Milan is a city of lavish wealth and almost frightening elegance.
Population: 1.3 million
Foreign visitors per year: 2 million
Unit of currency: Euro (€)
Cost index: espresso at Café Zucca €5 (US$7), double room in Navigli district boutique hotel from €70 (US$97), cotoletta alla milanese (breaded veal cutlet) at top-end restaurant €26 (US$36), gem essence facial treatment at Bulgari Spa €130 (US$180)
Favourite labels: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Missoni, Moschino, Versace
Why go ASAP?
Milan is a city of lavish wealth and almost frightening elegance. Think bankers in bespoke shoes that cost more than your computer, wealthy donnas with Prada handbags and professionally blow-dried hair, elderly ladies walking toy poodles down the Via della Spiga. It’s all very pretty to look at, but it can make a mere mortal feel a bit dowdy and down-at-the-heels.
In early April, MiArt, one of Europe’s most important contemporary art shows, draws artists and collectors to buy, sell and schmooze.
Held in April, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile (International Furniture Fair) is the largest event of its kind in the world. Expect parties, events, and tons of drool-worthy (and pricey!) modern furniture.
On 7 December, the charmingly named Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (`so nice, so nice’ in the Milanese dialect) is Milan’s biggest Christmas fair. Stock up on crafts, goodies and artisanal products of all sorts.
`Ethical fashion’ with organic and cruelty free materials; BikeMi, the city’s bike-share program; the Navigli neighbourhood; a classic cappuccino for breakfast
Big hair and bling; crashing that cute Vespa you don’t know how to drive; overdressing for La Scala (no tuxes, please); ordering a cappuccino after lunch.
As frilly as a fairy-tale wedding dress, the Duomo di Milano is the world’s fifth-largest cathedral. This Gothic marble vision has 135 spires reaching skyward, 3200 elaborately carved statues, ancient and enormous panes of stained glass, and an early Christian crypt containing the remains of St Carlo Borromeo in a rock-crystal casket. The church took some six centuries to complete; be sure to dedicate at least half a day to taking in its glory. Don’t miss the roof, especially on a clear day, when you can see the Alps towering in the distance.
Italy is mad for coffee – the nation gulps some 14 billion cups of espresso each year. Milan alone has 600 cafes, where baristas grind, measure and pour with the precision of scientists and the vision of artists. So why, then, would Italy need Starbucks? That’s the question on many a Milanese tongue as rumours fly that the Seattle-based megachain is looking to open in Italy in the near future. Could the classic cappuccino soon be a Frapuccino? Stay tuned.
Classic restaurant experience:
The breaded veal cutlets known as ‘veal Milanese’ in much of the world are cotoletta alla milanese here in the city of their birth. For the crispiest, juiciest, most golden butter-fried cotoletta in town, take a taxi to the city’s old meat district, where cosy Trattoria del Nuovo Macello has been battering and frying cutlets since 1928.
Most bizarre sight:
So you’re shopping in Milan’s elegant, glass-vaulted Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II when you notice a well-dressed man or woman doing something… odd. Standing in front of the 19th-century bull mosaic on the floor, they place their right heel on the bull’s testicles and rotate three times. This bizarre tradition of unknown origin is said to bring good luck. Not so for the bull – years of fortune seekers have worn a hole in his manhood.