Ah, Italy!!! I still remember you so vividly! This holiday felt like it was just yesterday but in reality, it happened two months ago… so yes, you may say this post took a long time coming (well you know, life happens) but here it is finally!
For this first post (yes there’ll be more than one) on Italy, I am sharing with you my top sights to see in its four major cities : Milan, Lake Como, Turin and Courmayeur.
As soon as we arrived in the city of Milan, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and had a good and hearty long breakfast. When we had our energy back again, we (with my kids in tow of course) decided to go out, get some sunlight and do our first day of sight seeing right away! We do this in most countries we visit as it helps us beat our jet lag blues!
And the first thing on our list to see? The iconic Duomo.
The Duomo di Milano (also known as the Milan Cathedral) or the Duomo in short, was built back in 1386 and is the most impressive structure in Milan and the largest and most complex of Italian Gothic buildings.
It is one of Italy’s longest standing symbols and one of Milan’s biggest and most important landmarks!
Here’s a 15-seconder of the atmosphere around the Duomo, on the day we arrived.
And to give you a sneak peek of what’s inside this impressive structure…
This very important landmark in Milan (though it may really get crowded sometimes) is surely one place you should not miss!
A few steps away from the Duomo is another important Milanese landmark, the Vittorio Emanuele Galleria.
This beautiful building built in 1865 is known as one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful shopping malls! It is filled inside with luxury shops, designer boutiques as well as nice cafes and restaurants.
This place is both a historic sight and architectural gem that even those who don’t shop will want to see. From their mosaic marble floors and amazing architecture to their artistic and creative merchandise displays of the stores, this is certainly a must-see!
Of course, do not forget to take a photo when you are here… as this sight is probably one of the most photographed structures in Milan. It is just too beautiful to pass up!
Although we were not able to watch any performances at the the historic and grandiose Teatro alla Scala (tickets are usually sold out months ahead of time), we were still lucky enough to go in and get to see how it looks inside.
What’s so special about this theater? Well, opera is one of Italy’s most celebrated arts and this gorgeous opera house is considered a masterpiece in itself. Built in 1778, Teatro alla Scala was (and is until this day) considered as one of the leading opera and ballet theaters in the world. It is known for it’s neoclassical exterior, lush interior and thousands of acclaimed performances.
Santa Maria Delle Grazie (or Holy Mary of Grace) is a very special and meaningful church to me personally. This is where my mother prayed when she found out she was pregnant with me! She prayed for a daughter and promised to God that if here baby will be born a girl, she will name her after the patron of this church, Mary of Grace.
Well as we now know… her wish was granted, she gave me the name “Mary Grace” and she was given not just a girl ~ but a true girly girl! Truly, this is proof that God hears our prayers!
Aside from the personal significance of this church, this place is also an important structure in Milan as it is an outstanding work of architecture and a great symbol of faith within the Catholic tradition. But perhaps what makes this church widely known now is the fact that it houses the most famous work of one of the greatest Italian artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
This church is therefore one of Renaissance art’s most important testimonies and a shining symbol of creative human genius — and because of such, it was named as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites back in 1980.
Of course, no trip to Milan is complete without visiting Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, one of the world’s most renowned and mysterious works of art. Admiring this masterpiece is a unique experience on its own and one that invoked a lot of mixed emotions and moved me the minute I saw it with my very own eyes!
As mentioned previously, this masterpiece is located inside the church Santa Maria delle Grazie. So yes contrary to popular belief, this art work is not inside a museum, but rather inside a church and a convent. The work (located in the dining room!) was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and was believed to be completed between 1495 – 1498.
The work on this painting by Leonardo da Vinci started in 1495 and was painted on dry instead of wet plaster. This new painting technique, coupled with the humidity and exposure to the elements over the centuries, required the painting to undergo extensive restoration efforts — the results of which is what we see today.
From the city of Milan, we took a day trip to the beautiful Lake Como, which is just an hour and a half away. Lake Como is the 3rd largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest lakes in Europe. It is certainly, one of the top travel destinations in Italy year-round, especially during the summer — when the sun is out and the water is very tempting!
