Ciao from the world capital of style. Don’t even think of setting foot in the centre of Milano unless you have your designer shades on, irrespective if it’s day or night, rain or shine. There are few better cities to simply strut, trying to look stylish. But don’t fall into the trap that marks you out as a fraud, a liar and above all a tourist – never order a cappuccino after 10am.
To start any visit to Milan put on your oxygen pack and head up the 250 or so steps to the roof of the Duomo for some outstanding views of the city. You can choose to pay €7 for the lung-busting privilage or €12 to take the easy way and go up by lift. You can also have a wander inside the church, the third biggest Cathedral in the world and home to a small red light bulb in the dome above the apse which marks the spot where one of the nails reputedly from the Cruxification of Christ has been placed. The Holy Nail is retrieved and exposed to the public every year, during a celebration known as the Rite of the Nivola.
The biggest draw in the city these days isn’t the shopping, the food or even the calcio. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is located hidden away on a wall in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The fresco, when seen for the first time will shock you – the years have not been kind, with bullet holes still visible from target practice over the years. You will need to book weeks, even months in advanced to stand a chance of getting in to see it, unless you pay over the top as part of a bigger tour package. The Tourist Information office offers online booking at €6.50 each.
Milan is a great walking city. It has lots of green, open spaces, filled with history and nowhere better than Parco Sempione where the Castello Sforzesco sits proudly after six hundred years of history. Also in the park is the Arena Civica, once the home to Inter Milan and now more popular as a concert venue. On a sunny afternoon this is the place you grab your Peroni and Mortadella and picnic like it’s 2015. The Giardini Pubblici is a five minute walk of the historic centre and home to the Museum of Natural History.
The Holy Trinity in Milan is undoubtably Fashion, Food and Football. All of the major luxury brands have shops, and even outlet stores in Milan.. Built from 1865 to 1877, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is the oldest shopping mall in the world and a stunning structure linking the Duomo square to La Scala Opera House. The Golden Rectangle (Quadrilatero d’Oro) is where all of the major brands flaunt their wares. Head to the Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni or Via Sant’Andrea. Two of the most famous stores are Rinascente and Excelsior which offer clothes, as well as coveted design and technology objects, jewelry, and fabulous restaurants and gourmet shops on the top floor with superb views over the Duomo square and the cathedral.
Food? Well, where to start. You can’t go wrong in picking up a snack from any of the street vendors who offer cheap ham and cheese toasted ciabattas or splashing out to indulge in the cities signature dish, Risotto alla milanese. This world-famous dish is a creamy mix of arborio rice, saffron, grated cheese, butter, white wine and chicken stock. Like most Milanese specialties, the dish’s beauty is found in its simplicity. Many of the best restaurants are located just outside the historic centre. El Brellin at Vicolo Lacandai 3 is located on one of the canals to the south of the city centre. Happy Hour is a very popular Milanese tradition – many restaurants in the Navigli area offer this for around €10 which includes a drink and a buffet of pasta, pizza and just about everything else. A great place offering this is Momo, in Ripa di Porta Ticinese. Want to stay in the city centre? Head to the top floor of Rinascente where there is a great choice of eateries, although you pay for the view.
Craft Beer in Italy? No problem. Milan has a few decent spots to try a new brew. The Baladin brewery is becoming a big name in beer and they have now arrived in the city centre, with a pub in Via Solferino 56. One of earliest, and best, artisanal breweries in Italy has its own beer pub in the working-class Lambrate district – the Birrificio Lambrate in Via Aldechi 5. Meanwhile over at Hop in Viale Regina Margherita 16, beer selection is great (they have 10 drafts, all craft from microbreweries), the chairs are comfortable, and sitting outside is great for people watching, the regional sport of Lombardy.
No trip to Milan though would be complete without a trip to the cathedral of the 20th (and 21st!) century – the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza or The San Siro. Home today to the great footballing rivals of Internazionale (“Inter”) and AC Milan (“Milano), the 83,381 capacity stadium drips passion and atmosphere on a match-day with the tifosi taking their place in the middle tier hours before kick off, generating a cacophony of noise and colour. Tickets for games can be bought in advance from either club or from Seatwave although you will need to bring ID pictures to games.