golden copper statue known as Madonnina, and it was placed on the highest spire of the cathedral. This became a symbol of Milan. The gigantic stained glass windows in the Cathedral are considered the tallest worlwide.

Construction is still ongoing and in 2016 the dome and tiburium were restored.

When you visit the Cathedral you will find a very accurate sundial on the floor placed by astronomers in 1768.

You can climb the stairs or take the lift to the roof top for great views of Milan.
Above the altar there is a spot where one of the nails of Jesus crucifixion is placed and always lit by a small red light.

Once a year in September, the archbishop of Milan is lifted all the way up to retrieve the nail in a beautifully decorated basket representing a cloud with angels. Subsequently, the nail is exhibited at the altar for a few days.

We walked around the Cathedral only once to observe the many statues. It would have been great to spend more time observing the Cathedral, however, this was not possible in the burning sun in summer with many kids. We took the photo that everyone takes in front of the Cathedral.

A click that grants a moment of the Cathedral to keep, and the story that beholds the click’s value is different to everyone.

Our story? We were so glad we finally reached our destination! This was after a 12 hrs drive in the car and stress about the continuously changing COVID-19 regulations.

 

Piazza Del Duomo
This is the square in the centre of Milan, where you can find many important buildings and places of interest.

Upon entering the square, we were immediately deeply impressed by the majestic grandeur of the Cathedral. The Palazzo dei Portici Settentrionale and the Palazzo Reale di Milano are fascinating too to observe. In the middle of the square there is a statue of Italy’s first King.

You can find many restaurants, cafees and bars and there is always a very lively sphere. It is nice to spend some time here, looking around and watching Italians and tourists.
This square is also a great place to take photos.

If you want to know how I photographed my fourth son in front of the Duomo di Milano and amidst the pigeons, see:  here.

 

Sempione Park
The Sempione Park is a large urban park in the centre of Milan and perfect to escape the busy city vibes for a while.
It is a great park to visit with kids and to relax and enjoy the greenery. Aside from that, it also houses some places worth visiting: a public aquarium, la Triennale, the Arco della Pace, the Arena Civica, and the Acuario Cívico de Milán.
Located in Sempione Park, this public aquarium is one of the largest and oldest in Italy and worth a visit. There are 36 pools filled with more than 100 species of fish. Native Italian fish are well presented.
There are some beautiful sculptures of mythological creatures and Neptune’s statue guards the aquarium outside.

 

Sforzesco Castle
Adjacent to Sempione Park is the Sforzesco Castle. This iconic  15th century castle belonged to the wealthy Sforza family that ruled Milan during the Renaissance.
Many famous artists decorated the castle, the most famous among the artists was Leonardo da Vinci. He designed several parts and frescoes in the Castle. He also lived in the castle for 16 years. During this period , he created masterpieces such as the Last Supper, Madonna of the Rocks, and Lady with an Ermine.
After the renaissance, the castle was damaged by Italian, French and German troops and in the 16th century the French blew it up with mines.

Nowadays the Castle is restored and houses seven museums and art galleries focused on Milan’s history and art. Collections range from prehistorical ages to great artistic works from the Renaissance and later on. There is also an Egyptian archeological museum. The last work of Michelangelo: Pietà Rondanini is exhibited in the castle. Michelangelo died at 89 yrs and was not able to finish it. The castle is free to enter, but the musea have entry fees. There is a large courtyard outside.

 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
In honor of King Vittorio Emanuele II, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built in 1877. It is one of the oldest shopping centres in the world.


The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The shopping arcade was designed and constructed by architect Guiseppe Mengoni. Once inside, you will surely take some time marveling at the splendid iron-and-glass roof. Besides its impressive architecture and historic value, you can visit this place for its luxurious cafés and shops. The leading fashion brands are extensively displayed in this shopping centre.