This was my second time here and yet it’s still as beautiful as I remember it to be — even though it was very cold and windy that day!
Turin—or Torino in Italian, is one of the country’s largest cities. Despite its large size and the number of attractions it offers (chic piazzas, Baroque architecture, palaces, and castles), it’s still surprising that it remains on the off-the-beaten-path for tourists.
Our first stop in this city is the little town of Lingotto in Turin, where Eataly, the grand emporium dedicated to all Italian food, originated. (This is the very first Eataly in the world). I also learned that this city is where the global Slow Food Movement was born. And Eataly’s concept was created because of this idea — which explains why they have the widest selection of fresh, sustainable and organic Italian food.
Here’s a bit of trivia : “Eataly” is the combination of two English words : Eat and Italy. If you happen to come to this part of Italy, make sure to make a stop over at this place as it’s very worth it! (We had a delicious lunch here and shopped for a lot of food products to take home!) This food emporium is all about eating Italian food and living the Italian way!
But the main reason why we made our way out of Milan to go to Turin (slightly more than 2 hours away by car) is to visit another important sight, the Turin Cathedral (or the Duomo di Torino in Italian). This church is also known as the Basilica of St John the Baptist Cathedral, the church famous worldwide for containing the controversial Shroud of Turin, believed to be the burial cloth of the crucified Jesus. A lot of studies show that this is the cloth used to wrap our Lord’s crucified body after His death on the Cross. It has been placed here and safely guarded inside a vault for more than four centuries now.
I can’t help but feel very blessed to have visited this place and see the ancient and miraculous relic of Jesus — with my very own eyes. Thank you dear God!
Here’s one quick video by the relic :
Some scientific data : The Shroud of Turin secured inside a vault in this Church, is a fine linen cloth measuring 14.5ft by 3.5ft. It mysteriously displays a finely detailed photographic image — from front to back, head to toe, of a man who appears to have been tortured, beaten and crucified.
The Shroud is the most studied, analyzed and tested religious relic in the world, and yet until today, this mystery baffles scientists, skeptics and believers alike.
Turin became our midpoint to the next city on our list : Courmayeur (1 hour 45 mins drive). This is a little alpine town in the north located right below the majestic snow-covered Monte Bianco (or Mont Blanc) mountains.
Courmayeur is also known as one of northern Italy’s most luxurious small towns, as it is a ski haven tucked behind Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. A lot of celebrities come here these days following a tradition that dates back to the late 17th century, when Courmayeur’s natural springs first began to attract visitors. Nowadays of course, it’s all about skiing or taking a relaxing holiday trip to the Italian Alps,the Mont Blanc!
Popular activities in this town include skiing, hiking, shopping, visiting the spa, and enjoying local specialties, like fondue. The town comes alive at aperitivo—whether after a day on the slopes in the winter, or when the sun goes down after a long hike in the summer!
But since we are amateur skiiers, we passed up on the ski slopes and decided to just take it easy in this little town. We then took the kids up the mountains in a more enjoyable, fun and relaxing way. How? Through the Skyway Monte Bianco!
The newly opened Skyway Monte Bianco is truly an engineering masterpiece and also the best way to explore the Mont Blanc mountains, now considered as the 8th wonder in the world.
This “skyway” or this cable car gave us such unforgettable experience as we went up and up the mountains! It surely is the most spectacular way of reaching the closest point to the summit of Mont Blanc and its majestic glaciers.
What can I say but the scenery from up here was absolutely majestic and breathtaking!!!
Here’s a 360 degree view from where I was standing!
Never did I imagine that in my lifetime, I would see and reach the Mont Blanc. What an incredible feeling to have climbed one of the world’s highest mountains — and not so the world can see me — but really so I can see the world!
Don’t forget to check the next blog post to see my highly recommended restaurants in Milan. Just click here!
And to see the rest of my photos during this trip through Instagram, click here.
Special thanks to my blog’s site partner, Smart Infinity for helping me stay connected throughout my trip through its SMART Travel Wifi!
Find out more about it at smart.com.ph.