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Milan in a Day: Self-guided Sightseeing Walking Tour

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy

One Day Walking Tour

Whether I get to visit this fabulous cosmopolitan city of Milan, Italy this year or in years to come, just being aware of it because of my husband's travels, it has made my bucket list of places that I wish to experience someday.

Milan has existed as a population center for centuries before the birth of Christ under the ruling dominion of different tribes of people. It has survived everything from wars to epidemics. Over the centuries, it has morphed into a commercially prosperous city filled with historic churches and has the third-largest cathedral in the entire world.

Milan also contains art galleries, gardens, the famous La Scala Opera House, a castle, the original Galleria, and is a noted high fashion center, among other things. One day he ventured out on a sightseeing self-guided walking tour of Milan back in 2006. He was taking a break from the wine business that took him to that metropolis.

What to See in Milan

Some people come to Milan to check out some of the high designer clothing. Others merely wish to sate one's appetite at a cafe or restaurant in what has become a favorite haunt of those who live in Milan. Below is some of what my husband got to briefly see in one day.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Be sure to visit this architectural gem of a building: the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It connects two notable plazas. It is sure to impress one upon seeing it for the first time as it did my husband.

The architect of this magnificent iron and glass-domed structure, Giuseppe Mengoni, sadly fell to his death off some scaffolding before its completion. Frescoes and mosaics embellish this stunning architectural beauty of a building. It opened two years after construction began in 1865. The building took on the name of King Vittorio Emanuelle II.

The eye-catching and unique design of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II has inspired similar buildings, including a Galleria shopping center in Houston plus one in Dallas, Texas. Having been in both of these Texas Galleria's, I had no idea that the original prototype design came from Italy.

In Milan, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II connects two important plazas, the Plaza del Duomo and the Plaza del Scala. Thus it becomes not only an attraction when wondering what to see in Milan but also a gorgeous conduit between two of the other sites one should also visit while in that city.


Located in the historic city center of Milan, the Duomo is a gigantic cathedral of epic proportions. Only St. Peters in Rome and a cathedral in Seville, and another one located on the Ivory Coast are larger. The cathedral can seat 40,000 people!

Taking over five centuries to build and completed in 1813 upon the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte, the base of the cathedral is Baroque in style but was completed as Gothic. Numerous spires lift towards the heavens in typical Gothic style, and about 3,500 statues are ranging from saints to animals and even monsters.

A gilded 14-foot (4.16m) golden statue of the Madonna tops the tallest spire. It was sculpted by Giuseppe Bini in 1774. It weighs 3 tons and is called La Madonnina. The views are better from the roof terraces where visitors can see it and the many other spires and buttresses of the cathedral, and even the Swiss Alps on a clear day. Needless-to-say views of Milan from this perspective are also impressive.

Interior views of the Duomo are equally impressive. With five different aisles, 52 columns (piers), each decorated with a statue of a saint, elaborate and colorful stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, and marble floors, there is much to catch the attention of a visitor or someone attending mass in that environs.

The Duomo is full of spectacular art and treasures accumulated over many centuries and with dedicated effort. One could spend quite a bit of time exploring all of the nooks and crannies of this cathedral, even including what lies below the main floor, where one can see ruins dating back to the 4th century.

La Scala

Located in Milan's historic center is the world-famous La Scala Opera House. It has one of the largest stages in Italy. The stage measurements are 13,000 square feet (1,200 square meters). The auditorium can seat 2,015 people, and the acoustics are reputed to be exceptional.

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Located on the Plaza del Scala, the outside facade of this building is not all that impressive. However, that changes immediately upon entering the building. Elaborately decorated with gilded stucco work, fine woods, and warm-colored red velvets, along with the mirror-lined salon, it provides an elegant setting for watching operas and ballets.

