If you’re a fashionista, a culture vulture, a lover of good food or just enjoy the sites and sounds of an historic city then Milan in Italy is an ideal destination.
London Southend Airport in Essex has just launched routes to 12 new destinations, which includes Milan.
Eastlife was lucky enough to be offered a trip to the city and an opportunity to experience the new route.
It took us about 1 hour 45 minutes to fly to Malpensa Airport in Milan and then a car journey of about 45 minutes to get to the city centre.
Milan really is a city with something for everyone. But it can be a bit tiring on the feet if you want to walk around everywhere.
Fortunately help is at hand as you can now take a Segway tour of the city and see all the sites with wearing out any shoe leather.
For those not in the know a Segway is a two-wheel vehicle that allows you to cruise around in a standing position. In the UK they cannot be used on the roads or on the streets, but in much of Europe you can.
It takes a bit of getting used to but the controls are designed to be intuitive and before long I found myself freewheeling around the place.
We took a tour that showed us many of the main historic and modern sites of Milan.
We started with Sforza Castle, a fortification built in the 15th century to protect the hated ruling Sforza family. It was designed to keep the family safe not just from invaders but also from their own citizens, many of who hated them for their tyrannous ways.
The castle is now open to the public and home to numerous museums packed with art and cultural treasures.
These include what is believed to be one of Michelangelo’s last sculptures, an unfinished piece showing the dying Christ with his mother Mary.
We then cruised to the Duomo, the grand cathedral of Milan, which was begun in 1386 and took nearly six centuries to build.
The most impressive aspect to the cathedral is its imposing façade. The church was originally built in the gothic style but over the centuries different architects have brought their own styles to the design.
From the height of religious art we went on to see the cathedral of fashion, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls.
The four-story double arcade has an iron-and-glass roof and is a very impressive sight in it’s own right. But it is also famous for being home to all the top fashion as well as famous cafes and restaurants where many celebrities have dined over the years.
Italy is rightly famous for it’s food and Milan is no exception. We were treated to local specialities including Milanese style risotto; veal sirloin sliced, breaded and fried with mash potatoes; and of course Tiramisu for desert!
As you would expect from an Italian city, Milan is packed with restaurants. We were fortunate enough to experience a fine selection of them.
We started the holiday with an evening meal at the Asola restaurant in the Brian&Barry building. Here head chef Matteo Torretta creates modern Italian cuisine paired with fine Italian wine.
The next day we had lunch in the legendary Savini restaurant in the centre of the Galleria shopping centre. It was here that celebrities including Grace Kelly, Maria Callas and Frank Sinatra have all eaten.
After all that food it was good to catch up on some art and culture.
The highlight in Milan has to be Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper.
It is amazing to think how close this world-famous work of art has come to destruction over the centuries.
The mural was painted on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie. Leonardo was an innovator and instead of using the traditional methods of fresco painting he developed his own technique, with near disastrous consequences.
With just a few years the fresco was fading and despite reworking the image has been decaying ever since. Added to this a doorway was cut into the painting in a subsequent century and then during the Second World War the room was hit by bomb splinters, but somehow the painting has survived.
The mural was carefully (if controversially) restored between the 1970s and 1990s, but is so delicate it is now sealed in a climate-controlled environment. Visitors must book in advance and are only allowed in the room for 15 minutes as a time.
Despite all that visiting the painting is a must for any visitor to Milan. Even in it’s current state it still has immense power. The perspective technique draws you into the scene. And there is still a mystery around what the various bits of the composition mean, something that Dan Brown played on in his novel The Da Vinci Code.
Visit Milan turned into a whirlwind tour of fine food, art and culture. Yet by the end I felt we had barely scratched the surface. And with cheap flights from London Southend Airport it has never been easier to visit.
Tickets are on sale now at www.flybe.com, with one-way prices starting from £39.99 per person (including taxes).