Milano, Italy

Risotto alla Milanese: Tradition meets tradition

Italy, the capital of Mediterranean cuisine, a destination for art-lovers, history-lovers, landscape-lovers, and food-lovers from all over the world. Italy has all the requisites to be part of our website, but its variety is too big to be fully included. Regardless of what you're looking for, Italy has it all. Is it crystal clear water? Or famous meseums? Historical cities? Mountain ladscapes? Or maybe hills and sunflower fields? In this amazing country you'll have the opportunity to pick your favorite interests and go look for them through sensational and timeless experiences.

At the heart of Northern Italy, in the Lombardia region, it emerges Milano, Italy's fashion capital, renowed for its chic lifestyle and fine taste.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy

Although the surrounding area hosts the second-largest Italian airport (Milano Malpensa Airport) and other international airports and train stations, Milan is often overlooked by foreign tourists who are more attracted to the country’s magnificent art-cities of Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples.

But in the centuries Milan turned into a corridor for the arts, politics, and commerce between the Italian peninsula and Northern Europe. In its role as capital of the Lombardy region and as land gate to the country, Milan since always incroporates progressive stands, making the city a crossing of modernity, architecture, and culture.

A top-class opera, a majestic cathedral, world-famous museums, a vibrant night life, and trendy restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy the best moment of your day: the aperitivo. This and more is what Milano has to offer!

The Duomo - Milan's Cathedral

There's a saying in Italy that goes: “An Italian city can’t miss three things: a café, a soccer field, and a church.” Milano took it literally since the city offers a never-ending number of cafés and bars, the Italian most famous soccer stadium, San Siro Stadium, and an impressive cathedral that locals simply call Duomo (literally, a city’s central cathedral). Its size, elevation, and the large square running around it make the Duomo an imponent piece of architecture which is much more than a church, but a symbol for the inhabitants and a mark of Milan in the world.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo's façade and left side

Nearly six centuries to complete

The Duomo is dedicated to the Nativity of Saint Mary and is the Milan archbishop’s central location. The cathedral took almost six centuries to complete since its conception in 1386. Construction works ended in 1965, although different parts of the cathedral continue to be in restoration today. The ambitious plan for the Duomo was sponsored by archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo, cousin of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Milan’s first duke. Saluzzo commissioned the construction works to the Fabbrica del Duomo, which at the time only counted 300 employees.

The works at first proceeded quickly to the point that when Gian Galeazzo Visconti died in 1402 half of the cathedral was completed. However, construction stalled or proceeded slowly for nearly 400 years due to poor funding and rivalry between powerful people in Milan who couldn’t agree on the cathedral's style.

In 1488, two among the best Italian architects, Leonardo da Vinci (much more than an architect indeed) and Donato Bramante, competed for the Duomo’s central cupola project. Both of them, however, withdrew their projects shortly after.

In the following centuries, several internal parts of the Duomo were slowly completed, but most of the external design, including the famous façade, remained unfinished. Still, in 1774 one of the most appreciated and notorious pieces of the project was added to the cathedral: the Madonnina statue. The Madonnina is a statue of the Virgin Mary which was erected on the Duomo’s 108.5m (356ft) tall spire, designed and built by Carlo Pellicani. The Madonnina quickly became one of Milan’s symbols for its ability to be recognizable from distance even during the city’s frequent foggy days. For tradition, buildings in Milan shall not be more elevated than the Madonnina. When in the mid-twentieth century modern buildings and skyscrapers were built in Milan, each of those that passed the Duomo in height included a Madonnina’s replica at their tops. The city’s current highest building, the Allianz Tower, has a Madonnina’s replica on its roof at 209m (686ft).

Madonnina

The Madonnina statue at the Duomo's very top

In 1805, in preparation to his incoronation as King of Italy, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned the finishing of the front façade, which was funded by the French Empire Treasury. In seven years the façade was finally completed.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Another landmark of the city and for the whole country is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, located in Piazza del Duomo at the right of the Duomo’s façade.

