Cosmopolitan chic and Renaissance treasures


Cosmopolitan chic and Renaissance treasures

Someone once said however well you dress, you’ll still look shabby in Milan. Although especially true during the city’s renowned fashion week, it does seem that here you’re in a more glamorous, more urban, more sophisticated atmosphere than that of the south. Never fear, it’s not all shoes and handbags. Look beyond the dazzling glass of the high end boutiques and towering financial buildings and you’ll get a fascinating glimpse into Milan’s historic past, diverse neighbourhoods, and unique lifestyle.

Be aware that many of the visitors who flock to Milan do so in the spring, summer and autumn. The exception is August which many consider low season. That’s the month when the city is at its hottest, and also a lot of Milanese businesses take a well-earned break and head to the coast for their own holiday. The low season traveller though can snag some real bargains for top hotels at this time. Other than that, the best prices and lowest crowds can be found November to the end of March, so long as you avoid fashion week. During the winter Milan can even dip to freezing, with some rain and fog. However, you’ll find plenty of crowd free cultural activities to indulge in, and shoppers can hit the January and February sales. Join the locals in their smart coats and fabulous scarfs as you take a morning cappuccino or an evening aperitivo on the terrace.

Cathedral Square

The vast but beautiful piazza at Milan’s heart is a stunning sight. The huge wedding cake of a cathedral took 600 years to complete but is a masterpiece of gothic architecture. While the interior contains important art and relics, including an original nail from the cross of Jesus, the duomo is probably best known for its rooftop terrace. Take the stairs, or for a small charge, the elevator, for panoramic views and great photos of the city. Conveniently located just next door is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s first ever shopping mall. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s an amazing place with its 1860s features and incredible iron and glass dome. A few more steps and you arrive at La Scala, famed opera house. Explore its museum exhibits from renowned composers and performers, take a tour of the luscious red interior, or maybe even catch a show.


Renaissance Highlights

Milan might not have the ‘art on every corner’ boast of Florence, or the ruins of ancient Rome, but during the Renaissance the city’s patrons rose to such heights that they could fund huge cultural projects. The Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro is known for its mesmerising false apse of trompe l’oeil by Bramante, while San Maurizio is called Milan’s Sistine Chapel thanks to the frescoes da Vinci’s students. The imposing Sforza Castle is a stunning red brick fortress which houses museums and many priceless masterpieces and has lovely grounds which include a beautiful marble fountain. Don’t miss the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie the Dominican convent where da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ is painted, appropriately enough, on the dining room wall.


Your Favourite Neighbourhood

You might be right at home with the Italian chic of the top-end designer names that make up the so-called Quadrilatero D’Oro, a parallelogram of four streets which house Armani, Hugo Boss, Versace, Chanel, Prada, and Gucci among the cobbled streets and neoclassical mansions. Or head to the small neighbourhood of Brera, with its artsy vibe, to visit the Pinacoteca and the various art collections. Discover the Navigli district with its canals and abandoned warehouses, and then explore the Milan Cemetery, crammed with unique examples of family tombs.

Low Season Months

May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov

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Top Experiences

The Last Supper

One of the most special paintings in the world, da Vinci’s unique fresco is astonishing in scale, technique and stories of its history. Now the wall is safely secured with art lovers gaining entry for their brief 15 minutes. Tickets must be booked well in advance or expect to pay a huge premium.

World Class Football

Visit the massive soccer shrine of San Siro, one of the largest stadiums in Europe and the largest in Italy, where both AC Milan and Inter play their home matches. Fans can take a tour of the grounds for a different perspective. But hurry, San Siro is due to be replaced by a new stadium soon.

Behind the Scenes at Atelier Sangalli

For advance bookings only, visit one of Milan’s premier bespoke fashion ateliers. Federico Sangalli, renowned designer of the innovative fibre optic ‘Light My Night’ collection. Witness first-hand how couture fashion is made, from pattern-cutting to custom mannequins to finishing by hand.

Insider Tips

  • If you have time, take a day trip to Lake Como and the Italian lake district. Drive along the shore to Bellagio, where you can explore ancient alleys, quaint shops and a picturesque waterfront. Or head to Bergamo or Verona, which are open all year around but much less crowded in low season.
  • Hit the Christmas market Obej Obej. It dates back 5 centuries and is held at Sforza Castle for 4 days in the first week of each December. Stalls sells all kinds of candles, bric a brac, artisanal crafts, metal work and edibles like smoked chestnuts amidst a wonderful festive atmosphere.
  • Milan is not all about the pasta when it comes to food, but there are some great local specialities that make excellent comfort food for cold days. Try risotto alla Milanese (yellow-saffron rice), ossobuco (veal shank) and cotoletta alla Milanese (fried beef chop).

Good To Know

  • Dining out can be expensive compared to other Italian cities. Engage with the locals and ask them where the good, reasonably priced restaurants are. Or grab a panzerotti from Luini’s hole in the wall shop. These stuffed deep fried pizzas will keep you going for an afternoon of sight-seeing.
  • Set in a converted tram depot, QC Termemilano is a spa with a difference. There’s an exquisite tea room on the upper level, but go subterranean and experience the maze of stone rooms featuring baths of varied temperatures, a Jacuzzi and geysers. Perfect to warm up a winter’s day.
  • For quiet walks and reconnecting with nature, Milan has many beautiful parks. Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli is a lovely place to escape the city noise; Giardino della Guastella, boasts two terraces and a large goldfish pond; and Parco Sempione has a sulphur water fountain.

Food & Drink

Cova Historic Café, Piazza della Scala

Established in 1817, by Antonio Cova, a Napoleonic soldier, this is one of Italy’s oldest pasticcerias. Cova quickly became an important meeting point for Milan’s intellectual and aristocratic elite. It still boasts exquisite interiors and excellent homemade artisan pralines, gianduiotti, and boules.

Ristorante Antico Boeucc, Piazza Belgioioso

Intimate with small rooms and few tables, they have an excellent and varied menu, along with good service, good wine, and regional and local dishes. Typical Milanese specialities are served on linen tablecloths with silver cutlery and crystal glasses and the essence of the late 19th century.

Ristorante da Giacomo, Via Pasquale Sottocorno

Giacomo delights a loyal international following with his highly refined cuisine, re-interpreting tradition with all his mastery as a chef. Seafood lovers will be delighted with the fishy options, but meat is also served along with seasonal Caesar and cep mushrooms and Alba truffles.

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