On Wednesday I caught the train up to Milan to take my PMP exam (passed!). Obviously, having never been to Milan before, this was a great opportunity to see more of the city. I was especially curious as this would have been one of the most likely places we would have ended up, had I managed to find work in Italy.
Milan tends to get written off as a shopping Mecca and not much else. I think this is probably selling the city a bit short (no pun intended), although it is no Florence or Rome in terms of tourist appeal. Still, we certainly managed to keep ourselves entertained.
First stop was the towering, gothic-style, Duomo. Unlike the Renaissance-style Duomo in Florence, the Duomo in Milan is all white marble, spindly spires, and innumerable statues (actually I think someone has counted them but I can't be bothered looking it up).
Inside you get a good feel for the enormous size of the Duomo, which is built to hold 40,000 people. It is richly decorated, with amazing stained-glass windows and the gruesome statue to Saint Bartholemew, who was flayed to death and is portrayed with his own skin thrown over his shoulder (you can clearly make out his hair and toenails, gross!).
You can also climb onto the roof of the Duomo, which is very worth while because you can see all the statues up close and it's also kind of fun being on the roof of such a large, old, building. I'm sure it is well maintained, and concerns about falling through were unfounded.
Nearby the Duomo is the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II which is one of the world's oldest shopping arcades, and now contains the stores of many of the Italy's most exclusive brands including Prada and McDonalds. It is apparently good luck to spin on your heel on the balls of the bull depicting Milan on the pavement, and far be it for us to skip by such an important local tradition (I forced Linda to do it so I could take a photo).
We went for 'dinner' at a local bar where they served aperitivo, which is meant to be drinks with some free nibbles, but we called on our inner students and managed to eat (and drink) enough to be able to get by with only a gelato later in Piazza del Duomo.
Finally, we were fortunate enough to be in Milan in July, which is the peak sale period, so, while we dutifully made the trek out to the Quadrilatero della moda to get sneered at by the towering, black-power-suited, sales people in Dior and Armani, we actually ended up picking out some excellent bargains in the regular department stores. I bought two Valentino shirts, which are possibly the most expensive I've ever owned despite the 50% discount (I have since further justified my purchase by noticing the same shirts in the same department store in Florence are only reduced by 30%). Now I need only overcome my fear of actually wearing and washing them.