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Monday, July 2, 2018

Milan Has MUCH More to Offer than Just Fashion and Business

What is the first thing YOU think of when someone says Milan, Italy?

You probably answered FASHION.  That is no surprise because Milan Fashion week is one of the most prestigious, highly attended and influential weeks of the year for the fashion industry to show off its collections in a city that has become the fashion capital of the world.

Maybe you answered BUSINESS.  Milan is also Italy’s main industrial and financial center, where Italy’s Stock Exchange is located. 

But Milan is a city with a rich history of art, architecture and culture.  Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci spent more years of his life in Milan than any other city?  LTD bets you didn't.  During his time in Milan, he produced many masterpieces, including the Vitruvian Man, Last Supper, and Lady with an Ermine just to name a few.  His patron was  Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.

1.  Milan Art Masterpieces

Of course there are many that would please the most discerning of tastes but here are LTD's picks:

The Last Supper 

A bucket list item for many!  The Last Supper is one of the most famous artworks in the world. LTD was surprised how many did not know that The Last Supper is located in Milan and in fact is a wall painting and not an oil on canvas.  It is located is in the refectory of UNESCO world heritage site Chiesa Santa Maria della Grazie. 

RX Tip:  Leonardo's image depicts a moment from the Gospel according to John, when Jesus reveals to the disciples that one of them will betray him. The painting sensitively illustrates an atmosphere of speculation and intrigue. Each of the apostle’s expressions is distinct and his ability to portray such intense emotion is in part why the work is celebrated. Another reason is the meticulous employment of point perspective, which results in every element of the painting directing the viewer’s gaze to Christ.  Read about the Last Supper in Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson before your trip with a high resolution photo of the painting handy.  Viewing time is limited to 15 min and the beauty can be overwhelming even with a guide!

 Michelangelo's Pietà Rondanini at Museo Pietà Rondanini, Castello Sforzesco

Is it unfinished or a work in progress reflecting the evolution of Michelangelo's emotions at the end of his life?  This work of art was created in two stages, between 1552 and 1553 and later between 1555 and 1564.  Walk around the creation to view the three arms of Christ and the three eyes of Mary.  

St Bartholomew Flayed found in the transept of the Cathedral of Milan

The statue was carved by Marco d’Agrate in 1562 and placed in Milan’s cathedral.  The artist carved his name at the bottom, obviously very proud of his work, saying, “I was not sculpted by Praxiteles,” – one of the most renowned sculptors of Ancient Greece! – “but by Marco d’Agrate”.  Walk around the base of the statue to see the flayed skin which St. Bartholomew uses as his cloak.  

St. Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles and preached in India and Greater Armenia, where he was flayed and beheaded by King Astyages.

Be sure to view St Bartholomew Flayed found in the transept of the Cathedral of Milan from the side to see his cloak made of his own skin.

2.  Milan Architecture

Duomo Cathedral 

All roads lead to the Duomo in Milan, the center of the city.  The number of statues will amaze you (over 3400!) and remember, each is uniquely carved.  Still an active cathedral, it is made of In 1762 one of the main features of the cathedral, the Madonnina's spire, was erected at the dizzying height of 108.5 m and the entire building is made up of pink-hued white marble.  Take the roof top tour and on a clear day you may view the Alps!

The Cathedral of Milan is dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity

Take the roof top tour for a unique perspective of the Cathedral and on a clear day you may view the Alps!

Sforza Castle  

It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification.  Today it houses many museums, but because of its evident defensive structure, it underwent sieges, demolitions and reconstructions of some parts of it during various occupations of the city, evidence of which are still visible today.  For example, Michelangelo's Pietà Rondanini can be found in the Museo della Pietà Rondanini, opened in 2015 in the Spanish hospital inside the Castle.
Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, it was designed in 1861 and built by architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1867.  The structure consists of two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon covering the street connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala. The Milan gallery and its roof have been acknowledged as an important example of 19th-century iron-and-glass architecture.  Take time to view the enamels on the floor and the frescoes above, not just the upscale stores!

Luxury Travel Docs recommends Milan Private Tours
The best guide in Milan is Alice Salvagnin, of Milan Private Tours


The best guide in Milan is Alice Salvagnin, of Milan Private Tours!  To see the true Hidden Gems of Milan, contact her and enjoy fabulous insights into this beautiful city of art, culture, and architecture. Read LTD full review of Milan Private tours by clicking here!


If you go to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II you’ll always find someone observing the bull depicted on the floor.  Halfway through the Galleria are four different mosaics on the floor that are representations of four cities in Italy. The bull mosaic, which is the symbol for Torino, can be found on the left side, if standing looking away from the cathedral. The she-wolf and Romulus and Remus mosaic stands for Rome, the lily is for Florence and there is a red cross for Milan. The unusual thing about the bull mosaic is that there is a hole where the bull’s genitals should be. Tradition has it that wishes can come true for people who put a heel over the hole. Then on one foot, they must quickly turn themselves around until three complete circles have been made.  Some say it only takes one 360-degree turn for wishes to come true.  

