Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Milan, the Northern Italian powerhouse of commerce, fashion and money. We had decided to spend a few nights here when taking in the Formula 1 race in Monza. Milan is well connected with 3 airports in close proximity. Bergamo has an airport used by the deceitful low cost carriers which schedule a flight for Milan but you land in Bergamo. The old airport, Linate, is closest to Milan, a bare 8 Kms from the city. The newer Malpensa is some 45 kms away. So watch out when flying in or out. It’s better to pay a bit more for your air ticket and land in Linate rather than being out in the boondocks with Bergamo or Malpensa.

As a city, Milan is a charmless place. It has two buildings, one an absolute stunner and the other less so. The stunner is the magnificent Duomo, the main Cathedral. This is a sight to behold and will leave you literally gaping open mouthed. Yes, yes, like the Taj Mahal, the building changes colour from dawn to dusk and looks spectacular in the moonlight. But no, no, they do not throw down a `security’ cordon around the building, or ban entry on moonlit nights like they do at Agra. And you can go in free. And, the Cathedral is almost as old as the Taj Mahal.

The Duomo at mid-day

The Duomo at sunset

The Duomo at dusk - night the moon

The Duomo at night

The amazing detailing

The inside of the Duomo

The front of the Duomo reminded me of that great symbol of Macau, the St Pauls Church which is now destroyed leaving only one wall standing. I thought the two looked similar,leaving aside the filligree, but then again, that’s my opinion. Have a look at the photos. Do you agree?

The other great building is the main train station. This is quite nice. There are a few sundry buildings, but, they are neither here nor there. The famous La Scala is disappointing from the outside.

The main station building

The main station building

A modern building in the skylin

A close up of the building

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel

Inside Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel

The old city around the Duomo has higgledy piggeldy streets, a map-makers nightmare and a tourist’s headache. Every open space is a Piazza named after somebody causing still more confusion as then you need to look at two street names to get your bearings. Outside the centre, the roads are better planned and the architecture is quite like Barcelona. In the older part of town you have the shops of the famous fashion brands.

A great Latin building

Beautiful balconies

Ugly balconies

Milan has lots and lots of cafes and sandwich bars like London City or New York has. The Panini has been made into an art form by the Milanese and you can get them in a variety of fillings with dried meat, cured meat, cooked meat, cheese, vegetables all over in stalls called Paninoteca’s. They are quite delicious and perfect at lunch. After a Panini it’s time for an ice cream. The ice creams are delicious. You could have a non milk based sorbet type ice cream made with fresh fruit or the heavier milk based ones. The texture is something special quite unlike what you get anywhere else in the world.

Milan has a few very famous shops for the gastronomically inclined. You can have a really good ice cream at the Gelateria Passerini where we had a scoop of cinnamon and chestnut each. The cinnamon was really cinnamon, no mistaking it for anything else. The Giovanni Galli sweet shop is nice, but the greater and more impressive one is the Pasticceria Conferreria Cova on Montenapoleone. This is very chic and with top quality, excellently crafted pastries. Have a look at the photo with the Ferrari cake. The most impressive of the shops is the Gastronomica Peck, a real powerhouse of a shop. Meats, cheeses, pastas. Wines, breads, oils and vinegars of all types are available here. The dried meats are sliced to your specification with a smile, vacuum packed, wrapped in foil and then beautifully packed for you to take home. Have a look at the photo.

The Ferrari cake

A packet from Peck

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