Exploring Italy 8/8 – Milan

1 – Introduction
2 – Food
3 – Hotels
4 – Public Transportation
5 – Attractions of Venice
6 – Venice
7 – Genoa
8 – Milan

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We walked twice as much as I planned

Milan was my third favorite city on this trip!

It had a little bit of everything: historic landmarks, public transportation, and metropolitan modernness. However, at the same time, it seemed severely lacking of everything.  The historic city center including the castle was so small that you could easily traverse in a day.  Its downtown was rather sparsely populated and commercial activities were low, compared to other “fashion capitals” in the world such as New York and Paris.  Its tallest building was barely over 200 meters tall… which was rather sad, for a supposed big city.

We walked through quite a bit of Milan, including the business district, shopping areas, tourist central, residential neighborhoods, and a night life district.  It often felt reminiscent of Paris, Taipei, and even New York, but for the most part I couldn’t help but notice how bland and quiet it was.

 

Northeast Milan

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Porta Nuova in northeast Milan, a gate built during Napoleon rule

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Porta Nuova

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Porta Nuova Garibaldi, Milan’s second tallest building with a modern plaza, shops, and water fountains

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A cool residential building fully covered in greens

 

Central Milan

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Downtown during mid-day on a Wednesday… where was everybody?

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Evening rush hour

The Cathedral Plaza has been the very center of Milan since the Roman period.  Search for “Milan” on Google Images and it’d appear that everything there is to see in Milan is right here on this plaza.  It was a very obvious tourist trap with every other person snapping selfies, buying corn to feed the pigeons, or doing those fobby poses in front of the cathedral (“Duomo”).  That’s not all bad, though, at least we found the level of energy here refreshing.

One thing I’ve always known about Italy was the pigeons.  This plaza was full of them like a dirty NYC basement can be full of cockroaches.  Stupid tourists pay to buy handfuls of corns to feed these winged rats, exacerbating the problem.  We’d never feed pigeons, unless the feed had lethal poison in it.  We also had a different problem to deal with.  Our kids were scared to death of these obnoxious birds, and were freaking out just a few days ago when a couple Venetian pigeons walked near them.  I capitalized on this opportunity and taught them to turn it into a game… of pigeon kicking.  Instead of running away from them, we chased them around and showed the birds who’s the boss.  It made a hilarious contrast as other tourists paid to have the same birds stand on their hands/arms/heads for photo op.

Another thing I read a lot about Milan was pickpockets.  Petty crime was supposedly quite bad in Italy, and people seemed to agree that Rome and Milan were the worst.  As such, this whole trip I was mildly paranoid of losing our stuff.  Then I came to realize that most Milan was so quiet and sparsely populated, that pocket picking would be rather difficult to execute.  That, I thought, left this Cathedral Plaza the most likely of places to fall victim.  I mean seriously, there were plenty of clearly clueless folks that just got off a tour bus half awake.  Just as many in numbers were locals seizing the opportunity… selling junk like corn and plastic selfie sticks.  I was on high alert and strongly defensive against anyone who tried to approach us, and ended up being a bit unnecessarily rude to some of the corn vendors.

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Statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, the king who united Italy
The biggest irony in life for an awesome person is being immortalized into a statue and then having nasty birds poop on your head all the time

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Milan Cathedral, for the most part just referred to by its Italian name Duomo di Milano

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Xuan having a blast at the pigeon-infested church

The construction of this church spanned 600 years, directed by countless architects employing different techniques and styles.  Oh and guess which important Italian ruler ordered the completion of its main facade?  Napoleon Bonaparte of France…

It’s also noteworthy that Napoleon was crowned King of Italy right here in this church, starting the Kingdom of Italy 56 years earlier than the Savoy family’s Kingdom of Italy.

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Little obnoxious trying to order me around

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Inside of the Duomo

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls

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As one would expect, the mall was filled with high-end stores

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Via Dante, leading to the castle

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Castello Sforzesco, supposedly one of Europe’s largest citadels

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Contrary to what I understood from the confusing information online, the grounds of Castello Sforzesco was completely free to enter

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Father-daugher shot at the reflection pool

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Another father-daughter shot

 

Southwest Milan

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Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church housing Da Vinci’s Last Supper

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Porta Ticinese, old city gate at the entrance to the canals

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Naviglio Grande was the largest of the five canals of Milan, linking the city to the Ticino River
Nowadays its banks were full of restaurants and selfie-stick vendors

This was the last post about our family’s trip to Italy!  Until next time!

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