Milan, a city that worth a visit…
What to do in Milan…
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is undoubtedly Milan’s best-known attraction, but tickets are almost as hard to get hold of as front row seats for a Prada fashion show.
Those lucky enough to enter the hallowed refectory (attached to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie) get 15 minutes to examine the expressions of consternation, hostility and despair on the faces of the disciples, just as Jesus reveals his imminent betrayal.
Thanks to Leonardo’s experimental technique, the fresco is famously flaky – but that doesn’t detract one iota from the experience of seeing it in the ‘flesh’.
Take in the view from the Duomo roof
500 years in the making, the spiked gothic cathedral that is the Duomo has been compared to a wedding cake and a ‘hedgehog’ (D.H. Lawrence).
Its imposing interior contains some magnificent treasures but, for a truly breathtaking experience, climb the 150 steps (or take the lift) to the roof.
Here, visitors can admire some of the 3,600 statues and 135 spires, many carved from pink Candoglia marble – and get a closer view of the famous gilded copper ‘Madonnina’ atop the tallest spike.
Get some culture at the Teatro alla Scala
Typically Milanese, the discreet, neo-classical façade of Teatro alla Scala, the world’s most famous opera house, belies its opulent interior – featuring acres of red velvet and gilded balconies.
Tickets to world-class opera and ballet performances aren’t as hard to get hold of as you’d think, if you’re prepared to be flexible about seating. Look out for a superb programme of popular operas throughout 2015, under new musical director Riccardo Chailly.
Hop on (and have dinner) on a tram
Synonymous with the city and a piece of living history, Milan’s original yellow and orange 1920s and 1950s trams have varnished wooden seats and iconic fluted glass lampshades.
Today, the city’s rolling stock also includes 1970s models and the new-fangled, dark green ‘caterpillars’ – but for a taste of the original version, hop aboard the number 1, taking in some of Milan’s most symbolic monuments as you go.
Step into a time capsule at Villa Necchi Campiglio
Far from the madding crowds on Milan’s thronging streets, the beautifully-preserved 1930s Villa Necchi Campiglio transports visitors into another world – where glamour, good manners and immaculate taste reigned supreme.
The backdrop to the 2010 film ‘I Am Love’, starring Tilda Swinton, the house contains original 1930s furniture by architect Piero Portaluppi and wardrobes still crammed with the former owners’ fabulous designer clothes.
Visit some classic art galleries…
Thanks in part to Napoleon, who dumped much of his northern Italian loot here, the Pinacoteca di Brera contains one of the most important art collections in Italy.
Treasures include the eerily realistic Dead Christ by Mantegna, and Supper At Emmaus by Caravaggio.
… But leave time for new collections too
Milan’s oldest galleries may have been around for centuries; but these days they have rivals in the form of Museo del Novecento and Gallerie d’Italia – both inaugurated since 2010. As its name implies, the Museum of the Twentieth Century houses 20th-century Italian and international artworks, by everyone from Modigliani to Matisse. The free, bank-owned Gallerie d’Italia displays masterpieces by the likes of Canova and Hayez in a sumptuous series of frescoed palazzi, opposite La Scala opera house.
Shop in style at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
With its glass-and-iron dome, magnificent mosaics and marble floorways, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele arcade is definitely one of the world’s most glamorous (and oldest – it was built in 1867) shopping malls.
Among its claims to fame is the planet’s first-ever Prada store, here since 1913. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani – and most recently, Versace – all have a presence, but most visitors come to spin their heels in the famous bull’s testicles, part of a floor mosaic it’s said to bring good luck.
Discover Michaelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece
Its rounded turrets, spacious courtyards and secret passageways would be reason enough to visit this renaissance castle – but the Castello Sforzesco also happens to be home to one of the city’s most precious, yet often overlooked, artworks:
Michelangelo’s final, uncompleted sculpture, the Pietà Rondanini.
Get in with the in crowd at 10 Corso Como
Since its opening in 1990 in a rambling converted garage, the whimsical fashion and design emporium that is 10 Corso Como – with bookshop, café, restaurant, B&B and gallery – has become an essential port of call for anyone with the vaguest of interests in the fashion industry.
Owned by former Vogue Italia editor Carla Sozzani, its interiors feature swirling, organic furnishings and monochrome abstract patterns that add up to a magical take on fashion land.
Patronize the Sant’Ambrogio
Frequently overlooked in favour of the Duomo, many residents say that the church of Sant’Ambrogio – dedicated to the city’s patron saint – is Milan’s most important religious monument.
The red brick exterior may not be quite as eye-catching as the Duomo’s, but visiting the ancient interior is an illuminating experience.
Watch out for the Golden Altar, a 9th-century masterpiece of Carolingian goldwork, and the Stilicone Sarcophagus, a late-Roman funeral receptacle, said to have been made for a Roman general.
Don’t miss the grisly remains of Sant’Ambrogio, housed in a bronze and crystal casket along with two other saints, in the crypt.
Lunch with the locals at Luini
You’ll know you’re entering Luini Land when you see the crowds of youngsters crouching on doorsteps on a backstreet beside the Duomo, clutching greasy paper bags.
Find something precious in the Golden Rectangle
Purveying hot-off-the-catwalk clothes by the likes of Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Versace, it’s little wonder that Milan’s upscale fashion shopping district is known as the Quadrilatero della Moda – the Rectangle of Gold.
Navigate the Navigli waterways
A network of canals, partly designed by Leonardo da Vinci, once stretched right across Milan, but these days the Navigli are confined to two long waterways – the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese – in the city’s south.
A welcome alternative to the slicker style associated with the fashion-obsessed centre, the bohemian canals are lined with pavement cafés, vintage shops and the occasional gallery.
A popular antiques market is held on the Naviglio Grande on the last Sunday of every month.
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