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Milano, Italy

Milan (Italian: Milano) is financially the most important city in Italy. It has the second most populous city proper in the country, but sits at the centre of Italy's largest urban and metropolitan area. While incorrectly not considered as beautiful as some Italian cities, having been partly destroyed by Second World War bomb raids, the city has rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan business capital.

In essence, for a tourist, what makes Milan interesting compared to other places is that the city is truly more about the lifestyle of enjoying worldly pleasures: a paradise for shopping, football, opera, and nightlife. Milan remains the marketplace for Italian fashion – fashion aficionados, supermodels and international paparazzi descend upon the city twice a year for its spring and autumn fairs.

A capital of fashion, food, football, finance, even furniture, and — there’s no more Fs — but culture too. In a city with such varied interests, whether your natural habitat is the catwalk or the skatepark, the one thing uniting the people is passion. So from bankers on big bucks to footie fans on tenterhooks, Milan is a place where you can let your spirit run free. And providing you with the perfect springboard to the city is our selection of time-honored eateries, fast-forward culture spots and much more.

Weather in Milan

The best times to visit Milan are April to May or late September to October.

These spring and fall months straddle the city's manic peak season, and they also escape the summer's scalding temperatures. The months between November and March constitute off-season, and are characterized by high average temps in the 40s and 50s, fog and an emptied-out city.

What to see in Milan

There are lot and a huge variety of things you can see in Milan - from fine churches, old palaces, excellent museums, world class theatres and opera houses, cultural gems, striking buildings, sleek modern architectural works and lovely streets and squares. But remember, not all of them are right in the absolute centre - some of the most wonderful gems can be found near the outskirts or even outside of Milan. Note, though, that most museums are closed on Mondays.

Milan offers the visitor a large variety of art museums, mainly of Italian Renaissance and Baroque. Some of them are:

Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.
Historical library that also houses the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana art gallery. It is a must see and shows the world famous "Basket of fruits" of Caravaggio, along with the "Musician" by Leonardo da Vinci and the preparatory drawing of the School of Athens by Raphael.

Gallerie d'Italia piazza Scala — settled in three gorgeous palaces, Palazzo Anguissola Antona Traversi, Palazzo Brentani and Palazzo della Banca Commerciale d'Italia, well worth a visit on their own, this museum offers a very interesting collection of masterpieces from XIX and XX century. Located in Piazza Scala, this museum is very easy to visit and well enjoyable.

Civico Museo Archeologico — Roman antiques from Milan and the surrounding area. Interesting collection of roman statues and glasses. This museum spans every single century of the 26 centuries of history of this city.

Hangar Bicocca — Contemporary art museum located in a giant hangar in the industrial district just north of Milano Bicocca university. They have a few permanent sculptural installations along with rotating temporary exhibits and events.

Some of the most important and beautiful churches one "can't miss" in Milan are:

The Duomo, in Duomo Square. Milan's main cathedral, a massive late Gothic church (started in 1386) in white marble, with hundreds of spires and thousands of statues on its exterior and a famous façade. Don't miss the chance to climb up onto the roof and enjoy the spectacular views of the city between the Gothic spires.

Saint Ambrose (Basilica di Sant' Ambrogio), in Piazza San Ambrogio. Free entrance. The most important example of the Lombard Romanesque style of architecture, built between 1080 and 1140. In this basilica structural and technical innovations like the groined cross vault lead to wider vaulted naves being made possible. Now it is the second church in the city right after the duomo. Partly damaged in World War II, it shows many masterpieces, like the Vuolvinious golden altar, a Carolingian goldsmith masterpiece, and the very important IV century mosaics of the chapel of San Vittore in Ciel d'oro. The magnificent marble pulpit dates back to X century, whilst the external Atrium preserves some of the best examples of Lombard Romanesque sculpture available.

Saint Lawrence (Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore). Preserved inside this church is a lovely 4th century rotunda, famous for its beautiful courtyard, with Roman-age columns and a statue of the emperor Constantine. The basilica has been built on an imperial palace of the Roman era and is one of the most ancient churches in the world, although baroque remodeling makes its age difficult to envisage.

What to do in Milan

Shopping in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II or the Quadrilatero d'Oro are some of Milan's favorite pastimes, but visitors tend to enjoy the magnificent Duomo and Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper even more. If you're here during soccer season, you might try and buy tickets to a game at San Siro -- you can also visit the massive stadium's museum and take a tour.

Some travelers also enjoy meandering around Milano's Monumental Cemetery or visiting the Ambrosiana Library and Picture Gallery. Since it's so bustling and such a business-minded city, Milan isn't really ideal for loping walkers; still, the Brera and Navigli neighborhoods are quite nice for strolls.

Of course, you can always do the next:

Feast your eyes on the Last Supper

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci in the church of Santa Maria della Grazie is arguably the greatest painting of the Renaissance, capturing the dramatic moment at which Jesus reveals one of his disciples will betray him. It's so realistic that you can imagine the shock, amazement and hostility of the religious followers. The work is testament to a troubled history. Paint started peeling away in Renaissance times, when the wall was used for target practice. In the 19th century it was a backdrop to the French invasion and nearly got destroyed in the Second World War. It's a miracle that it has survived. But thanks to a restoration the fresco can now be seen in full colour. Make sure that you reserve a timed, 15-minute slot in which to visit the masterpiece.

