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Milan - Taking a Second Look

The Duomo of Milan boasts over 2000 statues of saints and one of Napoleon, ( I read this in my Eyewitness Top 10 Italian Lakes guide book) adorning its façade as well as innumerable reliefs. In a rush to enter the church, I had not spent any time until recently to discover the beautiful carvings and the stories they tell.

Sunday at the Piazza del Duomo is always a good day to see the children feed and chase the pigeons. On this particularly warm day, the crowd was out in full force and trying to get a gelato meant waiting in a very long line.

I took shelter in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II where I found a flash mob dancing to the tune, YMCA, by the Village People. It was fun to watch them try to go through the trademark motions of the famous group of the 70s. It made me smile.

The iconic glass dome of the Galleria is quite famous as are the tony shops like Vuitton and Prada that rent space here. But there are other interesting things to check out such as the beautiful mosaic floor and in particular, the most photographed bull in Italy. It's tricky to take a picture of this bull, what with all the tourists spinning and crushing its balls to oblivion. Why? Because to do so would bring good luck. But I doubt this as the bull no longer has balls. lol

Here's another fine example of the mosaic floor. These mosaics are holding well even with the heavy foot traffic here.

The Basilica of Sant' Ambrogio sits in a quiet neighborhood but is easily accessible by Metro (green line, S. Ambrogio stop). The entrance to the basilica is through a symmetrical atrium. Though there has been a church here since the 4th century, the Romanesque façade dates back only to the 12th century when it was rebuilt. In the apse of the church is a gold mosaic of Christ Pantocrator from the 13th century. Also quite interesting is the unique pulpit that rests on a sarcophagus decorated with columns and friezes. 

Perhaps the best revelation I had in Milan is the Navigli District. There are only two canals left from a network that once connected Milan to Switzerland and the River Po, a slice of Venice in the industrial capital of Italy. There are many bars and restaurants along the canals to choose from. But many of the young and hip crowd I saw were just enjoying a beer with friends outdoors.  The Navigli was hopping with people on the weekday we were there. Doubly so on weekends.

Milan is one of the fashion capitals in the world. And many of us aspire to wear a designer dress or a well crafted leather handbag with matching stilettos from one of the exclusive stores in the Quadrilatro d'Oro area. But here's a caveat emptor. "It's horrible when people are only interested in buying labels, because it doesn't bring them the happiness they think it will." Miuccia Prada

Where to stay:
Hotel Felice Casati
Via Felice Casati, Milan
Phone: +39 02 2940 4208
Good location near Corso Buenos Aires.

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Images by Charie

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