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Milan was originally founded around 400 BC by the Celtic tribe of the Insurbres, and having undergone upheavals, sieges, occupations and changes of ownership over the subsequent centuries, Milan is now a dynamic and diverse city of culture, finance, media empires, industry and fashion houses.
Things To Do In Milan
All in all, Milan has something for everyone, all year round. Whether it be the twice-yearly Fashion Weeks, a visit to one of the many impressive churches or a football game at the world-famous San Siro Stadium, the diversity of Milan is an experience not to be missed.
Enjoy The Great Weather
Milan has something to offer the visitor all year round but for almost guaranteed good weather, the months of April and October are probably the best times to visit. July and August however are hot and humid, so much so that many native Milanese leave the city during August and vacation at the resorts of lakes Como, Maggiore and Garda. Milan itself becomes almost a ghost town, with many attractions, cafes and restaurants closed for most of August.
The city is served by 3 airports. Malpensa, which is 28 miles (and a 40-minute train ride away) from the centre, Linate, which is within the city limits and Orio al Serio, near the city of Bergamo. The main railway station, Stazione Centrale, has direct rail links with Geneva, Paris and Rome, thereby making Milan accessible from most European rail networks.
Enjoy The Ride
Getting around in Milan is easy and relatively cheap, using the ATM network of trams, buses and Metro. Tickets are purchased via ticket machines in Metro stations or by buying them at tobacconists (tabacchi) and bars. Various combinations of tickets are available, ranging from single journey tickets, 2 or 3-day tickets, 10 urban journey tickets, etc. Most of the main attractions, however, are to be found within easy walking distance of the city centre so the use of public transport is not essential.
Visits usually start at Milan’s cathedral, Il Duomo, which is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world. Despite construction that lasted from 1386 to 1813, the structure managed to remain faithful to the original Gothic design. The scale of the building and its interior are impressive, with more than 3,500 exterior statues and 52 columns supporting the interior. A visit to the roof is also worthwhile, not least for the spectacular view. On top of the Duomo’s central spire, 354 ft above ground level, is La Madonnina or Little Madonna, a gilded copper statue that was the highest point in the city until the Pirelli Tower was built.
Within walking distance of the Duomo is Castello Sforzesco, a sprawling 16th-century castle. Today it is home to a number of impressive museums displaying exhibits which include decorative arts, musical instruments, weapons, art, sculpture and archaeology. One notable exhibit is Michelangelo’s final work, the Rondanini Pieta. A lot of the exhibit rooms have free information sheets in a number of languages.
Behind Castello Sforzesco is the Parco Sempione, a 115-acre park dating from the late 19th century, comprising pathways, a lake that is home to carp and turtles, a free aquarium and the Arco Della Pace (Peace Arch).
Teatro Alla Scala
Other cultural landmarks not to be missed include the Teatro Alla Scala, one of the most famous opera houses in the world; the Pinacoteca di Brera Gallery, housing one of Italy’s most important art collections, including works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Canaletto and Francesco Hayez; Santa Maria Delle Grazie, an elaborate church whose refectory displays Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”; Sant’Ambrogio, considered by many to be Milan’s most significant church after the Duomo; and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, whose library is home to the Codex Atlantico, containing most of da Vinci’s drawings and sketches.
No visit to Milan is complete without visiting the Quadrilatero d’Oro or “Golden Rectangle”, centred around Via Monte Napoleone and Via Della Spiga. In this area are to be found the boutiques of top international names in fashion, including the hometown stores of Armani, Versace, Prada and many more. Stunning clothes and accessories can be seen at stunning prices.
For normal shoppers, Milan boasts some excellent shopping areas, notably Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a glorious 19th-century shopping mall; Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, a modern pedestrian street at the rear of the Duomo, housing some of the trendiest shops in central Milan; and Corso Buenos Aires and Via Torino, where most Milanese go shopping.
Cafes And Restaurants
There are lots of cafes and restaurants in and around the centre, most of which can be quite expensive. However, just a short walk away from the centre can be found many establishments that offer prices at least 50% cheaper, the coffee and food as good and in some cases better than those near the Duomo.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
However, a coffee and a cornetto (croissant) at Campari (formerly Zucca at the entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is thoroughly recommended. This is the café where Toscanini and Verdi would stop by after La Scala shows and King Umberto I declared that it served the best coffee in Milan. Some would argue it still does.