The tradition is that if a person puts their right heel on the bull’s testicular region and “turn on himself three times,” which is to actually rotate backwards, or counterclockwise, this will bring good luck.

Santa Maria presso San Satiro

The Trompe L’Oeil Church of Milan Is Much Smaller Than It Looks! Standing in the doorway, you’re drawn to the majestic, cavernous space behind the altar. But it is a clever deception because the space behind the altar is less than 3 feet deep. The seemingly vast expanse is actually a painted wall.  When the church was built in the late 15th century, it had to be crammed into a small plot of land due to the presence of a main road. To compensate for the building’s modest square footage, artist Donato Bramante created a trompe-l’œil, an architectural optical illusion, on the back wall. The forced-perspective trick becomes apparent as you get closer to the altar, but the space passes for an imposing cathedral when you’re standing at the front doors.

Donato Bramante created a trompe-l’œil, an architectural optical illusion at Santa Maria presso San Satiro

Donato Bramante created a trompe-l’œil, an architectural optical illusion at Santa Maria presso San Satiro

3.  Milan Culture

Having been ruled by several different countries over the years, Milanese culture is eclectic and borrows elements from other countries, including Austria, Spain and France. Similarities between these places and Milan can be noticed through the language, architecture, cuisine and general culture of these countries.  In addition, Milan has alway been a progressive business-oriented city where individuals have dreamed of introducing their unique items.  Here are some examples:

Fashion Fashion Fashion  

There is no doubt that Milan is one of the Fashion capitals of the world.  The influence of fashion is everywhere from store fronts to the pedestrians on the street!  It is hard to find such glamorous people anywhere in the world walking among beautiful architecture in beautiful stylish clothing and accessories!  Take time to sit and enjoy people watching!


Of course most of us think of Risotto Milanese when we think of Milan and it is served everywhere.  The main ingredient is definitely saffron, but the real traditional Milanese recipe includes the use of beef marrow, fundamental to enrich the taste of the dish, and a dash of white wine. Famous and appreciated all over the world the risotto alla Milanese has a long history of flavors and continues today to be beloved by both the Milanese and tourists.  LTD enjoyed this dish at Antico Osteria Cavallini where many locals were dining (beware of smoking!).

Enjoy Panzerotti at Luini near Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Giuseppina Luini came to Milan from Puglia with her family in 1949 and opened the bakery. She was the first to have the idea to bring panzerotti, a typical stuffed savory pastry from Puglia in Southern Italy, to Milan. It is a busy little shop packed for lunch with locals and tourists alike. For a few euros and only a half block from the Duomo, follow the crowd and the smell to the best and cheapest lunch you will have in Milan. The classic is the fried tomato and cheese.

Panzerotti is Southern Italian food which you can enjoy in Milan

Introduced from Genoa, enjoy a cannoncini.  The best in town are known to be from Panarello.  A fragrant roll of puff pastry filled with soft custard, Panarello has managed to make this product a legend in Milan and the mentions in trade journals, as well as those of celebrities from the world of culture, have made it a cult product.
Introduced from Genoa, enjoy a cannoncini from Panarello which are the best in Milan!

A Panarello is a fragrant roll of puff pastry filled with soft custard.


Milan is a major national and international center of the performing arts, most notably opera. Milan is the location of La Scala opera house, one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world.  Construction of La Scala was strongly influenced by the Austro Hungarian Empire who ruled this region of Italy until unification of Italy in the mid-19th Century. La Scala was inaugurated on 3 August 1778, has undergone major renovations in this millennium, and the theatre's season opens annually on 7 December, Saint Ambrose's Day, the feast day of Milan's patron saint. 

Due to the presence of pickpockets in Italy LTD recommends a security bag for your travels that has RFID, slashproof straps and locking zippers.  Click the photo below to learn more:

RxTip:  Hotel recommendation 

Look at reviews and rates for our favorite Milano hotel at by clicking here!

Hotel Principe di Savoia, or simply referred to as "The Principe", is a five-star hotel in Milan. The hotel has long become one of Milan's Landmarks. Founded by the name of "Principe e Savoia" in 1927, a time when Milan had already established its position as financial center of the country, it soon became a home for businessmen. Over time, celebrities and royalty chose The Principe for their Italian stays: Edward VIII, Aristotle Onassis, Evita Peron, Maria Callas; and more recently, Madonna, David Beckham and George Clooney, just to name a few.  It has a house car to take you to the city center, but if you enjoy walking, the walk is safe and easily manageable.  Plus the walk will take you by many of the fashion houses which is a great opportunity to see what happens before fashion items end up in store fronts!  Read LTD's full review of this hotel by clicking here!

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