Europe’s largest shopping arcade, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, can be found in between the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Della Scala. Its 157-year old iron and glass structure was designed and built by the Italian architect, Giuseppe Mengoni. As one of Milan’s major landmarks, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the sites for luxury shopping in Milan, and it carries prestigious labels and brand shops. It’s the oldest active shopping mall in Milan, and it currently houses a number of haute couture, books, painting, and jewelry retailers, and other establishments, such as restaurants, cafes, bars, and even a hotel. Considered as “parlour of the city”, the Galleria is the place to be for relaxation—from mid-morning coffee breaks at Camparino to an afternoon session of retail therapy at Libreria Bocca. The Galleria can be easily reached by getting off at the Duomo stop when you ride the M1/M3.
Just a few steps from the Galleria is the most prestigious opera house in the world—the Opera at Teatro Alla Scala. Originally known as Nuovo Regio Ducal Teatro Alla Scala, La Scala is a 2,800-seater theatre wherein the greatest operatic artists and finest singers perform, an example of which is Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta premiere performance in 1778. La Scala’s season runs from December to July, but you can watch ballet, concerts, and theatre performances all year round except August. However, if you are not a fan of live performances, you may still visit the Theatre Museum and the Livia Simoni library wherein the auditorium can be seen. Custom guided tours are also available for tourists who’d like to have a behind-the-scenes experience. These tailor-made guided tours must be booked in advance, and may include a visit to La Scala stage, the famous royal box, gold boxes, and the recently restored auditorium.
The largest Italian cathedral, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, can be found in the main square at the heart of the city. Il Duomo, as the locals call it, is the third largest cathedral in the world, and it took centuries to complete this church. With 135 pinnacles and 2,245 marble statues in it exterior, Il Duomo boasts a Gothic style facade which was completed in the early 1800s—nearly 600 years after the cathedral’s construction started. Being the third largest cathedral in the world, Il Duomo can hold up to 40,000 people, and it is one of the most magnificent churches in the world. Made of Candoglia marble, the cathedral is one of the city’s architectural stunners, and its interior—with its stained glass, statues, altars, and paintings—is just as beautiful. One of the many highlights of the cathedral is its roof in which you can walk through to experience the wonderful views of the city; even the Alps can be seen from Il Duomo on clear days. The cathedral can be visited daily from 8 AM to 7 PM, and ticket prices depend on which areas you would like to visit.
Located in Corso Magenta is a church that holds Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work—the Last Supper. Locally called as the Cenacolo Vinciano, the Last Supper is placed in Santa Maria Delle Grazie, a UNESCO-protected Dominican brick convent in northern Italy wherein it’s painted on the refectory wall of the former Dominican monastery. Although the church was badly damaged in the second World War, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece has been preserved through the countless Last Supper restorations. It is important to note that the number of visitors daily is limited by the convent, and only those who have secured their tickets in advance are allowed to enter. Ticket starts at €10, which must be reserved in advance through phone calls or online reservations in which a 2-Euro booking fee is collected. On the first Sunday of the month, you may enter Santa Maria Delle Grazie for free, but the free trip to the convent should still be booked in advance.
Another Milanese point of interest is located Piazza Castello—the Castello Sforzesco. Also called the Sforza Castle, the Castello Sforzesco was built by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza. Originally a fortress that was destroyed in 1447, the red brick castle’s reconstruction was taken over by the Sforza dynasty. Upon rebuilding the castle, Castello Sforzesco housed the Sfrozos who ruled Renaissance Milan. The Sala delle Asse in the castle was designed by the great Leonardo da Vinci in 1498. Castello Sforzesco has a number of museums that tourists can visit: the Archaeological Museum wherein artefacts from ancient Egypt and prehistoric times are displayed, the Museum of Ancient Art where Michelangelo’s Pietà Rondanini is exhibited, the Antique Furniture and Wooden Sculpture Museum, the Pinacoteca wherein Italian works of art are being showcased, the Museum of Musical Instruments that is home to the 16th-century harpsichord, and the Applied Arts Collection that has objects from the Middles Ages to the 19th-century. Sforza Castle is open daily except on Mondays, from 9 AM to 5:30. Ticket starts at €5, but you may also opt for the 12-Euro Tourist Museum Card that serves as an unlimited three-day pass to Milanese museums.
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