My first time in Milan was way back in 1983 when my Swiss friend took me there when I was visiting her in Lugano, Switzerland. I don't remember much of that trip, except that we went to see the Duomo which is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Needless to say, this is the city's main attraction. I do recall that when I was buying postcards near the cathedral I noticed that they were all made in China. Little did I know at that time that some 20 years later, almost all products sold in Europe were to be made in China!

My friend who came to visit me that summer is a Burmese lady who got married to a Finnish man. They live in Helsinki, Finland and flew into Saint Exupery airport in Lyon where they took the Satobus from the airport to Bourg en Bresse railway station where I picked them up, and took them to my apartment.

The next day we started on our long journey to Milan in my car, a distance of 425 kilometers or 265 miles. We had already calculated that it would take us about 5 to 6 hours with rest stops along the way, so we left very early that morning hoping to reach our destination sometime in the afternoon. By the time we crossed the border into Italy it was nearly 9 am. As usual, we stopped for coffee break in the town of Courmayeur, a scenic ski resort at the foot of Mont Blanc. Then it was another 3 hours to arrive at Milan and find our hotel, one of the Mercure-Accor chains.

It was still the middle of the afternoon so we went to tour the city. Although Milan has an excellent public transport system of buses, trams, trains and the Metro (subway), but since we had our own car we decided to try going around in it. However, it was not the best decision as driving in a strange city with heavy traffic can be quite tricky at best, but we survived that day. First and foremost, we had to go and see the Duomo cathedral of course. We parked near the Piazza del Duomo or Cathedral Square, the huge city square which is a very popular meeting place, and constantly crowded with tourists and locals alike.

Even though I had seen the great Duomo cathedral before, I couldn't help but feel spellbound by its magnificence when I saw it again on this trip. The tourist brochures say that it was first constructed in 1386 but took nearly 500 years to be completed. Adorned with Gothic spires and thousands of statues, it is indeed a sight to behold, and no amount of photos can show the real beauty of this ancient architectural wonder.

We walked around this expansive square for a long time admiring the buildings and statues that are situated all over the place. One of the prominent statues is that of the former king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II which shows him on a horse, leading his troops to battle. We also went inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (named after the same King) which with its huge glass roof, is reputed to be the world's oldest shopping arcade. It was still early evening when we returned to our hotel but all of us were so tired from the long trip, plus all the walking that we did, so just had dinner at the hotel restaurant and went to bed early.

The following day we opted to just take a taxi to visit the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie where the fresco painting of The Last Supper is on display to the public. As most people know, this is the one of the world's most well known and celebrated works of art by Leonardo da Vinci, who was supposed to have painted it between 1494 and 1498 on the wall of the convent. The convent itself is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage sites. But as luck would have it, when we got there we were told that in order to see The Last Supper mural, we had to book entrance tickets in advance as part of a package tour. The reason given was that visitor intake was restricted to a small group of 25 people admitted every 15 minutes. Needless to say, we were all so very disappointed by this great letdown! We swallowed our disappointment by going over to an ice cream parlor near the convent and consuming large amounts of the famous Italian ice cream.

After walking around the area some more, we took another cab back to the hotel. I can't remember whether we did anything that evening. I was told that Milan is a good city for nightlife with many popular nightclubs, cinemas and cultural events, including opera, ballet, concerts and the theater, but I don't recall sampling any of them. However, I wouldn't mind going back there again to try out the night scene (smile).

As the saying goes, at least for the international tourist, "All roads lead to Rome" and I wouldn't argue with that statement, as Rome is surely among the most popular destinations for world travelers. However, if you have time to spare Milan is definitely worth a visit, if only to see the Duomo and The Last Supper painting (don't forget to book the tickets in advance). The city is full of history, and is also known for its stylish fashion shows. Not far is Lake Como, which is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. I believe it as I have been there and seen it with my own eyes. I believe many celebrities such as Madonna, George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone, etc. own homes on the shores of Lake Como, so who knows, you might run into some of them! Italy is one of my favorite European countries, and Milan is included in my list of preferred cites as well.