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Duomo Cathedral, Milan

Cynthia Dial

As the last of a Lugano church's bells chimed seven times, the phone rang.  Only in Switzerland I thought as I was greeted, "Good morning signora, this is your 7 o'clock wake-up."  During my visit I had grown accustomed to the precision and cleanliness of the Swiss.

This date promised to be full. Earlier in the week I was given a gift – a free day, this day. 

My locale was Ticino, Switzerland’s Italian region. The possibilities were endless – exploring the town of Lugano, visiting lakeside villages by boat. But when I learned I was less than an hour by train from Milan, my shopping instincts derailed all other options.

So, here is how I spent my expensive “free day”:

9:17 a.m. Aboard a high-speed train bound for Italy’s capital of style I methodically plotted the day. I knew that to achieve my goal, shop ‘til I drop Italian style, I needed a plan. 

10:15 a.m. Immediately upon arrival at Milano Centrale, the starting gun sounded.  My first assignment was to find an ATM to withdraw ample euros.

"Do you speak English?" I quizzed a vendor.  "What is the fastest way to Corso Buenos Aires?" The reply: "Taxi."

In the taxi I narrowed my expedition to three areas: 

* Corso Buenos Aires – trendy, fun fashions, tailor-made for my daughters;

* Via Monte Napoleone – the Rodeo Drive of Milan showcasing one designer boutique after another: Versace, Ferragamo, Gucci;

* Piazza del Duomo – a shopping/sightseeing combo. Its main feature is Milan’s mammoth centerpiece, the Duomo cathedral. Shopping opportunities include Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and La Rinascente, Milan’s biggest and oldest department store.

10:59 a.m. On Corso Buenos Aires, I walked into a sleek store, grabbed several items and sprinted to the next aisle. 

11:20 a.m. Emerging, I toted my first purchases: three blouses, two purses, a double-zip black jacket and a polka-dot scarf. Very stylish, very Italian.

12.31 p.m. After speed shopping along Buenos Aires I popped into a taxi for the short ride to the fashion world’s uppercrust district, Montenapoleone. I referred to this portion of the trek as “me” time.

1:05 p.m.  I entered Gucci with a goal: to purchase a purse. But I was on a time schedule. If I couldn’t find a desirable item, it was necessary to move on. Then I spotted it: a small, tasteful bag with Gucci’s signature green and red band.

A very attractive saleswoman stood nearby . . . doing paperwork. I patiently waited. And waited. Finally I spoke, “Scusilo, signora.” Giving me a look, she quoted the price tag and continued to work.

I splurged on the several minutes necessary to locate someone sincerely helpful, purchased the designer bag and raced onto via Monte Napoleone in search of an available taxi.

1:43 p.m. Arriving at Piazza del Duomo, I could feel Milan’s heartbeat. The area teemed with activity – outdoor cafes, street vendors, couples strolling.  The Duomo was the scene’s commanding backdrop. 

La Rinascente was like a department store in any large city.

However, additional purchases did not elude this shopper. An Italian silk tie was found in a specialty shop beneath the glass-roofed arcade of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and a multi-colored scarf was my treat at the Missoni boutique.  

2:45 p.m. I reluctantly departed the Piazza to return to the Corso Buenos Aires area and in a celebratory mood I visited an eatery for my day’s first meal and last Milano experience – cappuccino and pasta.

5:54 p.m. Clutching shopping bags in each hand, I stepped onto Lugano’s train platform. Nearby a Rolex wall clock marked the exact time. 

Milan shopping tips

~ Do your homework in advance. Study guidebooks and develop a plan you can execute the moment you arrive in Milan.

~ Traditionally shop hours are 9:30 a.m. -1 p.m. and from 3:30 – 7:30 p.m. However, many larger stores, fashion boutiques and stores in the city center no longer close for lunch.

~ During the month of August most of Milan (many restaurants and stores) is closed.  

~ Winter sales begin after Christmas. Summer sales are in June.

~ If traveling by train, be sure and ask which platform (binario) your train will depart from; the big boards posted in the stations are not always correct.

Cynthia Dial

Cynthia Dial is an admitted travel writing addict, and shares that she pinches herself each time she steps onto the promenade deck of a cruise ship, boards a train or settles into a plane seat to go to work. She's taken a city tour of Melbourne, Australia, from the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, hiked the Austrian Alps and learned to surf in Waikiki -- all for a good story. A special corres...(Read More)

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