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Day trip to Milan


The A1 runs north from Florence and will take you to Milan by car

You can reach many interesting cities, towns, and villages from Florence in a day - even outside Tuscany. A day trip to Milan is definitely in scope with the fast trains that only take about two hours to reach this important northern Italian city.

Trains From Florence SMN To Milano Centrale

  • Trenitalia Frecciarossa
  • Around 50 to 100 Euro one way, depending on class and time of day
Coming into Milan from Florence on the train you enter the city at Milano Centrale - an absolutely huge Fascist influenced piece of architecture that makes you say "they don't build them like this anymore" when you see it for yourself.


The tracks and platform at Milano Centrale

The cavernous interior spaces of this station are truly remarkable:


An example of scale inside Milano Centrale - just look at the height of this archway compared to the people in the photo

The station is a little bit of a hike from the center so I took the underground (Linea 3) to Piazza Duomo. This can be a little tricky so make sure you read the signs closely - the line is called "Duomo" but from the train station you need to make sure you are heading in the direction of the Duomo (the terminus in that direction is San Donato) and not out into the suburbs.

I really only scratched the surface of this rather large, sprawling Italian metropolis - below are a few of the things I saw:

Coming up the steps from the subway at the Duomo stop, you arrive in the Piazza del Duomo, with the cathedral right in front of you (you can see the red metro sign in the lower left of the photo):


The Duomo of Milan in the sun

This is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, but you don't really get the scale from the piazza - the open spaces on the sides leave nothing to compare it to size wise. Once you enter you get a better feel for how massive it is:


Looking down the main aisle of the Duomo

There is a lot to see inside, and you can also visit the roof! (guided tours are offered). Right next to the Duomo is the prototype of the modern mall - the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Now it houses high end boutiques (Prada, Versace, etc.), cafés, bars, and the Town House Galleria Hotel (which looks like an incredible place to stay).

The engineer of this piece of architecture fell to his death from one of the girders shortly before the opening and never got to see it full of people:


The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II looking towards Piazza Duomo

If you walk through the galleria to the other side you end up in a tiny piazza, and across the street is the world famous "La Scala" opera house (Teatro Alla Scala). La Scala has been the venue for the premieres of many significant operas, including works by Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini.


The Teatro alla Scala of Milan, where many important operas were first performed

Those were the main things I saw as I walked around for several blocks in most directions from Piazza del Duomo. Alas there was an ulterior motive in the trip to Milan. For lunch, I treated myself to the Nobu in the Armani building. Great sushi is hard to come by in Florence, and I was really looking forward to trying some in Milan. The sushi was very good - a California roll with real lump crab meat, a Yellow Tail roll, and some Octopus sashimi. I started with a mushroom broth soup which was great - but the fried shrimp with creamy spicy sauce ruined the meal. It was mushy, the shrimp were tiny and not well cleaned, and overall the dish was more like a greasy lump of fishy fried dough than anything else. I have eaten in both Nobu and Nobu Next Door in NY City, and I can't imagine ever being served anything close to this dish at either location. Sorry but no photos from inside the restaurant.

I ended the day by visiting the Pinacoteca di Brera, which holds arguably Milan's most important collection of paintings. Most of the works in this museum were the loot of Napoleon. I was lucky to see a group of paintings by one of my favorite artists, Caravaggio, that were part of a special exhibit, and there are several works by Giorgio Morandi, but the real masterpiece I was looking for was Mantegna's "(Lamentation over the) Dead Christ":


Mantegna's "(Lamentation over the) Dead Christ" in the Pinacoteca di Brera

This is a powerful work on many levels - but I was surprised by the scale of it. When you only know a work through books and art history classes you can be fooled into ascribing things to it that just don't hold up when you see it in person. For example I imagined this to be a large work, but it is actually fairly small - definitely easel size. It is not a huge, elongated form - it is more like Christ stuffed into a frame - akin to maybe an old television set. You really feel the sense of being a voyeur looking at this picture and seeing the details, especially on the faces of Mary and John on the left. It makes the viewing very intimate and life like, and you feel like you are looking over Jesus just as they are. An extraordinary masterpiece not to be missed on a visit to Milan.

There is definitely much more to see and do in Milan - if you go leave a comment and let me know what you enjoyed!

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