Santa Maria delle Grazie
Another popular landmark in Milan is the Santa Maria delle Grazie. It is a church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with outstanding Renaissance and Gothic architectural style. This church houses Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “The Last Supper.”
Santa Maria delle Grazie was bombarded during World War II, which destroyed a large part of the refectory. Fortunately, The Last Supper survived and was preserved until today.

 

Sanctuario di San Bernardino alle Ossa

This chuch was built adjacent to a cemetery. The small chapel is decorated with human skulls and bones. A very impressive site with human remains displayed in an artistic way.

 

Pinacoteca di Brera
One of the most visited art galleries in Milan is the Pinacoteca di Brera. It houses some marvelous Italian paintings and masterpieces. Pinacoteca di Brera originated from Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.  Emperor Napoleon I of France later expanded her collection for the Academy of Fine Arts of Milan. This marked the beginning of Pinacoteca di Brera as a public museum. Brera is a beautiful neighborhood to walk around in Milan with many shops and restaurants.

 

Gae Aulenti Square
At the Gae Aulenti Square you will find impressive skyscrapers, great architectural designs and other establishments. Additionally, there are fountains, shops, and parks, where you can hang out any time of the day.
This square was dedicated to the Italian architect Gae Aulenti, known for her projects, such as the Palazzo Grassi’s restoration and the Asian Art Museum.

 

Navigli
A district that features the historic canal system, including the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese. The district resembles Venice. With boutiques, restaurants, and clubs, alongside the canals, you can visit this area to eat, hang out, take pictures of the sunset and do some shopping.

 

Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology
The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan is Italy’s largest science and technology museum. It is an expansive museum dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. Most of his inventions are included in this exhibit, along with other Italian inventors. Not only that, you can view various multimedia exhibitions, locomotives, interactive collections and laboratories. It’s free, and you can spend hours exploring the museum. If you are traveling with kids, keep in mind the walks can be long with limited resting spots.

 

Lake Como

You can visit Lake Como, Lugano, and Bellagio in just one day in a trip from Milan. Lake Como is situated in the middle of the Italian Alps and is a popular and beautiful destination.

We stopped at the side of Lake Como that borders Switserland on our way to Milan. We left home the night before at 10 pm. The kids fell asleep around midnight and woke up at 4.00 am for a very early breakfast with pasta in paper boxes from a gas station. Early morning we arrived at Lake Como where we stopped for a few hours to walk around, have lunch and enjoy breathtaking views.

Click  here for more information about Milan:

You can find accomodation easily through http://www.booking.com.We usually book hotels at this website.

This time we left our home, jumped in our car with packed suitcases and bags and no other place to stay. We took a break in Switzerland, and decided to stay in Milan for two nights. Milan looked great on Google, it was a 9 hrs drive from home and close to Switzerland.  Then we continued our journey to Italy and arrived in Milan in the afternoon after being stuck in traffic for two long hours.

We had booked at Novotel Milano Nord Ca’Granda at booking.com. This hotel was still available and reasonably priced.

Grandmother had packed us delicious roti wraps which were the best dinner after such an exhausting trip. We slept well and deep that night!

Breakfast was good at Novotel. It was not very extensive with freshly fried eggs and baked waffles for example, but it was reasonably varied.

The rooms were reasonably clean, the carpet on the floor looked a bit dirty.

Staff was friendly, but not more than necessary.

The hotel had a parking garage and we drove to Milan centre next morning.

We stayed in Milan for only one day. The city has a variety of restaurants to choose from, very cheap restaurants as well as the most expensive ones.

In general, you will find  better value for your money the further you wander off the touristic sites.

For general information and reviews, I would suggest to have a look at Tripadvisor.

We had dinner at Giro’s Ristorante Pizzeria Milano,  not after extensive research but just because it was dinner time and we were hungry.

The personnel was friendly and the food was fresh and good. We had a great time eating all these Italian dishes we had been looking forward to!

 

If you are looking for ice cream, not just the regular ice cream, but the best of the best: Milan is the place to be!

