No school trip can go far wrong when venturing into the cultural and artistic hotspots of northern Italy. Milan is just one of the glittering jewels in that particularly well adorned crown and this ancient city is sure to be a hit with teachers and pupils alike.
Milan is equally effective a pathway into history, architecture, art and foreign languages. As a popular tourist destination, the Lombardy city has all the amenities and well-trodden infrastructure to ensure a well organised educational trip is as seamless as can be.
While it is a fantastic city to explore independently, for structured itineraries there are a few absolute must-sees.
Il Duomo, Milan Cathedral
The great cathedral of Milan’s Duomo is staggering. Dramatic in the truest and most spectacular Gothic style, it presides proudly over the Piazza del Duomo in the heart of the city. The building is more than 600 years old, and is the fifth largest Christian church in the entire world.
Keen-eyed pupils will spot the numerous statues and figures that adorn the exterior and interior. The count is 3,400 statues and more than135 gargoyles – though some of them admittedly aren’t for the faint hearted! There is also an opportunity to climb the staircase to the roof where the views are spectacular.
There are tours to help guide visitors through the structure’s magnificent but turbulent history. Students can learn how it took thousands of labourers to construct, with canal systems dug specifically to feed the cathedral’s insatiable requirement for marble and terracotta. It’s incredible to know that even now there are additions and renovations being made.
Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II
This famous site is the elegant Italian version of a bazaar. Fashion houses and domed glass architecture meld to make this arcade the place to see and be seen in a city of fashionable fashionistas. Built between 1865 and 1877, and named after the last king of Italy, this is one shopping centre that actually adds to the cultural make-up rather than detracting from it.
It’s not so much a place of chains and franchises, but more a collection of artisanal outfitters stamped with the craft of true profession. The Galleria is lined with ornate Romanesque arches and golden elaborate floor designs and is an absolute must-see site on an educational trip.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
A highlight of any educational trip to Milan is a viewing of a master-work by Leonardo da Vinci. The old Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a delightful example of Renaissance architecture, but is highly regarded because of what it houses within: da Vinci’s Last Supper. The extraordinary mural painting is located in the dining room, as it has been since the 1490s, when Ludovico Sforza commissioned it.
The Last Supper is one of the world’s most recognisable paintings and, despite the endless reproductions of its image, nothing will ever compare to seeing it in real life – in its giant 4.60 metres high and 8.80 metres wide dimensions.
Ordering Ice Cream in Navigli
A great opportunity for young linguists to practice their skills, the shops of the Navigli canal district are home to some delightfully authentic cuisine and artistry. Pupils can engage with the locals, however briefly, through the international language of commerce – buying something in a foreign language. Italians still do it better than everyone else – especially if that something is bona fide Italian ice cream!
Milan is a tantalising destination for an educational trip, and the planning can be easily arranged by going through a specialist school tour operator. That way, classes can follow a tried and true itinerary (or a bespoke one can be created), leaving the teachers free to focus on the students’ experience.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational trip itineraries for school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveller, John is very passionate about providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom. By sharing his expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and bring their studies to life.