Trip Report Index:
2. Transit Notes
3. Hotel Review: Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa
4. Visiting Pisa
5. Visiting Lucca
6. Hotel Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
7. Room Service Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
8. Day in Florence
9. Hotel Review: Hotel Laurin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
10. Day in Santa Margherita/Portofino area
11. Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Milan
12. Day in Milan
13. Room Service Review: Park Hyatt Milan
Heading out of the Park Hyatt Milan for a little sightseeing, I stepped right into the middle of one of the oldest luxury shopping areas – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It opened in 1867, 20 years before the Eiffel Tower was built. Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci all have stores here, and the grand ceiling vaults have mosaics representing America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. If you’d like to do some people watching over a cup of coffee, Caffè Miani Zucca has a great location. Be warned that if you sit down though, it can be pretty expensive.
Coming out into the open sky, the Duomo stretched high in front of me. It took 500 years to complete this gorgeous cathedral, and if you haven’t done so before I recommend taking the elevator up to the top where you can walk on the slanted roof to admire the thousands of statues and spires up close. If facing the steps, the elevator is around to the left side and the line isn’t long at all. The cost to get to the roof is 7 EUR by way of stairs, and 12 EUR via elevator. The view from the roof is stunning.
While walking around, an orchestra was giving a free concert which added some beautiful background music to the sightseeing!
Just outside of Sforza castle I got hit with cool spray from the “tort de’ spus”, otherwise known as the wedding cake fountain because of the shape that the water jets create. It’s a quiet place to stop and sit for a few minutes or take some photos.
On either side of the fountain, a street market had been set up. Street performers danced and laid out their caps for tips. I wandered the aisles, and proprietors showed off everything from dried lavender and carved wood trinkets to fresh juice and smoky barbecue.
After buying a few local souvenirs, I continued on to the Sforza castle, built in the 15th century. Just through the gate, the entry to multiple museums is to the right. The museums include an art collection, the museum of ancient art (which includes Michelangelo’s last sculpture), an Egyptian museum, antique furniture and sculpture museum, and a museum of musical instruments.
If you choose not to go to any of the museums, there are plenty of courtyards to explore.
During my visit there was a modern art installation, so whimsical animals dotted the landscape.
Coming out the back of the castle, you can see the dry moat. Many cats live there, and are fed by volunteers.
Heading out the north gate, I came to Parco Sempione, which has lots of shady trees and grass perfect for picnicking. Going back to the city streets I did some window shopping. Wanting to try some traditional Milanese food at a sidewalk cafe, I perused menus. Maybe pizza topped with hot dogs and french fries? It may be popular, but I decided to pass.
Once I chose a place to eat, the waiter brought by a small bowl of potato chips to munch on as I looked at the menu. I chose creamy saffron risotto, which is a Milanese specialty. There are many legends about the origin of this dish, but they all seem to have a few threads in common. In the 13th century, gold and egg yolks were reserved for nobility. Somewhere along the way, saffron was added to color the risotto and a flavorful dish was born, now known as Risotto alla Milanese. After finishing, the waiter brought by some complimentary glasses of Limoncello to top off the meal.
Walking back to the hotel was a snap, since it was so close to the Galleria.
It was our last night in Italy, and the next day we’d begin the trek home.