A day in Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II (above) opened in 1877 and is a magnificent building which now houses some of Milan’s ‘fanciest’ shops. There are four paintings in the central octagon which represented the ‘four’ continents (they defined them as Africa, Asia, America and Europe). Looking at the paintings today, they are quite shocking as they depict slavery in an almost glamorous way.

The Duomo di Milano is the largest cathedral in Italy and the third largest in the world. It took just under 600 years to complete! Ironically, the very best view you can get of the Duomo is from McDonalds… (any excuse!)

Duomo di Milano view from McDonalds

At one of the locked doors to the cathedral there was a queue of tourists waiting to rub the legs of Jesus and the person beating him… still not quite sure why!

We only saw the outside of the cathedral, but the amount of detail on the exterior was very impressive.

The smaller churches in Milan were also interesting, below is a photo of the Basilica di Santa Maria. When building the church, they wanted to give the building four 'arms', but they couldn't build the fourth because there was a road running behind it so they made an architectural trompe l'oeil behind the altar. This gives the (almost) flat back wall the illusion of being 3D.

Basilica di Santa Maria trompe l'oeil

We walked through the grounds of Sforza Castle and then through Parco Sempione to the Porta Sempione.

Sforza Castle
Parco Sempione
Porta Sempione

When we met with our Couchsurfing friend Pietro in the evening, he explained that although the Porta Sempione is known as the 'Arch of Peace, the horses that draw the Chariot of Peace were turned 180 degrees after the fall of Napoleon so that rear ends of the horses are facing France!

Pietro also showed us around the newly developed areas of Milan. One of the highlights was seeing the Bosco Verticale - two buildings that you may recognise from Planet Earth 2 (the 'cities' episode).

The Bosco Verticale ('Vertical Forest') is home to 800 trees, 4500 shrubs and 15000 plants. If these trees, shrubs and plants were on flat land, each building would take up an area of 20000 square meters of forest.

We had a great day in Milan, it's certainly a city that's in the process of changing and we liked the mix of the old and the new.