It stands on the site of a former church called Santa Maria della Scala and derives its name from that church. The building of La Scala took place in the years 1776 to 1778. It sustained damage from the bombing in World War 2. Rebuilding took place, and Arturo Toscanini played a memorable concert on that newly rebuilt stage in 1946. Once again, this prestigious theater is delighting audiences from not only Italy but from around the world.

La Scala Opera House in Milan

La Scala Opera House in Milan

Castello Sforzesco

This historic structure was built in 1368 by Galeazzo II Visconti as a fortress but eventually became a palace. In intervening years it suffered damage from warring factions. Upon Francesco Sforza becoming the lord of Milan in 1450, it was once again a magnificent palace.

Notable artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante painted frescoes that remain there today even though the buildings reverted in later years back to serving as a military post.

Fortunately, when it was under consideration for demolition, the architect Luca Beltrami came along, and restoration took place. By the year 1904, it has served Milan as a setting for several museums.

Art lovers, plus those who appreciate history by viewing artifacts, could spend the better part of a day there viewing everything on display. One can see ancient art to decorative arts, stamps and books, famous sculptures, furniture collections, musical instruments, costumes and armor, tapestries, and jewelry. These things and more could keep interested parties enthralled and happily engaged in learning about the past in this historic site.

Some of the sites mentioned in this post

Vacation in Milan

There is much more to enjoy if one plans a trip to Milan, Italy. The few things mentioned here merely scratch the surface of what there is to do and see.

Milan is currently the second-largest city in Italy and the capital of the region of Lombardy. There is much history dating back to the days when it was the capital of the Roman Empire. From church history to military history, this city has gone through numerous changes through the ages. Beautiful architecture, as well as art, abounds.

My husband did not have time to see Leonardo da Vinci's famous Last Supper painting because of his business schedule, but it will assuredly be on my list of things to see. That, plus other historic buildings, churches, museums, gardens, art galleries, and shopping, should keep me busy for a while.

Being a furniture production center and a high fashion center, I may have to settle on window shopping due to the high prices. But that can be fun as well!

If a person wishes to see some of the beautiful lakes not distant from Milan, there are many. They include Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, and Lake Garda, among others. All-in-all, there is much to enjoy in Milan, whether in one day of sightseeing or a much longer stay. Click on some of the links below if you wish to learn more before planning your trip.

"Milan is beautiful in fog, like a woman with a veil. "

— Ornella Vanoni


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 25, 2021:

Hi MG,

My husband enjoyed seeing the sites mentioned in this article, all within easy walking distance. There is beautiful architecture plus history in Milan! You do know your history!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 24, 2021:

Nice article. I went to Milan once but that was a few years back. The city has a long association with the Fascists during the time of Mussolini.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 24, 2021:

Hi Harold,

Milan is a city that I also hope to see someday. I enjoyed hearing about my husband's one-day walking tour. These sites were close to one another, so it was easy to get an overview of them.

Harold on February 24, 2021:

Did not know Houston's Galleria was based on the original one in Milan. What a marvelous sounding city. Hope to see it someday in post pandemic days when we can once again travel.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 19, 2020:

Hi Liza,

It is wonderful that you have had a chance to visit Milan and see some of the sites. I hope that you will have a chance to return there in the future and enjoy more of what that city has to offer.

Liza from USA on June 19, 2020:

Peggy, I certainly love Milan. I had an opportunity for a short staying in Milan before departing to another city in Italy. Milan is a stunning city with magnificent architecture, historic buildings such as churches, cathedrals, galleries, arts, and much more. I would love to go visiting Milan anytime. Thanks for sharing the post. It brought back my sweet memories in Milan.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2019:

Hi Rajan,

Glad you enjoyed this post regarding the visiting of Milan. Our world is certainly filled with many attractions!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 15, 2019:

Feels good to be here once more. A city with amazing architecture, buildings and a lot of history it would be a joy to visit. Thanks for this informative article and awesome photos.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 13, 2018:

