Fashion, finance, food, and Italian football (soccer), are all synonymous with the modern, sophisticated and stylish city of Milan. As one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan is also home to the Italian stock exchange and most of the country’s important corporations. If you are traveling to Italy, chances are good that you will at least pass through the greater Milan area, as it is the center for the country’s transportation, too. Milan is huge, busy, modern, cosmopolitan, and forward-looking. It is much different than the typical Italian city, but it is thoroughly Italian.
One of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world, and possibly the most unique, the Duomo is the symbol of Milan. Works began in 1386 and it took more than 500 years to finally be completed. The result is a massive, ornate and awe-inspiring structure. Its roof provides a stunning view of Milan, and even the Alps on a clear day. In front of it sits the Piazza del Duomo, is still the center of the sprawling metropolis. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, to the north of the lively Piazza del Duomo, is one of the world’s most elegant shopping malls. It is a vast, glass-roofed arcade and was one of the first buildings in Europe to use iron and glass as structural elements. It houses stylish cafés, restaurants and shops.
Walk through the Galleria to the Teatro alla Scala (La Scala theatre) or the La Scala as it is known by arts patrons throughout the world. It first opened in 1778 and was the scene of many famous operatic first nights throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Badly damaged in World War II, it reopened in with Arturo Toscanini conducting in 1946 and you can enjoy opera from December through July, and theater, ballet and concerts during most of the rest of the year. The Pinacoteca di Brera, a recipient of the Napoleonic desire for consolidation, is well worth a visit with one of Italy’s best collections of art outside of Florence and Rome. One of the most famous paintings in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” is housed in a church to the west of the city’s center.
Fashion is omnipresent in Milan and the prosperous Milanese are even more stylish than typically stylish Italian. Milan is probably the best place in the world for expense account couture shopping, though window shopping can be fun for everyone. The famous fashion houses such as Versace, Prada, Fendi, Ferragamo and many others have their signature boutiques in what is known as the Quadrilateral centered around the Via Monte Napoleone, not too far from the city center. In addition to some of the best, and most expensive, restaurants in Italy, some of Italy’s best clubs are found in Milan. You’ll find them in the Brera, Navigli and Porta Ticinese areas.
Being a transportation hub, along with its location, makes Milan a convenient gateway to the natural wonders of Lombardy. Romantic Lake Como is a world away from the busy, business-like Milan. Lake Maggiore is further west, but many of its resorts are also close. The beautiful hills and valleys outside of Bergamo and, in the other direction, of Pavia are easily accessible, as are the smaller lakes of Varese and Iseo.