When we were in Milan, best rated icecream parlors according to Gambero Rosso were:

  1. Lo Gnomo
  2. Giacco
  3. Artico
  4. Gusto
  5. Gelato Giusto
  6. Latte Neve
  7. Orso
  8. Paganelli

We had already left Milan when a dear family member told us about the best icecream in Milan, sadly enough.

Our kids had enjoyed slushies, to them this was one of the most memorable moments in Milan. Not seeing the cathedral, not marveling at touristic sites, but simply the red and blue colored tongues made the most impression!

Watch the slushie fun here.

If you are thinking of going to Milan, then you should plan is your way of getting around the city.

Public transportation

Azienda Trasporti Milanesi, simply called ATM, is the city’s primary public transportation system. This network includes the operation of buses, trams, and the metro. click.  It operates through a ticketing system, allowing passengers to hop on and off the metro, buses, and trams using one validated ticket. You should validate every ticket you purchased for the metro, trams, or buses. For more information about ATM and its services, clickhere.

 

By Train
If you want to go to Milan’s suburbs,  transport by train is an option. The network operates on a ticketing system as well, with well developed route connections.

For more information, click here.

 

By Taxi
Hailing a cab from the street is not allowed in Milan. It’s either you stop by a taxi stand or call a taxi cooperative. The taxi meter starts upon receiving your call. Taxiblu is one of the most recommended taxi services in Milan.

Uber is available in Milan, but it costs relatively higher than in other cities.

 

By Car Rental
You can book cars in advance to avoid delays. Keep in mind parking spots are limited and expensive, furthermore other drivers behavior can be quite reckless.

 

By Bike
One of the best ways to enjoy Milan’s beauty is to ride a bicycle. Milan’s primary bike sharing system is the BikeMi.  All you need to do is register for an account, search for an available bike, pick it up, ride it, then return the bike to the station. For more information, click here.

 

By Foot
Exploring Milan walking is a great option, however in summer it might be too hot. Always remember to wear something comfy when opting to explore Milan on foot.

Milan has a distinct beauty that sets it apart from the rest of Italy.

 

Safety
Milan is generally safe for travelers, but like other places in the world, there are still areas in the city that are prone to pickpockets and car robberies. Be mindful of your belongings in crowded or public places.

 

Drivers’ behaviour

Be cautious at all times when crossing the streets of Milan. Many drivers do not observe the pedestrian lanes unless there’s a red light on traffic signals.

 

Weather
One of the factors you need to consider when visiting Milan is the weather. Your activities may vary depending on which season you visit the city.  It is said that spring is the best time to go to Milan. We visited Milan during summer, and it was very hot, making it challenging to walk for hours with kids.

 

Expenses
Living in Milan is more expensive than other places in Italy, but as a tourist you can find cheap places to eat and stay. What’s essential is you plan your trip ahead of time to maximize your resources.

 

Language Barrier
Italian is the official language of Milan, but locals still speak other languages in the city, such as English, French, and German. You are not likely to experience issues with communication when in Milan. Locals in this area know and speak English.

 

Book in advance
You can book online in advance for reservations for many sites of interest and museums. It is recommendable you book online beforehand so you will not have to wait in long queues. Also, be aware many sites of interest are closed during one or some weekdays.

Although our trip to Milan was short, we definitely enjoyed our stay in this unique city.

If you are inspired to visit Milan, I would love to know! Please leave a comment below.
Did you enjoy reading this article, and would you like to read more travel tips? Subscribe to our newsletter and receive great travel destinations and photography tips every month!

Recent Post

Italy

Facts about Italy Italy is a very diverse and big country, located in Southern Europe. You will find magnificent mountains

Austria

I. Facts about Austria Austria, the Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe, offers an outstanding variation in

Germany

I. Facts about Germany Germany, being one of Europe’s largest countries, offers a great variety in landscapes. The beautiful  mountainous

Brazil

I. Facts about Brazil Brazil is the largest country in South America. It is also the fifth-largest country by area

Categories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *