The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Posted by on in European Travel

A flying visit to Milan

Not so long ago while doing some holiday research I discovered that Milan’s Malpensa airport offers a wider selection of destinations at better prices than our local airport Nice.  Having taken everything into account – fuel, motorway tolls, airport parking and even overnight hotels - we found it was cheaper to fly from Milan to Scotland despite the 3.5 hour drive.  As far as I was concerned there was also the added bonus of a flying visit to Milan itself. If a flight from Malpensa meant we got to have a couple of meals in Italy and a blast of Italian culture then all the better.  So what did we get up to in Milan in approximately six hours?

Milan Duomo and statue

First on the agenda was breakfast.  The airport hotel’s offering was uninspiring and soulless so we headed straight into central Milan to find coffee and pastries.  The autumn sun was shining brightly on the corner of a little piazza, spotlighting a chocolate café packed with chic Milanese lazily reading the papers on this mid-week public holiday. We found a comfy sofa in the sun – outside in November – and ordered the most delicious rich thick hot chocolate for the little kid, with sticky pastries and plenty of coffee for me and JF. What could be more perfect? 

Milan breakfast

Once satiated we headed off to join the queue for tickets to the Duomo.   It moved reasonably quickly as we used the self-service machines, however the next queue, for the stairs up to the roof, didn’t move so fast. Tightened security meant that everyone was being frisked down and having bags checked – an unfortunate but reassuring necessity these days.    And then we started the long, spiral climb up to the roof of the cathedral.  (For info there is also a more expensive option to take a lift if several hundred steps in a narrow staircase isn’t your thing). 

Milan Duomo roof climb

The Duomo di Milano is an extraordinary building that doesn’t appeal to everyone owing to the many architectural styles used over the six centuries it took to be built between 1386 and 1965!  Oscar Wilde described it as an “awful failure….monstrous and inartistic”.  In contrast Mark Twain wrote “what a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful!”  Differing opinions indeed!  

Milano Duomo

But whether you like it or not, it’s a place full of superlatives: the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world, the largest cathedral in Italy (and 3rd largest in the world), the most spires of any cathedral in the world, the largest organ in Italy…. It has (around) 3400 statues of saints, animals and monsters (hard to find an exact number as everywhere I looked quoted something different so I’ve taken the number from the official Duomo website hoping they know best) and 55 stained glass windows. 

Milan spires on cathedral roof

A fun fact for Frenchies is that one of those statues is of Napoleon Bonaparte who was crowned King of Italy in the cathedral in 1805.

Milan Duomo roof detail

Personally I love this wedding cake of a cathedral, for the detail in the carvings and sheer magnificence of its size but especially because you can clamber all over the roof getting up close to many of those thousands of statues and spires.  It’s really quite a surreal experience walking around on the top of a cathedral, literally on the roof, not just along walkways and corridors.  As an added bonus when we visited we had perfect weather and could see for miles. 

Milan on Duomo roof

Once we’d finished on the roof we went inside.  Of all the details in the vast interior, there was one that we’d all remembered from our last visit some years ago:  the gruesome statue of St Bartholomew Flayed by Marco d’Agrate (1562) portraying the saint carrying his skin across his shoulder like a shawl.  Quite fascinatingly hideous in a realistic and rather gory way!

Milan Duomo statue

Having taken our fill of the great cathedral our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat again, so we set off to find a pizzeria recommended by friends.  But no visit to central Milan would be complete without a little window shopping in the grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II just next to the cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo.  Built between 1865-1877 this gorgeous glass-vaulted arcade is considered the world’s first shopping mall! 

Milan galleria

Can you see us reflected in the window decorations?

Milan shop deco

And so to lunch.  We’d been told about a little place that was always so busy you had to wait outside, and while waiting you were offered slices of pizza and glasses of prosecco.  It seemed too good to be true, but this is exactly what happened, and the wait was only about 15 minutes. 

Milan Piz restaurantInside the tiny colourful restaurant we were handed the menu which was only in Italian, and only had three choices.  As there were 3 of us, it was a simple choice to order one of each pizza.  Apart from margarita, we didn’t know what we were getting, but the smells were heavenly, and judging from the clearly appreciative local crowd, the food was good.  Oh yes, more than good, de-lish-ous!  The other two pizzas turned out to be one with a tomato base, fresh basil and whole cloves of garlic, and a hugely original one with mozzarella, parmesan, chives and poppy seeds. 

Read more about pizza in Italy here

pizza Milan

After lunch we jumped back in the car and drove home in time for tea. So there we have it; our flying visit to Milan.  Approximately six hours to get a little fix of Italian food and culture, on the way home from a few days in Scotland.  It extended our holiday in a way that felt like more than just a brief encounter, and knowing we're so close and can go back again whenever we want means we didn't have to cram huge amounts into one day.Milan Duomo piazza

I'll leave you with a few more photos of the interior of the Duomo.

Milan Duomo interior

Milan Duomo organ

Milan Duomo crypt

Milan Duomo floor

And some more photos from the roof.

