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Milan, Italy

Great Destination:

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Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • The word milliner originated as a reference to sellers of finery made in Milan.
  • The first Prada store opened in the Galleria in 1913.
  • The red color in the original Campari (1860) was derived from crushed cochineal insects.
  • Giuseppe Mengoni, the Galleria’s architect, fell to his death from the structure’s roof shortly before the Galleria’s completion.
  • While a professor at nearby Pavia, Alessandro Volta invented the battery (1800).

Fashion city

Milan doesn’t attract tourists in the droves seen in Florence, Rome or Venice although it offers much in the way of history, landmarks, fine art, food and tradition, i.e. those things that put visitors in touch with the Italian culture. It is, further, Italy’s most prosperous city as well as its fashion and design center. In sum, a remarkable past — the city predates the Romans — coexists with a trendy, modern and humming business community.

Milan holds particular appeal for tourists who love art, fashion and good food. For those who would mix this urban experience with outdoor activities and the beauty of nature, this city in the north of Italy has ready access to mountains and lakes. Visitors may repair to the Alps for skiing, or for other recreation in warmer seasons. Further, Milan is less than two hours’ drive from lakes Como and Maggiore for watery fun or for the scenery.

In the city, three can’t-miss landmarks are in close proximity to one another, the fantastic Duomo, a cathedral with more than 2,000 statues plus 135 marble spires on the exterior; the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, arguably the most beautiful shopping mall ever, and La Scala, the world class opera house.

Also, the 15th century Castello Sforzesco, built by the powerful Sforza family, is a short walk from the Duomo. Today, the castle houses museums; the fine art collections there include Michelangelo’s unfinished “Rondanini Pieta.” The castle’s galleries combine with several others in town to offer rich choices for the art lover. In addition, “The Last Supper,” a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, graces the wall of a former convent refectory.

For the shopper, in this fashion center, choices range from the very upscale, in the Galleria or in high-end shopping streets in the city center, to designer outlets, generally in the Lake Como area.

And for the foodie, the city offers the tastes of Italy married to Milan’s sophistication. In a city of fashionistas and good food, it’s wise to dress up a bit when dining out.

Finally, Milan has problems with pickpockets, purse snatchers and burglars, a fact to consider when securing valuables.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Spend quality time appreciating the interior of the Duomo. Climb the 500 steps to the roof for sunset views of Milan. (For an extra fee, there is an elevator option.)
  • In April, compete in the city’s half marathon.
  • Go skiing. It’s a one-hour drive to Piani di Bobbio or to the slopes of Foppolo.
  • Head to the city’s Navigli area and scope out the funky bars and nightclubs.
  • Time your visit for the September Formula One Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo di Monza. Or, at other times, drive your rental car on the stadium’s track.
  • Attend a soccer match, bearing in mind that fans at times can be very rowdy and spoiling for a fight.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Shop, or window shop, in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Press your heel on the mosaic bull at the shopping mall’s center for good luck. It’s easy to tell from the depression where to put your heel.
  • Plan a sightseeing itinerary around Leonardo da Vinci’s life in Milan. See models of mechanical devices the artist-engineer envisioned, and compare them to devices we now have. Or make composer Giuseppe Verdi your theme.
  • Take a short sightseeing cruise on one of Milan’s remaining canals.
  • Brace for the slightly macabre at the church of San Bernardino. In 1695 monks used more than 3,000 human bones to create intricate patterns on the walls of the church’s ossuary.
  • Sticking to the theme, more or less, lose yourself in the Cimitero Monumentale amidst extravagant tombs and monuments. Look for the tomb of conductor Arturo Toscanini and those of the Campari family.
  • Give yourself wheels for getting around the city: Use the BikeMi city bicycle program.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Attend the opera at La Scala if you can get tickets. Operas generally sell out quickly, but tickets can be had with planning or some luck. Visit the Scala Theatre Museum, in any case.
  • Book a time slot to be awed by Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco, “The Last Supper.” You can book a guide, as well.
  • This is a fashion capital. Work with a personal shopping service when making the rounds of the finest stores and choosing those special pieces to take home. At the other end of the budget spectrum, check out the factory outlets in the Lake Como area outside of the city.
  • For art, Milan has an embarrassment of riches, which include Michelangelo’s unfinished “Rondanini Pieta” (at the Museo d’Arte Antica inside the Castello Sforzesco) and Caravaggio’s “The Fruit Basket,” Italy’s first still-life painting (at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana). Consider other art galleries, too, such as the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the world’s most celebrated.
  • Study the past at the city’s archaeological museum, housed in a former monastery. Combine that with a visit to the Alda Levi Archaeological Park and Roman Antiquarium, which was the site of an amphitheater that held 20,000 spectators.
  • Take recommendations from your concierge and eat fine northern Italian foods. And, leave town for a special dinner at the Villa d’Este hotel on Lake Como.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Tourism Milan at www.tourism.milan.it and choose your language if necessary.