Milan has undeservedly become something of an oversight in my traveling experience, a transfer point between extended stays spent elsewhere. Unfortunately, this time was not much different. We had only hours in the Italian capital before our train to Paris: time to do the laundry and little else. With one load in the wash at our Airbnb apartment, we headed out to Piazza del Duomo to quickly take in the sights.
The ornate Duomo di Milano was being heavily renovated (for the city’s time in the spotlight as the host of Milano Expo 2015), but even scaffolding around its Great Spire didn’t take away from an afternoon spent enjoying views of the city through the lacy Gothic architecture.
Adjacent to the cathedral along Piazza del Duomo sits the grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a sumptuous nineteenth-century shopping arcade that is the grandfather of the modern-day shopping mall. The galleria is not only home to globally recognized luxury boutiques, but also some of the city’s oldest eating and drinking establishments. Camperino, founded by the Campari family to serve its eponymous aperitif, has been in the galleria since its opening in 1867.
Tourists line up under the central dome to do a heel spin on the bull mosaic, while souvenir kiosks sit under the open-air arches, hoping for a bite. In the evenings, locals and visitors alike take to the galleria for the daily passeggiata from Piazza del Duomo through the shopping arcade to the Piazza dell Scala.
As Milan Fashion Week was about to get underway, it was not a surprise to see passersby stopped in their tracks as two fashion models, clad in all black and towering heels (which only added to their impressive height), strutted across Piazza della Scala. The renowned La Scala opera house was a fitting backdrop for this moment of modern-day street theater, and encapsulated our time in Italy as a whole: a place where heritage and innovation co-existed.