The best thing that could have happened during an otherwise uneventful summer vacation was our Italian holiday. Though short-lived, those seven days will forever remain etched in our memories. Planned on the spur of a moment, my three boys (the eldest, being my husband) and I eagerly looked forward to visiting Italy – a land of history, romance, wine, pasta and home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We booked our tickets on Qatar Airways , applied for our Italian visas which we got in a week’s time and kept counting days and finally hours.Day of travel: Sunday, 3rd July, 2016With the commencement of the summer holidays and Eid Al-Fitr just round the corner, we expected a very crowded airport. But what awaited us there was way beyond our imagination. We boarded our 4:40 flight to Doha at 5:40. Desperately we prayed we wouldn’t miss our 7:00 connection flight to Milan. Unfortunately, the 7 o’ clock flight departed leaving us at Doha. We were rebooked for the afternoon flight and landed at Milan Malpensa International Airport at around 20:40. I've heard that the sun sets late in these European countries but to experience it first hand was indeed ethereal. At 20:40 in Milan, the sun had just begun its official descend.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Milan is from March to July
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
The Carlton Hotel
The Carlton Hotel by Baglioni in Milan is undergoing some serious changes and the new rooms are modern and functional and yet very chic and tasteful. Good utilisation of space and nice lighting. The concierge at this hotel is marvellous and look out for a gentleman name Lino – well till he is working there for once this blog is out he will be inundated with offers to become the president of some country with fledgling tourism and we shall never hear of him again – and you will know what genuine concern and being truly hospitable mean. This man is sheer genius, not only with his knowledge but also his attitude which showed sincerity and humility.
Duomo di Milano
If there is one cathedral in the word that can proudly boast of having the most intricate facade and an impressive interior, it is the Duomo. The pristine white gothic structure stands out in a city otherwise abounding in modern galleries and fashion outlets. The fifth largest church on this planet, it also houses the biggest stained glass window in the Christian world. There probably is a reason why it took over 600 years to complete this marvel. Embellished with 135 spires and 3200 magnificent statues with a gilded copper Madonna adorning the main spire, the Duomo draws thousands of tourists every day some of whom spend a good amount of time lost in the breath-taking views of the city and the Alps from the roof terraces. When in Milan, do not miss the Duomo, you will regret it. Getting there: Buses, trams and the metro connect all major spots in and around Milan and the tickets come for nominal amounts. The closest station to the cathedral is 'Duomo' (90 metres) which serves Line 1 and 3 of the Milan metro and one can buy tickets at the station itself for 1.5 Euros. Tickets for the Duomo can be bought right outside the cathedral and they come for about 5 Euros. The prices increase if you want to see the roof terraces - 7 Euros if you choose the stairs and 12 if you take the lift. There might be long queues but are not much of a deterrent because they move pretty fast. Entry is free on Sundays but one still has to buy tickets for the spired roof terraces. Remember to dress 'appropriately' and do not carry any glass bottles in your bags or basically anything that can be used as a weapon because the folks at the security check are extremely paranoid.
