Milan Destination Guide
Rome may be Italy's historical centre but Milan is the country's pulse. Commercial, fashionable and forward-looking, Milan is a city of both style and substance. From haute couture and fine dining to cutting-edge design, a love of luxury is on full display in the city whose runways grew Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Pucci and Gucci. Deeper inside the city's soul you'll find opera, the passionately supported Inter and AC Milan football clubs, and the graceful Duomo cathedral, which gives the city both a sense of history and charm. Make sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes because the many cobbled streets are a haven to wander and home to countless canal-side cafes and old fashioned gelatarias.
Milan is a city filled with artistic masterpieces and most impressive of all is the white-marble Piazza del Duomo. Home to 3,200 statues, 135 spires and 146 stained-glass windows, the 'impossible task', as it's become known, took a very worthwhile 600 years to build. Less time was taken on the La Scala Opera House, but just as impressive is that every opera singer of note has sung there. Another major Milanese attraction is Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper', which you can find in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Branca Tower is where you can get a bird's eye view of the city and the Alps beyond.
Milan is a city both of long nights and long lunches and Milanese cuisine is just another highlight for visitors. In the southern part of the city around the two surviving canals you'll find a range of cafes, restaurants and pizzerias which make good starting points to discover Milan's culinary side. Before dinner, a popular Milanese tradition is meeting for a pre-dinner drink known as aperitivo and one of the best locations for one is the bohemian neighbourhood of the Navigli. In the centre of the city you'll find plenty more bars and restaurants which cater more to business types, while the hip joints of the Isola quarter offer something a little more contemporary. Three more popular wining and dining locations to check out include Magenta, Brera and Sempione.
Where to Stay
There's good news and bad news when it comes to staying in Milan. The bad news is that because of the city's popularity as both a business and tourist destination rooms can be very pricey. The good news is that the city's hotel options are some of the best in the country and if you book in advance or stay away from the centre of the city you'll still have plenty of money for designer clothes. If money is no option, worth mentioning is the Four Seasons hotel, Milan's most exclusive hotel. It’s where to stay if you want to be neighbours with top models and is located right in the centre of Milan's fashion district. If you're serious about shopping, Hotel Manzoni is the only other hotel located in the heart of Milan's fashion strip.
Designer shoppers: if you want to go to paradise you really need to visit Milan. A taste for design runs right through the city's blood and it's on display not only in the city's fashion but also in its jewellery, furniture and culinary industries. To make a pilgrimage to the world-leading design houses head to the Quadrilatero d’Oro (Golden Quad). This is the place to pick up tomorrow's fashion today, visit boutiques stocking both established and rising labels, and browse hip concept shops. Located close to Duomo, another historic shopping spot is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Home to Prada's flagship store for more than 100 years, the glass-roofed arcade opened in 1867, making it one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.
Milan Like a Local
Yesterday's look is today's bargain in Milan. Locals know there are many ways to bag a bargain with shops selling end-of-season returns, catwalk cast-offs and seconds, awarding you the thousand-dollar look for close to what was once a thousand-lire. To grab a bargain, try Milan's outlet shops around the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II or check out one of the city's many second-hand markets or stores in the Navigli area. Remember to try before you buy, as refunds are unheard of in Milan!