The Galleria gives its name to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first sovereign of the Italian Kingdom after it was unified in 1861. The Galleria was designed in the year of unification and was built between 1865 and 1877. It is today the oldest shopping gallery in the heart of Milan, home to some of Milan's most elegant shops and restaurants.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

The Galleria's entrance from Piazza del Duomo

Another Architetectural Masterpiece

The Galleria’s structure includes two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon covering the passage that connects Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala, where you can visit Milan’s most renowned opera house, the Teatro alla Scala.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria's roof from the inside

Perhaps the Milan Galleria's most renowed part is its iron-and-glass roof consisting of four 14.5m wide and 8.5m high barrel vaults topped with a master dome sizing about 37.5m as internal diameter and 17m in heigh. Due to its unprecedented dimensions, the Galleria (particularly its roof) represented far-reaching innovations in the time's architectural technology and ambition.

Cool... But Now Let's Talk About Food! The Traditional "Risotto alla Milanese

We know... history and art are your favorites too, but don't worry, we didn't forget that this is both a travel and food website!

Experiencing Milan's architecture with an empty belly is not worth it! And almost impossible considering the infinite temptations around you and it's fair to say that you'll probably spend more time choosing what and where to eat than what to visit (trust us, we talk from experience).

It's okay, don't feel bad. As the saying goes... "When in Milan..." (oh wait, does it go like that?).

As for the city's attractions, it'd be hopeless for us to try listing out all of Milan's specialities and best resturants. So we decided to keep things simple and introduce you to the very heart of Milan's cuisine. Here is served an immortal and classic piece of tradition: the Risotto alla Milanese.

Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese in the making

A Centuries-Long and Debated History

For the Risotto alla Milanese's huge popularity all over Italy, there are many legends about how this gold-color dish was created. However there's one that enjoys particular credit. According to the Biblioteca Trivulziana (Trivulziana Library), this dish's creation is linked to the Duomo itself.

In 1574 a certain Maestro Valerio di Fiadra was living in Milan to work on the Duomo's windows. His job was to color the glasses. With Maestro Valerio was working his assistant, named Saffron. This curious nickname came from the helper's practice to frequently add saffron to the pigments he used to color the glasses to make them look brighter. Saffron unusual attracted his co-worker's attention... and jokes. One day, Maestro told Saffron that if he continued to use so much Saffron in his colors he'd ended up putting saffron even in food.

In the same year, at the wedding of Maestro Valerio's daughther, Saffron returned the joke and pranked Maestro Valerio by adding some saffron to all the risotto dishes that the cooks made for the guests. At the time risotto was prepared with butter only, but Saffron (who would have been better suited for this?) changed risotto's history by adding a new special ingredient.

Receipe

Risotto alla Milanese is fairly simple to cook as it doesn't require many ingredients nor steps. But I'll be honest with you... when it comes to international cuisines, I don't trust most of the websites that are not from that region. For this reson, if you really wanna cook Risotto alla Milanese and be sure that you're not doing something like adding pinapple on pizza, I invite you to follow Giallo Zafferano's receipe for Risotto alla Milanese. You can easily transalate the page using any translator website or app.

Risotto alla Milanese

A Risotto alla Milanese's dish ready to be served

Ossobuco... if you wanna go beyond tradition

You thought I was over uh? Well I can't end it like this. I made such a great deal about history and tradition that I can't not mention the ossobuco. That's right, Risotto alla Milanese has two traditional versions. One is the traditional one and the other is the very traditional one, which also requires ossobuco, a cross-cut veal shanks slowly braised with vegetables, white wine and meat broth. I know... not the most vegetarian option in the world.

Today (mostly for time's sake) the ossubuco's variant is quite rare. But if you want to go beyond tradition, this is your shot!

Risotto alla Milanese

Ossubuco topping a Risotto alla Milanese's dish