London, Paris, New York, Milan.. As one of the four Fashion capitals of the World, Milan’s reputation as a City of style and glamour proceeds it, and rightly so. The Milanese are an image conscious bunch – just walking through the streets or waiting for the metro is practically a Catwalk of Women in sky high Jimmy Choos and brand conscious Italian men in their colour co-ordinated Armani suits. Italians are known for their appreciation of La bella vita – The good life. Fashionistas will blend right in here, but if you are not that way inclined, I have good news for you – Milan is so much more than beautiful people in big sunglasses pouting and strutting. I’ve been to Milan countless times and I simply cannot get enough. Here’s my guide to the Ultimate Milan experience.
A Night at the Opera
Teatro Alla Scala Opera House in Milan is one of the oldest, most prestigious, and most respected Opera houses in the World. Opera is often perceived as being reserved for the upper classes but you can absolutely have a glamorous Opera experience at La Scala without breaking the bank. You can get tickets from 45 Euros (granted you are in the ‘nose bleed’ section but you still have a great view of the stage and peering around the Opera hall people watching is as much of an experience as the Opera itself!) Performances are in Italian but you have an electronic translator in front of you that translates the show to English. That said, I barely looked at this once – the show was so beautiful and emotive. The interval in the grand ballroom should not be missed – observe the beautiful gowns and drink Prosecco with Milan’s finest.
Constructed in the 13th Century, Il Duomo is in the ‘top five’ of the World’s largest Cathedrals and a beautiful example of gothic architecture.
You can take an elevator to the top for 13 Euros, or climb a seemingly infinite amount of stairs for 8. (painful but good for the stingy like myself) Honestly the view of Milan from the top isn’t ALL THAT – you’re actually not that high from the City from up here, but you can (struggle while trying to) walk on the slanted Cathedral rooftop and the architecture really is a sight to behold.
Next to the Duomo is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the oldest Shopping malls in the World and home to a number of exclusive stores. In this district you also have Quadrilatero d’Oro – a.k.a. ‘The Golden Quarter’ – it’s not really an option for us normal folk, but interesting to people watch none the less as Fashionistas stroll out of Tom Ford with their assistants tottering behind them with their multiple carrier bags and boxes.
For classy pieces at high street prices, check out Corso Vercelli and Corso Buenos Aires – you are still getting good quality fabrics and beautiful items, but without the Designer price tag – An Italian brand wouldn’t put their name to anything that wasn’t great quality.
An Aperitivo is effectively the Italian version of happy hour, but served up with a lot more class and sophistication… Replace your pub peanuts with artisan meats and cheeses, your packet of Walkers crisps with bread and olive oil and you’re half way there.
Aperitivos make the notion of “I’ve had a bad day at work so F* it I’m having a drink” socially acceptable. Typically between the hours of 6 and 8pm, bars and restaurants around the City will offer this – basically, you order a cocktail and you can help yourself to a variety of free dishes – from mini bruschetta, to fresh mozzarella; a highlight to any Italian adventure.
Be sure to try the popular spritz – Aperol served with Prosecco.
Woah! Didn’t mean to freak you out with a huge picture of me – I know this looks like some kind of online dating profile pic (actually I think I do have this on Tinder..) – I just wanted to show you an aperitivo! You’re welcome!
The Last Supper
Yes, Da Vinci’s arguably most notable piece lives here in Milan – in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. If you want to see this while you’re here, ideally you should be booking ahead; if you don’t have chance to do that though, at least check the times before you rock up to the Church – it only opens up at certain points throughout the day and there’s not a huge amount else to do in the area if you find you’ve got a long wait.
If you’re an art lover, there’s also a Da Vinci exhibition (‘Codice Atlantico’) at the Sacrestia del Bramante next door. The exhibition features early works and pieces from Da Vinci’s stint as an Art teacher.
Art history buffs I’m sure will be in their element here, it was all kind of lost on me though and a lot of the ‘works’ from Da Vinci’s students were scrawls of male genitalia which made me laugh – not much different to a normal school class huh? I guess he made for an engaging art lecturer!
Have you been to Milan? What are your top tips and highlights?