Milan cathedral

Milan side of Duomo

Milan galleria from roof

Milan fun

Milan piazza del Duomo

Have you been to Milan?  Would you go out of your way to save money and add an extra dimension to your holiday, or does this seem like a bit of a faff to you?  

 

If you enjoyed this please PIN it!

 

A Flying Visit to Milan

 

 

CulturedKids
 
Wander Mum
 
 
fifi + hop
 
 
 
 
Last modified on

Comments

  • Guest
    Corey with fifi + hop Friday, 08 December 2017

    I enjoyed reading this again and seeing photos of the fabulous Duomo. Hope to visit some day. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Vicky Friday, 08 December 2017

    I went to Milan many years ago and loved it. We went up on the roof at the Duomo di Milano and I thought the views were just incredible! #citytripping

  • Guest
    Esther Friday, 08 December 2017

    As far as flying visits go, I think you did a good job ;-) Looks like loads of fun!
    #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Hilary Thursday, 07 December 2017

    What a lovely treat! We visited Milan during our honeymoon almost 17 years ago, but had very limited time, and didn't get inside the Duomo. I would definitely have gone up to the roof and taken the stairs... any chance to get in a bit of exercise! The pizza places sounds heavenly, and how wonderful that you're only a drive from Milan! #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Jacki Thursday, 07 December 2017

    What a perfect way to spend 6 hours! I love this idea that you capitalized on the cheaper price and a wonderful day of sightseeing! #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Trish Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I've not been to Milan but I love this idea of seeing it on a flying visit. The Duomo looks incredible and so do those pizzas.
    Interesting about flying from different airports. We have a number to choose from (Stansted, Luton, East Midlands etc) and it can make a big difference in price.
    #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Alix @A Hedgehog in the Kitchen Thursday, 07 December 2017

    Hi Phoebe! I love Milan and you took some gorgeous photos during your day there! Interesting that you could save money by flying from Milan. I love the idea of adding another city to your itinerary too. I see you live in Nice! We live in Paris and (of course!) LOVE France too. We'll have to come and check out your gite one of these days.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    Thanks Alix, you really must come and stay, it's perfect for a long weekend (or more) from Paris.

  • Guest
    Sara Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    I love to try and use layovers to see things, so I would absolutely try and explore the city! I've never been to Milan (despite living in Florence for awhile), but I'd love to see the duomo. The pictures of it just seem incredible in terms of size and scale! #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I'm always all for adding new experiences to any travel situation, glad to hear you like to explore in layovers too.

  • Guest
    Kat Wednesday, 06 December 2017

    Absolutely stunning! I missed out Milan during my travels in Italy back in 2008 and have regretted that decision ever since especially when I come across posts of Milan like yours! :-) No, I don't think it's faff - I would have done the same - add something different to the usual road trip and at the same time, save some money. Win-win! #Citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I agree: win-win. Perfect!

  • Guest
    California Globetrotter Tuesday, 05 December 2017

    I never realized that Napoleon Bonaparte made it all the way to Italy, let alone got crowned there! Would love to visit Milan one day! #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I had no idea he was King of Italy I must admit!

  • Guest
    scots2travel Monday, 04 December 2017

    Milan's Duomo is my favourite building in the world, so far. The roof access, the way Italians seem to live and relax there, is so appealing. The mix of styles somehow works for me. A thing of wonder. #culturedkids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I agree it's fabulous.

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Monday, 04 December 2017

    I had no idea you could walk on the roof of Milan's cathedral like that, Phoebe! Now that is something well worth queuing for! What a good idea to make a feature of your extended drive to the airport and spend a few hours like this in Italy. Great idea for a post. #CulturedKids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    Your boys would love climbing on the roof Clare...how about flying to Milan for a trip to Lou Messugo next year!!!

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Friday, 08 December 2017

    Yet another fantastic idea, Phoebe! I still can't get over that roof...#farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Alex - My Life Long Holiday Sunday, 03 December 2017

    I'm definitely in camp Twain - Wilde is wrong! I mean, just the fact you can go on the roof is amazing but once you're up there - I could have stayed all day! I was pregnant and climbed all those steps with a big belly!
    I love that arcade nearby too. I will definitely be bookmarking that pizza restaurant for next time.
    Lucky you that you live so close! #fearlessFamTrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    Well done climbing the steps pregnant, I know I wouldn't have liked to do that.

  • Guest
    Richard Sunday, 03 December 2017

    I paid a flying visit to Milan once. I slept on the marble floor of a school (not over comfortable, but pretty cheap), glanced at the Duomo, which reminded me of a frightened porcupine (my architectural tastes were decidedly sober and Anglican), and wandered in to look at The Last Supper in the Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent (in need of attention, unguarded and no charge, and altogether pretty classy). I was 17, hitch-hiking to Greece, in 1955. I dare say things have changed a bit since then.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I love your description "frightened porcupine" it's very apt even though I think it's a beautiful frightened porcupine! How I wish we could just wonder in and see The Last Supper. Nowadays you have to book so many months ahead that both times we've been to Milan it's been full because we've been too spontaneous. One day we'll think ahead and go specially to see it.

