I have friends scattered all over the place and my recent visit was to see Silvio and Anne, who used to live in Dundee and then Paris and are now in Milan! The photo was the front of the duomo (cathedral) in Milan and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
On arriving I discovered easily the joys of Italy - the relaxed nature of everything and the quirky way in which things worked. Like the fact that whilst someone sits in a booth at every metro station they don't actually sell tickets and that if you don't have any coins then buying a ticket from the machine can be a little tricky!! After trudging back to the rail station I managed to get some change, but didn't need to use it as my friends came into the city centre to collect me!
I've been to Milan about 7 times before but it was still nice to spend Friday wandering in the City Centre (both Silvio and Anne were working!) I walked for 6.5 hours and saw many of the key sights! Milan is not really a tourist destination, more a shopping experience and gives you a true flavour of Italian city life, without scores of tourists following people carrying a flower on the end of a stick about (if you've ever been to Florence or Rome you'll know what I mean!!)
First I stopped by Sant'Ambrogio - the church of the patron saint of Milan, a man so eloquent that bees were said to fly into his mouth, attracted by his honey tongue. Most of what is seen today is a 10th century romanesque church.
Then it was off to the Duomo - one of the largest gothic churches in the world. It was started in the 14th century but wasn't completed for more than 500 years. The canals in Milan were built with the specific purpose of transporting the marble to clad the duomo.
The duomo is as amazing outside as in, covered in white marble and beautiful carvings - the roof has 135 spires and innumerable statues, climbing the stairs to the roof, you are able to get close to the beautiful carvings, wandering anywhere on the marble roof and stand above the skyline of Milan, on a clear day seeing all the way to the Alps! However, it wasn't a clear day on Friday.
Inside the duomo feels truly enormous - the aisles divided by grand pillars and the walls bejewelled by stained glass windows. The low level light inside and the chill in the air makes you feel as if you are actually there during medieval times.
After the duomo, I went for a snack lunch, Italian style! Panzerotti!!
Just close to the Duomo, is Luini, famous for it's panzerotti (and you thought a mediterranean diet was oh so healthy!!) - pizza dough filled with mozarella and tomato and deep fried! Every day, queues form, whilst people wait to buy the tasty snacks, many to be seen wandering down the street fighting with stringy mozarella!
After my lunch I went to La Rinascente, the Harrods or Bloomingdales of Milan and toured the fashion and homewares and then through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with it's cross shaped floor plan, laid in the shape of a latin cross, with an octagonal centre adorned with mosaics representing four continents.
Then I wandered to Corso Garibaldi in the Brera area of the city and found the church where a few years ago I attended my friends Gareth and Daniela's wedding.
It's a beautiful area of the City, home to the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan's most famous art collection, quiet streets and countless bars, restaurants and quirky shops.