Just one foot on the street outside transports the visitor into the bustling world of Milan. You can’t help but smile as you watch the colorful people around you, making you feel like an extra in a Puccini opera; the protagonists singing dramatically in their flowery tongue, waving their hands emphatically in the air.
Their dress sense is impeccable. No wonder this is the style capital of the world. Even the Chinese – whose trademark curiosity shops filled with everything from travel plug adapters to Hello Kitty umbrellas – are more stylish in Milan. It may be fake Fendi they’re selling, but the shop assistants in their faux-Versace scarves and knock-off Burberry boots have an air of class about them.
Milan lost many of its beautiful buildings in heavy bombing during World War II, and it may not receive as many compliments as Florence or Rome, with their crumbling monuments, coliseums and other ancient iconic landmarks. But its elegant streets and grandiose buildings, glassed-ceilinged galleries, and visually stunning central station give Milan a character all of its own.
The designer fashion houses that line the via Napoleone and the abundance of shoes, sandals, clothes and accessory stores whichever way you turn, leave the visitor in awe and out of pocket. Even if you’re not in the market for an exquisite outfit by Prada, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton, you can still appreciate the taste and beauty of the most famous of fashion houses.
Milan’s streets are spotless. Not even a cigarette end or sign of graffiti anywhere. The excellent public transport service runs like clockwork and the urban ticketing system allows commuters to combine the bus, metro, tram, and train. Everything about Milan exudes modernity and order; something you don’t often find in other parts of Italy.
This is a pretty city that works, is visually pleasing and pleasant to walk around. Make sure you take some Pedag insoles for your shoes, as once you start exploring, it’s hard to stop, as you’ll uncover narrow street, after narrow street that open out into large plazas, hidden chocolate shops, art galleries, pizzerias and shoes, of every shape and color.
The center is compact and you can easily explore it on foot, but once you’ve gotten your fill of the Duomo (Milan’s landmark cathedral), take a walk to the Moscova district to take in a different side of Milan, a little off the tourist path. This is undoubtedly the very best place to people-watch as the streets are lined with classy bars, expensive cafés, and fancy restaurants.
The powerful, wealthy, beautiful and elegant people mingle here, sipping on cocktails on the sidewalks. Try out the local tipple, spritz at café Radetzky; a must-have when in Milan.
Watch in wonder as the elegant women exude style and sophistication, head to toe in Armani and 4-inch stilettos. With the cobbled streets, it’s admirable how they manage to walk with perfection in such high heels, over-sized purses on their arms and large dark glasses covering their eyes.
The men with their perfectly coiffed hair, manicured nails, ironed suits, man bags and scarves, are also immaculately groomed as they converse freely with their friends.
From time to time you’ll hear the roar of an engine and see a red Ferrari or Alfa Romeo cruise by, lingering beside the bar just long enough for heads to turn and admire.
Vespas speed past every few seconds, and women in fitted suits and heels effortlessly hop onto the back of motorcycles with grace and style, Versace bags on their shoulders.
This is a different slice of Italian life far from the Piazza del Duomo, where photo-snapping tourists mix with Senegalese umbrella sellers, men and women of ethnic descent selling roses and Romany gypsies begging for money, cursing those who don’t give.
Is there a better country on earth than Italy? Or a better city than Milan to truly appreciate all that is good in life – love, food, art, and style? Who cares about their scandalous politicians and shaky economy? Italians still manage to live the Dolce Vita and savour every last drop out of life, from their dark espresso to their infamous gelato. And however bad life gets, it always feels better in a prettier pair of shoes.
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