Meandering in Milan: Piazza del Duomo in Pictures


I'm in a travel state of mind these days, reminiscing about a dreamy European adventure my husband and I took several years ago. Our journey began in Milan, Italy, where Greg was speaking at a conference held at the University of Milan. The university and our hotel were just a brief stroll away from the center of the city, Piazza del Duomo: "Cathedral Square." I entertained myself while Greg was conferencing largely by walking around this magnificent piazza and eating gelato. Join me on a brief pictorial jaunt, and make plans to meander through Milan yourself!

When you emerge from the Milan Metro at the duomo stop, you'll be met with the stately panoramic scene you see here--the cathedral in front of you, the monument of King Victor Immanuel II on horseback on your right, and the entrance to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II on your left.

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The square's most impressive feature is, of course, Milan Cathedral, the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world.

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The duomo's intricate Gothic details are impressive! 

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Saunter by the cathedral at night to get a different feel for this impressive structure.

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For a fee tourists can wander around the inside of the cathedral, which is impossibly grand with its huge pillars, marble floor, and beautiful stained glass windows.

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When you're satisfied with your exposure to the duomo, head into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy's oldest shopping mall.

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The galleria is vaulted in glass and hosts numerous upscale retailers...

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...and a variety of restaurants! My mouth is watering at the memory of this black olive and mushroom pizza, and I also immensely enjoyed the pesto gnocchi and salad with prosciutto and artichokes that Greg and I tried at a deli.

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Grab a cup of melt-in-your-mouth gelato to eat while you stroll. Gelaterias exist around every corner, with a variety of tempting flavors to sample. My favorite find was lemon basil...

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...while Greg insisted on chocolate every time. Piazza del Duomo and the galleria were full of tourists when we visited, so there was also no shortage of street entertainers, from spray paint artists to people performing interesting acrobatic feats, like these men.

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The streets surrounding Milan's piazza are home to numerous buildings and statues of historic and architectural importance. See if you can find yourself in front of the Church of San Fidele or the Statue of Leonardo da Vinci.

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Looking for a fun day trip from Milan? Check out my account of the charming town of Varenna here.

Let me know what you discover during your own Milan meandering!

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Varenna, Italy

I’m daydreaming about Italy today, particularly the charming town of Varenna, located on the shore of Lake Como in northern Italy. If you’re enchanted by the thought of cobblestone streets, wistful accordion music, lush pink hydrangeas, and the fragrance of freshly baked bread, put Varenna on your list of must-see destinations.

Varenna is one of several tourist hotspots at Lake Como. At only about an hour by train, it is one of the more accessible lakeside towns from Milan, making it a perfect day-long escape from the big city. I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Milan in August, and we found ourselves in need of just such a getaway, so we headed to Varenna.

The short walk from the train station to the lakeshore showed Greg and I scenery that was decidedly Mediterranean, with old vine-covered villas and stately cypress trees. The lake itself was beautiful, and we could see several hillside towns across the water. We wandered along the lakeside path, noticing swans and fishing boats on our right and colorful houses built right on top of each other on our left.

We happened upon Villa Monastero, an ancient monastery-turned-residence and deliberated as to whether or not we should tour its gardens for five euros each. We decided to do it and were glad that we did! The gardens were breathtaking. For the next hour we meandered along trails of manicured shrubs and trees, admiring statues, giant aloe vera plants, and fuchsia petunias trailing from stone pots.

For lunch we located a restaurant with a cozy patio on the water’s edge. We watched the ferry travel between towns while we ate creamy gnocchi made with local cheese, nutty arugula salad, and crusty bread. Refreshed, we decided to hike to the nearby town of Vezio to see its castle. Though we walked for only half an hour on a nice, cobbled path, the climb was steep. The sky had darkened with an impending storm, and though we’d encountered other travelers in the town, we saw few other people now, adding a sense of adventure to this leg of our journey.

When we reached the castle grounds, we paid several euros to enter. From the courtyard we walked across a drawbridge to a tower. Inside the tower we climbed about five flights of rickety stairs and finally emerged to a landing, from which we enjoyed the most gorgeous view yet of the lake, Varenna, and the surrounding forested countryside. Greg remarked that he could feel the tower moving with the wind, and we had begun to hear thunder, so we relished the breeze for a moment and then began our descent.

We rested on a bench in tiny Vezio and listened to the sounds of normal life—women talking loudly, a dog barking—and this dreamy place seemed to me to be stuck in time. As we hiked back down to Varenna to catch a train back to Milan, I realized that I’d had my first real taste of Italy, and I was hooked.

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