Scale the Duomo

The Duomo of Milan is an amazing sight. Stretching up high above the piazza del Duomo, it's the third largest church in Christendom. A staggering 3,500 statues and 135 spires adorn the marble structure, which has a Baroque and neo-Gothic façade, as well as five bronze doors carved by different artists. It's no wonder that it took 500 years to complete and building work continues today. To appreciate this beautiful cathedral in all its glory, take the lift to the roof, from where you to get a breathtaking view of the Alps on a clear day.

Bag the latest styles at the Rectangle of Gold

Milan is a haute couture powerhouse, where fashions jump from catwalk to clothes rail in weeks. But unlike the sprawling district in Paris, Milan's boutiques fit into one square, bordered by via della Spiga, via Manzoni, via Sant'Andrea and via Montenapoleone: the Quadrilatero d'Oro (Rectangle of Gold). Designer named stores include Armani, Chanel, Missoni, Prada and Versace. Even if the price tags are out of your budget, you can spend many a happy hour admiring the window displays. And if you can only just afford €500 on a pair of Miu Miu boots, rest assured: the shopkeepers will gladly accept plastic.

Shopping in Milan

Milan, being a worldwide trendsetter, is a fashion shoppers' paradise.

There is pretty much every form of shopping in this city that one can imagine: from the designer's prestigious emporia, retail giants' outlets, small entrepreneur's tiny and funky boutiques, to second-hand average shops.

The main shopping area is the so-called Fashion Quadrangle (quadrilatero della moda), a set of neoclassical blocks roughly between Duomo Square (Piazza Duomo), Cavour Square (Piazza Cavour) and San Babila Square (Piazza San Babila). Here in Montenapoleone Street (with prime brand shops), Della Spiga Street, Vittorio Emanuele Street, Sant' Andrea Street, Porta Venezia avenue and Manzoni Street, it contains the most prestigious boutiques and showrooms in the world. Everything reeks of ostentation and the splendor of a chic, fashionable lifestyle. Shop windows shine, exhibiting the trendiest shoes, coolest glasses, funkiest dresses, most glamorous clothes, and most luxurious crystal chandeliers.

For a spot of luxury shopping, look out for the glass-roofed arcade near the Duomo: the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (NB this is spelt in the guidebook as Emanuelle II). Opened in 1867, its designer Giuseppe Mengoni pioneered its complex marriage of iron and glass 20 years before the Eiffel Tower was built. The ceiling vaults are decorated with mosaics representing Asia, Africa, Europe and America and at ground level there are mosaics of more local concerns. It has a grand style that's given it the name of il salotto di Milano (Milan's living room). Prada's flagship store has been in business here since 1913, and it's recently been joined by Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The upper echelons of Milan society all pass through at some point. Suited businessmen will happily pay €10 for a coffee on the terrace at Zucca, and elegant grandmothers carry chihuahuas in Fendi bags. It's the perfect place to people watch while enjoying a coffee and a slice of cake.

What to eat in Milan

Although Milan is a city that changes its mind as quickly as fashion trends come and go, it remains one of the strongest bastions of traditional Italian cooking, where homemade elements are still very much praised and appreciated. There are trattorias, enoteche (wine bars) and restaurants (including luxury ones) everywhere that offer traditional Milanese and Italian dishes to eat. This city's traditional cooking is based on filling dishes like osso buco (braised veal shanks) and risotto alla milanese (chicken-broth risotto made with saffron).

Business-centric Milan has almost forgotten the good old three-hour pranzo (lunch). Today's workers grab a lite bite in an hour, so businesses can stay open. But that hasn't meant that food-loving Italians have had to suffer. At Bar della Crocetta the humble sandwich has become an art form, with over 100 panini oozing wonderful ingredients, from wild venison to prosciutto. De Santis doubles that number of sarnies, enticing you with elaborate concoctions, including basil-flavoured goat's cheese and marinated artichokes, squeezed between thin pieces of their own secret-recipe grilled bread. If you fancy an alternative to panini, nip behind the Rinascente department store by the Duomo to Panzerotti Luini, famed for its panzerotti - rounds of dough stuffed with tomato and mozzarella, then folded and fried. Be prepared to wait at lunchtimes.

Nightlife in Milan

Milan has a great variety of places where you can have fun. A great starting point is Como Avenue (Corso Como), near Garibaldi Station, full of bars and glamorous clubs. In the summertime, this street is packed with young and attractive people.

Another place where you can go is Navigli quarter, near Porta Ticinese Avenue and XXIV Maggio Square, where you can find a lot of small pubs, open air cafes and restaurants by the water canals (navigli). In many pubs and bars you can find a free booklet named Zero2 which is a guide to Milan Nightlife: if you don't know what to do or where to go, do grab one!

Other popular night spots with bars and people are viale Monte Nero (on Wednesday it's packed with people in the piazza in front of a bar called "Momo"), Piazzale Susa (and Citta' Studi area). Nights are overwhelmingly crowded at the Colonne di San Lorenzo (not far from Navigli quarter), and in the cozy Latin-quarter of Brera. Another good spot is the pedestrian part of Corso Sempione near the "Peace Arch" (Arco della Pace).

There are bars and clubs open all week long but usually few people go out at night on Mondays or Tuesdays, the vast majority prefer to have fun on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. However, Wednesday night appears to be one of the coolest to go out in stylish VIP-frequented clubs.

Milan has an alternative club scene, with a few crews making electronic music parties outside clubs. Ultracheap, every time in a different location (lofts, warehouses, farms, pools, city parks) those kind of parties attract people aged 20-28. The biggest one is called RESET! and attracts 1500-2000 people once a month.

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Map of Milano »

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