Expo Milano 2015
The city of Milan is now host to the Expo Milano 2015, a Universal Exhibition from May 1 to October 31, 2015. Around 140 participating countries have been working hard to showcase the best of their technology in order to be able to guarantee sufficient food for the future, which is healthy and sustains our planet at the same time. With 1.1 million square meters of exhibition area, the EXPO has been drawing lakhs of visitors on a daily basis. It truly is a wonderful platform for the exchange of ideas in order to build a more nourished future. You must not miss the Future Food District, the pavilions of Brazil (especially walking on the net suspended over it), United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Vietnam. The interactive maps around the massive exhibition site will constantly guide you and access to free WiFi is also available. For additional information, you can download the EXPO app on your smartphone or visit www.expo2015.org. While the exhibits live up to all expectations and are absolute crowd pullers, the food in most pavilions is sub-standard by all means. Go only and only if the theme really interests you because the visit is very time-consuming. Getting there: Night tickets are the cheapest and come for 5 Euros and single day tickets are of two types: Open Date (39 Euros) and Fixed Date (34 Euros). Expect the evenings to be super crowded owing to the low prices of tickets. You can either purchase them at the site after standing in long queues (probably the only way to get a night ticket) or book them online. Additionally, you can request your hotel to book tickets for you. For more information, visit www.expo2015.org/en/tickets. If you do not want to take a taxi to the Expo site, the metro is the best option. Purchase an extra-urbano (extra-urban) ticket, and take the Linea 1 (Red line 1) to Rho Fiera Milano metro station. A lot of walking is involved. For more information visit www.expo2015.org/en/explore/exhibition-site/how-to-reach-the-expo-site
Santa Maria delle Grazie
The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazi is known to the world probably because it houses Leonardo Da Vinci's fabled 'The Last Supper' in an adjoining chamber. The most famous mural on this planet depicting Christ's admittance to the knowledge of the betrayal was unfortunately greatly damaged due to restoration work, yet nothing stops thousands of people from being transfixed at this masterpiece on a daily basis. The details on the windows behind Christ and his disciples effectively illustrate the talent that Da Vinci possessed. Getting there: Entry to the Basilica is free but tickets need to be booked months in advance for one to see Il Cenacolo Vinciano (The Last Supper) on www.vivaticket.it or through their call centre number mentioned on the website. The ticket should come for about 10 Euros inclusive of everything and your tour will last 15 minutes. English language guided tours however cost more (3 Euros). If you have more money to spare and want a detailed guided tour that lasts an additional 30 minutes, visit www.tickitaly.com and shell out 70 Euros. I was not lucky enough to get tickets because of the huge number of EXPO visitors, therefore book ahead. Absolute last minute tickets which include a city tour can be bought for 75 Euros from en.zaniviaggi.it. Cadorna serving Line 1 and 2 is the closest metro station and is about 800 metres from the basilica. Tickets can be bought at the station itself for 1.50 Euros for a single journey which is valid for 90 minutes.
This area plays host to one of the most popular flea markets in Milan and is worth visiting on Saturdays when it is open from 8 am till 5 pm. Right from clothes, shoes and bags to the freshest of produce ranging from fruits and vegetables to olives, cheese, meat and bread, everything that one can think of can be bought here at reduced prices. If you are good at bargaining, you have come to the right place. There might be some second-hand stuff on display, so do check the merchandise a few times before striking a deal. Getting there: Sant'Agostino is the nearest metro station and is about 250 metres. It lies on Line 2 of the metropolitan system of Milan and tickets can be bought at the station for 1.50 Euros.
Mozzarella e Basilico
First meal, we dined in at Mozzarella e Basilico, a stone throw away from Duomo! I conclude that they have the best pizzas! The cheese on the pizza is spot on! Usually the pizza that we eat are just grated cheese topped on. Here it is different!! I saw the pizza chef actually chopped big round mozzarella cheese balls and top on the pizza! Delizioso!
I had the best gelato on earth! The winner goes to.. CioccolatItaliani! I can't believe I queued for almost an hour for a cone! The unique part is that you get to choose what chocolate fudge you would like to have in your cone! There is white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate fudge! There are so many flavours to choose from! I chose Pistachio and Yogurt! There are pistachio bits in the gelato. It is not too bad for 3euros! I LOVE IT!
Fiera Milano Rho
If you love art, culture and home design you must vivid Salone del Milano. The exhibition showcases the latest in furniture and design around the globe. Salone is held annually in April and so far I have been twice and every year my mind is completely blown away by the creativity and the variety of style.
Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie
Pay especially close attention to the shops around Piazza Santa Maria. You will have more than enough options to bleed Euros here. With pockets empty and shopping bags full, we finally paid attention to our dog-tired butts and plonked them at the closest chairs available.
Olympia International (S.R.L.)
I found myself meeting tons of new people from artist to politicians. I met a AC Milano basketball player and he invited me to a game at the Olympia International Stadium. What a thrill to see the AC Milano team score countless baskets for the win. The went on to play in the championship!