Hello! This semester, I am studying International Relations and Italian in Milan. My classes don’t start until September 17th, but I’ve been using these weeks to attend orientation, perfect my Italian, and explore my new home. My university, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, partnered me with a current student before I even arrived in Italy, which made my transition far less stressful. On my first full day, Gianmarco gave me a tour of the city!
Milan’s layout is much more circular than cities I’m used to in the U.S. Within the first circle are the major tourist sites and businesses, and the eight other zones of the city radiate to form a second perimeter. Because of the concentrated city layout, recognizable landmarks, and flat surfaces, Milan is an exceptional city to explore on foot.
Arco Della Pace: This landmark looked oddly similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, so it made sense when Gianmarco explained its French roots. When Napoleon temporarily became king of Italy in the early 1800s, he built a reminder of Paris with the same proportions, making the structure with half the width and half the height. Between the arch and the 15th-century castle that it faces, there is a park with gorgeous greenery that makes one feel as if they’ve stepped out of the city.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: The oldest shopping mall in Italy sits right next to the Duomo, filled with luxury shops of Italian designers like Gucci and Versace. The ornate archways and tile floors demonstrate the Galleria’s decadence. Hidden in the tile design is a bull, the symbol of the neighboring city of Turin. If you spin on the bull’s testicles three times, local lore says that you will have good fortune.
Duomo: My host buddy pointed out a reminder of home as we stood in front of the most recognizable facade of Milan, its cathedral. Above the entrance on the left, there is a statue with a gold halo holding a cross that bears a striking resemblance to the Statue of Liberty. Gianmarco informed me that the French artist behind the Statue of Liberty visited Milan, saw this statue, and used it as inspiration for the gift to the U.S. Il Duomo’s ivory intricacies contrast the warm hues and flat facades of the neighboring buildings, jutting out of the landscape like a snow-covered mountain in the Alps (which you can allegedly see from the top of the cathedral).
Now that I know the secrets of the most iconic places in Milan, I look forward to exploring the best culinary creations hidden in the city.