Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Italy chapter on Lombardy and the Lakes has to say about Milan:
“Milan is the engine room of the country’s economy. Treasures that survived damage from Allied bombing during WWII include its elaborate cathedral, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and the Castello Sforzesco. The La Scala opera house also scraped through. What really sets Milan apart, however, is its creative streak and high-speed cosmopolitan feel.
Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and many more took off on Milan’s runways. Fashionistas make a pilgrimage here to shop at the designers’ flagship stores in the Quadrilatero d’Oro (Golden Quad).
Celtic tribes settled along the river Po in the 7th century BC, and the area encompassing modern-day Milan has remained inhabited since. In AD 313, Emperor Constantine made his momentous edict granting Christians free¬dom of worship here. The city had already replaced Rome as the capital of the empire in 286, a role it kept until 402.
A town council was formed by all social classes in the 11th century, and, from the mid-13th century, government passed to a succession of dynasties – the Torrianis, Viscontis and, finally, the Sforzas. It fell under Spanish rule in 1525 and Austrian in 1713. Milan became part of the nascent Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in Milan in 1919. He was eventually strung up here by partisans after he sought to escape to Switzerland in 1945. Mussolini had dragged Italy into WWII on Hitler’s side in 1940. By early 1945, Allied bombings during WWII had destroyed much of central Milan.
Milan’s self-made big shot and media mogul, Silvio Berlusconi, made the move into politics in the 1990s and has since been elected prime minister three times, most recently in 2008. The city’s next big date with destiny is Expo2015, a world exhibition.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We arrived in Milan after a very comfortable 7-hour trip by train from the Gare de Lyon station in Paris. Wouldn’t you know it, after two weeks of non-stop sunshine, it was pouring buckets as we made our way to the metro station? Luckily, we had each packed a rain jacket so we didn’t get too wet. It’s impossible to hold an umbrella and pull a suitcase and a carry-on at the same time.
Taxis are relatively inexpensive in Milan, and we didn’t have too far to travel from the station to our AirBnB apartment in Milan’s Chinatown. Our host was there to meet us and before long, we were out exploring the area. The apartment is in a rather run-down building, and the street looked pretty seedy, but within a block or two we found ourselves in a rather trendy area with fashionable restaurants and loads of high fashion shops.