One Day in Milan with Kids – what do to, see and explore in this amazing European city. Part 1 of our must see travel guide to walking around this historic city in Italy.
From the Duomo to the castle and a little gelato, pizza and playing in the park in between. The perfect “what to see in one day” adventure exploring Milan with your kids.
As I stood dwarfed by my surroundings I caught my breath and craned my neck upwards to see the magnificent stained glass image of Jesus in blue, red and green. I was standing in the middle of Duomo il Milano, the famous gothic cathedral in the center of Milan. The organ music vibrated in the 15,800 pipes that stretched up to heaven; the sound absorbed by the vastness of the space. Then a small voice sang a prayer in Italian. The crowded church hushed and listened.
How did they even construct this building without electricity, cranes and machines to cut stone, I wondered. There weren’t fancy architectural computer programs to help Leonardo DiVinci figure it. How does a 107 meter tall cathedral get built? As I stood in the shadow with the Duomo towering high above, I couldn’t help but be amazed at this spectacular architectural specimen. I read it took nearly 600 years to complete. Well, we had one day in Milan. Making this stop was a last minute idea since we had been so close skiing in sunny France with family and friends. I was looking forward to exploring a new city with just my husband and our 2 boys, but I wasn’t expecting much as I hadn’t intentionally planned to go there.
I never dreamed of going to Milan. Not sure why. All I knew about Milan was that it is the fashion capital of the world. I like to dress nicely and I have a mild interest in what’s fashionable this season. But clothing is not what draws me to travel to a city. What usually gets me excited about exploring an undiscovered city is the sites, history, food and locals. For some reason I didn’t expect Milan to really be a place I would fall for…but I could not have been more wrong.
When our tickets are booked, I always check out an online guide to a city to see which attractions are rated # 1 – 100. Then I make my own list of must-sees, kids friendly sites and unique happening. My list always has something I have never seen or something that is particularly special for only this place in the world. Like, the croissant factory tour in Poznan Poland. Who would have thought of having croissants in Poland, let’s face it, is not France. Another tip for really getting into the local scene is to taste local food. I always asked what is most popular and then order that. If it is the most popular favorite then it has to be good. I have never been disappointed; although, I have not traveled much in Asia. Let’s face it I must draw the line at eating insects.
So the #1 thing to see in Milan is the Doumo. And I can say it truly it is a must see. I was floored and impressed, humbled and in awe of it. The intricate details of the bronze of the front gate where Jesus and Mary’s grasp each others hands has been polished shiny by the multitude of visitors who rub it for good luck. The depth of anguish and emotions represented by each face carved and poured with bronze were thrilling to see.
But I think the vastness inside is what really took my breath away. You can sense how it truly is a house of God.
It seems as though the inner spires reached to the heaven and how small you feel in this place of worship. One can only surmise how a poor peasant from the country might feel as he stumbled upon this cathedral hundreds of years ago. The Duomo is this most impressive example of gothic architecture in the world. The fact that it still stands today is due to the fact that is made from giant marble stones and pillars. The sheer density of marble and is preserved state today is a testament to the knowledge and power the church had access to back then and still has today in Italy.
This was the first stop in our walk around Milan. Yes, we only had one day, but we didn’t commit to too many monuments…4 maybe 5 with plenty of time for crepes, gelato and pizza stops too. Next stop we walked straight up the “alley” to see the designer shops. The Milanese windows were eye candy for me, stylish and elegant just as you expected Northern Italians to dress. The kids could run around on the pedestrian street as I enjoyed my window shopping. My husband stopped into a local bakery to grab a standing espresso, very common in Italy. Remember: do as the locals do and you’ll enjoy your trip so much. We snuck into a small toy store with giant sized stuffed animals and my kids exclaimed it was stuffed animal heaven. I’d have to agree. We some how managed to leave without adding to our collection of over flowing in bins at home.
We made a left and headed for Opera House – La Scalla – we could only see the outside and I took a photo of the Opera schedule for 2015. This will have to be reserved for another visit when the kids are older or a romantic trip with just the hubby. It began to drizzle a little but we had bought an umbrella from the many street vendors selling them along the streets that lead to Duomo.
The kids were hungry now and I was on a mission to see my “only in Milan” unique attraction. The Brera District. It is known as the artist and bohemian area and a place I was dying to find a cozy café and peek into a few shops. As the kids complained, I spun stories of a hot amazing brick oven pizza that will be dancing on their tongues so soon. Just trust me, Mommy will take you there. I just knew it had to be true. We walked past as amazing bronze statue of a horse in front of a classic yellow city house that I just had to capture on film.
And then there it was, a cozy street with shops and Italian couples walking arm in arm, The Brera District, just as I had imagined it in my mind when I read about it the day before from a tourist map I picked up at the airport, I circled the name and promised myself this was top of the list must visits. I spotted a to die for shop called Vintage with ‘gasp’ vintage Italian design couture…’faint’. I guess I like fashion more than I had thought.
And we ran into a flea market selling second hand Gucci handbags and artifacts from the 1880’s. What luck again for it to be going on today, the only day we are in Milan! Of course we all forgot about our hungry bellies for a minute while we perused the little treasures this stumbled upon flea market showed us.
We ducked left on a side street just off of Brera and found our perfect little place with northern Italian wood fire pizza, heat lamps and blankets to wear on our legs. Lucky again? Perhaps Milan was just wrapping its inviting arms around our little family hoping for our only day here to be perfect. We got the last table, I guess you needed reservations for lunch for a gem of a place such as this. The food was Italian so of course it was delicious.
A prosciutto leg was displayed near a tray of desserts that most likely were mouth wateringly creamy. We each devoured our own pizza, margarita’s for the boys, prosciutto for me and fungi for hubby. We finished, got bundled up and were ready to face the adventures of the afternoon.
In Part two, we will tackle an afternoon in Milan and provide you with a walking street map to use for your visit. Excerpt: “Belly’s full we were off to see “the Last Supper” by Leonardo Di Vinchi.