  • Guest
    http://Leona Sunday, 03 December 2017

    We bypassed Milan to go to lakes. I now regret not going in #fearlessfamtrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    There's always a next time Leona!

  • Guest
    Katy Sunday, 03 December 2017

    I love Milan - surprising I know! Ha! Actually aside from the spectacular Duomo, Galleria and a few other bits the city doesn't have the same aesthetic appeal as some of the other Italian cities. But I like its realness. Next time go to Navigli the canal district. On Sundays they have a fabulous flea market. I also have a few restaurant recs for you - modern Italian and delicious #culturedkids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    You're right, Milan isn't as gob-smackingly beautiful as many other Italian cities but it has enough pretty good buildings to keep the visitor happy. It also has The Last Supper which I'd love to see but have failed both times I've been to Milan as it has to be booked months in advance...no room for spontaneity when it comes to Leonardo de Vinci! I've been to the Navigli area but it rather underwhelmed me I'm afraid. Perhaps I need to give it another go. As for restuarant suggestions, I'm always happy to receive!

  • Guest
    Little Wandering Wren Saturday, 02 December 2017

    Oh no definitely not a faff, but then I love add-ons like this. How special, 'Let's go to Italy for breakfast, I hear they do a great coffee!!' I guess the test will be whether you do it again?!
    Wren x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    We have been to Italy for breakfast a few times...the beauty of living so close. And yes...we are doing it again, this time to fly to New York at Christmas - we found a great bargain from Malpensa!

  • Guest
    Wren Thursday, 07 December 2017

    Lucky you - happy hols! Xx

  • Guest
    Corey with fifi _ hop Saturday, 02 December 2017

    I've only flown into Milan - but I'd love to visit it properly some day. I know I'd love the Duomo even if it's a bit controversial. #fearlessfamtrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    I think it's hard not to love the Duomo, but that's just my personal opinion!

  • Guest
    http://Elizabeth (Wander Mum) Friday, 01 December 2017

    What a way to spend 6 hours!! We really enjoyed Milan and I am more with Twain on the cathedral - I liked it. Not sure about the Bartholemew statue though - scary! Beautiful pics #fearlessfamtrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    The statue is remarkable, but not actually pleasant!

  • Guest
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) Sunday, 10 December 2017

    Hehe - absolutely. Great to re-read for #citytripping. We need to go back to Milan and when we do we'll definitely go to the top of the cathedral. Just love your photos!

  • Guest
    Plutonium Sox Friday, 01 December 2017

    Wow, the Duomo looks incredible and I would love to go to Milan. Well done for making the most of your time before your flight! #culturedkids
    Nat.x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    :)

  • Guest
    Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays Friday, 01 December 2017

    I really really want to clamber over the roof of Milan Cathedral and I think that the teens would enjoy it too! Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    It really does appeal to teens I can vouch for that!

  • Guest
    the Curious Pixie Friday, 01 December 2017

    Oh I love Milan. I went a few years ago on a girly trip. Fell in love with the place and the gothic Duomo was just incredible from the top. #CulturedKids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    It's a great city for a girly trip - shopping, food, coffee, cocktails and a little bit of culture!

  • Guest
    Lisa - FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com Friday, 01 December 2017

    We visited Milan with our toddler last Spring and were very pleasantly surprised. It's a fun city to visit. Unfortunately for us the Pope was visiting the weekend we were there, so it was crazy busy when we wanted to visit the Duomo.... Guess you have to check for that sort of thing when you visit Italy, haha. #fearlessfamtrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    But what a unique experience to be there with the Pope!

  • Guest
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) Friday, 01 December 2017

    I loved the Duomo when I visited Milan a few years ago. It was the highlight of the trip. I don't think I had a pizza as good as yours, though. And nibbles with prosecco in the queue - what a service! Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    The owner of that place really understands how to capture a clientel, it was such an easy and delicious way to wait for a table!

  • Guest
    Erin Friday, 01 December 2017

    Ah lovely, I really want to get to Milan. We can drive there from our place in Germany – it's good to hear you can do a few things on a short trip. #fearlessfamtrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    Being in driveable distance makes Milan a perfect weekend destination. Go for it. :o

  • Guest
    Annabel Friday, 01 December 2017

    This really makes me want to visit Milan! It's one of the main Italian cities I've not had a chance to visit. The cathedral looks impressive and I'd kill for a thick hot chocolate right now! #fearlessfamtrav

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 07 December 2017

    The hot chocolate was really...really good!

Leave your comment

Guest
Guest Thursday, 14 December 2017

About Me

phoebe-portrait


facebookpinteresttwitter follow Lou Messugo on Google+Active-Instagram-2-icon

notebook

Trips100 - Travel Blogs
Trips100

 Living in France

AllAboutFranceBadge

BritMums
Expat in France
expat partner's survival guide