Hi Ethel,

I would also enjoy seeing an opera at La Scala as well as doing many other things in Milan. Hope your dream comes true someday.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on October 12, 2018:

Marvellous. I would love to visit La Scala for a night at the opera

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 26, 2018:

Hi Mary,

It is wonderful that you have been able to travel to so many places around the world. Nice that you have gotten to see parts of Milan while on your way to Switzerland.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 26, 2018:

Hi Peggy. This is a beautiful hub on MIlan. We used to get our car rental from here when we visited family in Switzerland and enjoyed this city. Though industrial, there are some pockets one can explore and enjoy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 18, 2013:

Hello Cassidydt,

It must be fun living in Milan! I know what you mean about not rushing out and seeing local sites when you live in a place. We have recently been doing more sightseeing in our own city of Houston and it is fun and educational. Enjoy your time in Milan.

Cassidy Dawson-Tobich on November 12, 2013:

I love Milan, have been living here for 3 months, though I haven't seen all that much just yet, which is bad, I know haha. Thanks for some insight, as I need to start making an effort to see things. I guess knowing I am going to be here for awhile gives me a reason not to hurry lol

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 10, 2013:

Hi Kalmiya,

Nice that you have been to Milan and have gotten to see Leonardo's Last Supper in person. I don't think that my husband had a need to take the subway while there. Interesting that it is done in black. Wonder why? Thanks for your comment.

Kalmiya from North America on March 10, 2013:

Hi Peggy, Thanks for your great photos of Milan which reminded me of my two visits there. I saw The Last Supper and it was an interesting experience. It is now in an air-controlled environment and they let in only small groups of people at a time through glass partition doors. The restoration work looks quite good. One thing I didn't like about Milan is that their subway system is entirely black colour! Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 27, 2013:

Hi Vinaya,

Thanks for taking your armchair tour of walking and seeing some historic sites in Milan, Italy. Appreciate your comment.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on January 26, 2013:


Your travel hubs are amazing. I love the way you give personal touch to your descriptions. As an arm chair traveler, I enjoyed sightseeing in Milan.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 17, 2012:

Hi Rajan,

Thanks for visiting Milan via this hub and my husband's photos of what he got to see in one day while there. It does look like a fabulous city to visit. Appreciate your votes and the share.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 16, 2012:

Peggy, the Milan tour is just awesome. Voted up and awesome and sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2012:

Hello QudsiaP1,

So glad that you enjoyed this virtual tour of Milan, Italy. My husband loved what he got to see and do while there. Thanks for your comment.

QudsiaP1 on July 02, 2012:

Great hub; thank you for the lovely tour. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 09, 2012:

Hi Cheryl,

Bruce is fortunate to have been able to spend a slight amount of time outside of his business to be able to see the sights in Milan that he did. Obviously a person with more time could enjoy that city for many days without running out of things to do and see. Thanks for your comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on March 09, 2012:

Another beautiful city with great architecture. I would love to visit Milan. You have given great history, photos and videos of the beautiful cathedral Duomo. The architecture, art and history is absolutely one to treasure for a lifetime. Interesting and wonderful hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 06, 2012:

Hi alocsin,

Milan is that also...a fashion and financial center, but as you now know it has many sites of a historic and artistic nature. Thanks for your comments and votes.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 06, 2012:

I didn't stop over in Milan on our last trip to Italy because I thought it was the capital of design and modernity, and didn't have much in the way of history and culture. Your hub disproves my assumption -- would love to have seen that Galeria. Voting this Up and Useful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2012:

Hi Paula,

Milan would be fun to see and be able to spend some time there. Maybe someday...! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2012:

Hi agusfanani,

Thanks for your comment and vote on this hub about Milan and what can be seen on a self-guided walking tour for people with not much time. It would be fun to see much more of this cosmopolitan city.

Paula Jacob on March 05, 2012:

Very interesting Peggy! Would love to go there myself! There is so much to see!