Milan’s Galleria, Spectacular Architecture and Upscale Shops

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Milan has a wonderful shopping arcade just across the piazza from its famous Duomo. This five-story glass-ceilinged building is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and a must-see for anyone traveling to Milan.

This arcade has the distinction of being the oldest shopping mall on the world, and is named after one of Italy's most famous kings, King Victor Emanuele II. In fact he actually laid the first stone of this galleria in 1865. The arcade was built to connect the large Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala where the opera house, La Scala is located.Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milans Galleria, Italy

Mosaic Bull, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan GalleriaTwo years later in 1867 the galleria opened but was not completed for another ten years. This beautiful example of architecture is one of Milan's most popular meeting spots. Its facade facing Piazza del Duomo is framed with a triumphal arch. The interior is shaped like a Latin cross with one walkway 643 feet long and the other 346 feet across. Both walkways are covered with impressive glass and iron arched ceilings which meet at an octagonal center point. This central dome 154 feet high and 118 feet wide and it truly is beautiful.

On the floor in the center of the galleria is a mosaic bull, and tradition maintains that anyone who steps on the bull's genitals, and twirls around three times, will have good fortune. My Italian friend Angela who accompanied me the first time I visited this galleria assures me that this is true, and insisted that I participate in the ritual, as she was ready with her camera. Naturally I had to do it while bystanders looked on, waiting their turn to do the same.  The area is question was so worn from people performing this ritual that there was a hole in the floor. Periodically this has to be renovated with new mosaics.Spectacular Architecture, Milan's Galleria

Aside from the spectacular architecture, the galleria features some of Milan's more upscale shops and restaurants. To name a few that grace these halls are Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bernasconi, and Rizzoli Bookstore. Until recently McDonald's was also inside the galleria, which may seem unusual, but it had been there for twenty years. Their lease was not renewed this year and McDonald's no longer is inside Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Some of the famous restaurants and cafès in the galleria are the Savini Restaurant, Biffi Caffè, and Zucca's Bar. You may pay ten euros for a cup of cappuccino but you are in Milan's Galleria after all. Enjoy the ambience and splurge.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Milan’s Sforzesco Castle

Milan's Sforzesco Castle, ItalyGuest Post By: Margie Miklas

Milan is not so much a tourist city in Italy but travelers do visit here and the main attractions are the Duomo, the Galleria and La Scala. Maybe the Fashion District is on their list too but for me, one of the lesser known but interesting places to see in Milan is the Sforzesco Castle or Castello Sforzesco.


Not located near the Duomo or Fashion District, the Sforzesco Castle is just a Metro ride away on the MM1 line at the Cairoli – Castello station.  This 14th century historic monument in Milan was once the residence of the Sforza-Visconti ruling families of Milan. Later the Austrian governor called it home when the region of Lombardy belonged to the Hapsburg empire. Today this fortress is the home to several museums. The Sforzesco Castle has been demolished, rebuilt and restored several times and has been open to the public since 1900. Today it commands the attention of crowds because of its history and various museums housed within its walls.


Sforzesco Castle Filarete TowerInside the castle are 12 mini museums, called the Musei Civici, and they occupy space on several floors. The exhibits include ancient archeological artifacts, ancient art sculptures including one unfinished by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Trivulzianus manuscript, furniture and Italian paintings. Other exhibits feature musical instruments such as a harpsichord dating back to the 16th century. Tapestries and objects in gold, silver and other metals are also on display in these museums.


Sforzesco Castle is laid out in a square and has three inner courtyards and numerous towers. In the front there are two round towers and in the rear two square towers. The round towers are 102 feet tall and have names: Torre Castellana and Torre Falcioniera.

As I passed through the main entrance I actually am walking right through the tallest tower named Torre del Filarete, which is 230 feet tall. Passing through this tower this takes me to the main large courtyard, which is so big it is considered to be a piazza and is named Piazza d’Armi.  From the courtyard I am able to see another tower, this one being Torre di Bona Savoia.

Sforzesco Castle Main entrance, ItalyHours and Fees

The Sforzesca Castle is to the public open every day of the year from 7am to 6pm and from 7am to 7pm in the summer. There is no admission to enter the castle grounds but nominal fees are charged to visit the museums. The museums are open from 9-5:30Tuesday through Sunday and the admission fee is only three euros and free for anyone age 25 or younger.

There are other discounts available for students and seniors and on certain days at certain hours the entrance to these museums is free. The free times include Fridays from 2-5:30, weekends and from 4:30 to 5:30 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

I didn’t even know Milan had a castle until my Italian friend accompanied me there. If you are looking for something different in Milan, spend a few hours at the Sforzesco Castle.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas Follow Margie on her blog at


Bergamo – An Easy Day Trip from Milan, Italy

Bergamo Clock and Bell PowerGuest Post By: Margie Miklas

Bergamo is an easy day trip from Milan, taking less than an hour by train. This scenic medieval town is located in the Lombardia region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps.  Like many small towns in Italy, Bergamo has two parts, the lower part or “bassa cittá” and the older historic center up on a hill, the “alta cittá.”

As usual the train station is in the lower part of town but there are buses which run frequently and will take you to the upper part of Bergamo for the cost of one euro. The 1A bus can be boarded just outside the train station and there are plenty of young friendly locals who are happy to give you directions.

Once in the Bergamo Alta it is easy to wander around and discover the sights in this historic town. Of course most of the streets are inclined, so this is yet another opportunity for your daily workout, no gym required. This will help lessen any guilt from having that tempting gelato later in the day.

La Rocca is a 14th century fortress high on a hill which offers the most breathtaking panoramic views of the entire area. Surrounding La Rocca is a park which is a welcome respite from the uphill walking. Local residents can be seen sitting in the shade relaxing, having a picnic or reading a book.

Bergamo La RoccaInside La Rocca is a museum which is open to the public. At one time this former Roman  military camp had been a prison and also a barracks and executions took place in the park which is appropriately named Parco delle Rimembranze (Park of Remembrance).

Piazza Vecchio is the heart of the old town on Upper Bergamo, and in the center of this piazza a fountain which was presented to the city in the 18th century. This piazza is the home of Palazzo Nuovo, the 14th century Palazzo Podestà and the Palazzo della Ragione with its 12th century bell tower, Torre Civica and Torre Campanone. The tower is 174 feet high and you can take an elevator or climb the 230 steps to the top for commanding views of the city and the distant Alps. It is especially beautiful late in the day or at sunset. Every night the bells toll 180 times at 10pm, dating back to the ancient times when the city gates closed at that time, and the bells rang as a warning to its citizens.

Bergamo Basilica di Santa Maria MaggioreThe most famous church is Upper Bergamo is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza del Duomo. This 12th century church has a reputation for being one of the most important buildings in this entire region. Stepping inside leaves you with a respect for the medieval art as you take in the tapestries, frescoes, paintings and sculptures. The exterior is equally impressive with sculptures of lions and intricate carvings on columns and exterior walls.

A day trip to Bergamo may not seem like enough but then there is always a reason to return.

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Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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