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Milan The Best Place for Family Holidays!

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A visit to Italy is not complete without traveling to Milan, Italy's international hub for fashion that would make the French jealous, culture that epitomizes European life and commerce that crowns this city the default capital over Rome. Milan, located in the northernmost Lombardy region, has had an eclectic history of rulers (Roman, Spanish, Austrian, etc.) due to its proximity to the rest of Europe and is therefore far more independently spirited and multicultural than the southern Italian peninsula.

There are few places in the world where shopping and eating could be considered religious experiences. Milan's boutique-lined streets offer some of the world's most exquisite and exclusive styles, dominating the cutting-edge of design. Travel to Milan to pamper yourself, but keep a keen eye for how you might redecorate your outdated (by Milan standards) living room. Brera is the most sophisticated and elite shopping area, centrally located and also home to the Pinacoteca de Brera, one of the most coveted museum collections in Europe.

Speaking of consumption, a leisurely dinner of saffron-scented risotto and signature osso buco will surely provide rejuvenation after all of that shopping. Make sure to enjoy the local wines of Lombardy, particularly from the Brescia region, which set a whole new standard for table wines.

We start our Milan tour with the Gothic Duomo (Cathedral) whose ground was broken in 1386 under the first duke of Milan and yet was only finished in time for Napoleon’s coronation as King of Italy in 1809. With an estimated capacity of forty thousand it is Italy’s second largest church; only St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome is bigger. To get an idea of its immensity, the Milan cathedral boasts 135 marble spires and contains well over two thousand marble statues. Yet in spite of its size and central location those who seek refuge from the outside world (believe me, central Milan hustles and bustles) can usually step inside and find a solitary corner. Believe it or not there has been a church at this prime Milan location since at least the beginning of the Fifth Century.

The Duomo’s architecture and art are certainly worthy of an extended visit. Let’s quote Mark Twain in his famous travelogue Innocents Abroad: "The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures -- and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest...everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue, and every statue is a study in itself... [and to sum up] They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter's at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands."

Right next door to the cathedral is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a Nineteenth Century upscale shopping mall named for the first king of united Italy. Just before its completion in 1877 its designer fell from scaffolding to his death. Talk about grandiose; the gallery stretches 640 feet (about 200 meters) from the Cathedral to the Opera House. Its arcade is 96 feet (about 30 meters) high and the octagonal glass dome is considerably higher. The Galleria is one great place for shopping and people watching, but bargains are to be found elsewhere. Should you so desire the Park Hyatt Hotel is right nearby and presumably you could "do" Milan with a four-point landing; the Cathedral, the Galleria, the Hotel, and the Opera House (described next). Don’t; there is a lot more to see and do.

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Milan The Best Place for Family Holidays!

Milan, Italy