The historic and modern center of the city, the Piazza del Duomo (the square surrounding the cathedral's base) remains a popular meeting place, hangout and hub of Milanese life. Local vendors setup shop (selling fresh coconut in the summer, toys and tourist wares), kids run and play (free from traffic) and shoppers trickle in from the walking street surrounding the huge plaza.
The statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy, is the best place to meet, sit, recharge and watch the city go by.
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Experiencing the Epicenter
Piazza del Duomo is Milan's most recognized piazza and the epicenter of the city. The Duomo area is made up of shops, monuments, theaters and restaurants, and much more. It is where everyone goes when they first come to Milan, but it can be one of the quietest spots in the evening hours.
Ah, Milano—the fashion capital of the world (or of Europe? It is still up for debate). Next to the Duomo you'll find couture houses left and right. A girl can only dream. Dreaming. That is exactly what I was doing while passing through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
But what I came across, I did not expect.
In the middle of the Galleria was a professional ballroom dancing competition. The women were elegant in their colorful, jeweled gowns. And the men—dapper in tuxedos. The music, the ambiance, and the effortless dancing made a lasting impression.
Events like these are common on the weekends, so be sure to stop by.
Milan was a dream: Shopping. Culture. Unlimited cafes and gelato shops. It was love at first sight. We were fortunate enough to get a hotel in the heart of the city, and we were two blocks away from this amazing Duomo. Two blocks! I still cannot believe it. Our first night there, we arrived late, so we decided just to walk around a bit and see the area. About 10 minutes after we left our hotel, the sky started growing darker and darker, as you can see in this picture. We managed to snap a few pictures and then walk around the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II (a fancy name for the fancy mall right to the left in this picture). On our walk back to the hotel, we were caught in the middle of the most extreme downpour I have ever seen. It was amazing. It made the city look clean and new and sparkling.
One of the few unknown treats at the Milan Duomo is to go on the roof and see the city from an amazing vantage point. You will also be able to get up close and personal with the incredible architecture of the building. Recently cleaned the marble is shinning now. Worth the wait for the line. Go during the week early and you will usually avoid the line. Elevator can be found around the back side of the Duomo. Look for the little sign. For more information check out their website.
Milan is the perfect city for a bike ride, as long as there is no rain. Compared to Rome, traffic is calm, the city is flat and there are tons of green parks to ride through. The City of Milan has an incredibly easy to use city bike service, Bike Me. Stands are all over the city and always have available bikes with locks and baskets. You can sign up in advance and on-line and voilà, you're ready to roll. This isn't for racers nor is the service for long term use. Sign up for daily or weekly subscription, 2.50 euro/daily or 6 euro/weekly, with the first half hour free, and consecutive hours at 50 cents.
Part of Milan's charm comes thanks to the lovely yellow vintage trams that crisscross the city. With wooden benches, brass details, and utter cuteness, these trams are incredibly useful, connecting Milan's neighborhoods and sites together in the public transit system.
In Milan for a high fashion fix, I do something I’ve never done before. I commit Prada abandonment.
Divine Prada ballet-flats abandonment to be precise….. I saw them yesterday and decided they had to be mine.
Yet, this morning, marching to the boutique in a quest for high fashion, I stumble upon a street market. Unfortunately, I don't have my camera. Vintage and antiques as far as the eye can see. Within thirty minutes, the purse is empty. And bags are full of brooches, pendant necklaces and vintage cards.
This market was not in the tourist guide. What a find!
Instead of new ballet-flats, I wear a bittersweet smirk on the way back to the hotel.
This morning market is held on the third Sunday in September. Stalls start near the Piazza del Duomo and snake through at least three streets. Not one stall-holder I encounter speaks a word of English. All the better, really.
Eyes open, onward march!