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Milan Sightseeing


The Klimt Experience is a multimedia exhibition at Mudec, one of Milan's most innovative art spaces. Controversially there are no paintings on show, only a series of filmed images evoking the artist's life and work in turn of the century Vienna set to music and exhibited in one room. But the show is memorable and compelling. Runs until 7 January 2018, mudec.it

The Palazzo Reale is one of the city's leading art exhibition spaces and this year is running three must-see shows. 'Behind Caravaggio' celebrates the painter more than four centuries after his death with a focus on his years in Rome; 'Dürer and the Renaissance Between Germany and Italy' contains paintings and graphic works by the artist seen for the first time in Milan; ‘Toulouse-Lautrec: New Realism, between Japan and Photography' shows how the painter used Japanese art and photography to create a new style. Full details at palazzorealemilano.it

Check out Notturni in Villa, a series of summer jazz and classical music concerts held in stately villas around the city, for example the sumptuous 16th-century Villa Simonetta near the top of Corso Sempione. There are a series of dates from mid June to August and performances start at 10pm. Free entry. For more details visit amicidellamusicamilano.it .

Check out 'Future City', an innovative photography show celebrating cities of the future by Roberto Polillo at the Bocconi Art Gallery. The exhibition focuses on capitals that are undergoing the most rapid change and draws on a mobile camera technique that intentionally blurs the images to create a vibrant dynamic effect. Bocconi University, 25 Via Sarfatti, unibocconi.it (site in Italian). Runs until 11 September.

Check out 'Fang Zhaolin: Landlady of the Celestial Empire'. Opening on 15 June, the exhibition showcases the talents of this major 20th century Chinese artist (1914-2006). Zhaolin's work celebrates a long tradition in modern style and draws on the influence of Pollock, Kandinsky and other painters. More than 60 works include landscapes and scenes of daily life. Until 10 September, admission free. Palazzo della Permanente, lapermanente.it.

Milan is a city of fine galleries and museums and one of the best is the Archaeological Museum (Civico Museo Archeologico). This interactive and educational venue is a great family attraction and this month offers the last chance to catch an exhibition of Egyptian artefacts before it closes for reorganisation. The finds include shabtis (small inscribed figures), statues and bronzes and the show charts ancient Egyptian civilisation through its long history.

Early April sees the annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the world design and furniture fair showcasing the latest trends in interior design. Centred around the spectacular Rho Fiera exhibition site, the show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday 8 and 9 April but the energy of the fair spreads around the city over many days with art exhibitions, parties and other events. This year also features Euroluce, the biennial lighting show. www.salonemilano.it/en/

Once a bit of a niche event, the Milan Tattoo Convention is now mainstream and the 22nd incarnation runs from 3 to 5 February at the Fiera MilanoCity convention centre. There are more than 200 international tattoo artists, competitions and more. Via Gattamelata, gate 13/14. milanotattooconvention.it.

It's well worth the trip north to the ex-industrial area of Bicocca to check out Pirelli's super cool artspace, HangarBicocca. Opened 12 years ago on the site of the old tyre factories and offices, the complex features the permanent display of the installation The Seven Heavenly Palaces by German artist Anselm Kiefer, consisting of seven reinforced concrete towers up to 18 metres tall. Current temporary shows are 'Situations', by Japanese artist Kishio Suga (b.1944) until 29 January 2017, and 'GDM: Grand Dad's visitor center' by Laure Prouvost (b.1978) until 9 April 2017. HangarBicocca, 2 Via Chiese, tel. 02 6611 1573. hangarbicocca.org.

See 'Pietas: 30 Years of Photojournalism', a powerful collection of the work of the American reportage photographer James Nachtwey (b. 1948). The show contains 200 images including scenes of war, often shot from close up. The venue, the Palazzo della Ragione, dates from the 13th century and is one of the oldest and most interesting buildings in Milan. Palazzo della Ragione, Piazza dei Mercanti, tel. 02 43353535. Until 5 March 2017.

See Milan's Rebirth, 1943-1953, a fascinating exhibition focusing on a turbulent decade in which the urban fabric of the city was destroyed and regenerated after the Second World War. The show contains powerful imagery of the bombing and rebuilding as well events such as the reopening of the La Scala opera house and the loaning of Picasso's painting Guernica. At the Palazzo Morando until 28 February 2017, 6 Via Sant'Andrea, tel. 02 88465735.

Key Areas

Science fans should head to Milan's Planetarium, the largest in Italy and one of the best in Europe. This ideal family attraction accurately reproduces the night sky and astronomical features as seen at times in the past, present and future, and there are special guided projections. Planetario Ulrico Hoepli, 57 Corso Venezia, tel. 02 8846 3340.

The Navigli are a handful of surviving canals and basins to the south west of the centre, once part of a much bigger network dating from medieval times when Milan was an inland port. Even Leonardo da Vinci is said to have had a hand in designing the system. In the summer this fascinating area comes alive as the roads are closed to traffic, boutiques sell their wares in the streets and bars and restaurants set out their tables. Most places open till 2am in a late night street party.

The public gardens near Porta Venezia are home to Milan's annual horticultural show, now in its 22nd year. Stalls and displays of plants take over the whole park in a relaxing event for the whole family. From Friday 5 to Sunday 7 May, 9.30 to 7pm each day. orticola.org.

Check out the weekly Fiera di Sinigaglia, a historic fleamarket held along the Navigli (canals) every Saturday. This Milanese institution dates back to the 19th century and is a mecca for collectors and bargain hunters with more than 100 stalls offering bric-à-brac and antiques of all kinds. March's dates are 4, 11, 18 and 25. fieradisinigaglia.it (website in Italian).

Day Trips

With its central Piazza della Vittoria listed by the Italian Touring Club among the most beautiful squares in Italy, Lodi, 30km south east of Milan, is ideal for a day trip. Among the many churches and monuments the cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, overlooks the piazza and is one of the largest churches in the north. Lodi is known for its picturesque side streets of upmarket restaurants and boutiques while the Bridge Pub on the north side of town (6 Via X Maggio) is a late opening bar with an international feel.

April usually brings fine weather to northern Italy and it's a great time to plan a trip to the lakes. Of the three main stretches of water, Lago Maggiore, on the southern side of the Alps and partly in Switzerland, is easily accessible from Milan by train or motorway. Visitors flock to the picturesque towns of Baveno, Stresa and Verbania, but the best way to appreciate the spectacular scenery is a boat trip to the Borromean islands. Of these, Isola Madre has a palace and botanical gardens; Isola Bella a palace, Italianate gardens a fishing village; and Isola dei Pescatori a timeless village, restaurants and boutiques. On your island hop look out for the bizarre tree covered islet, the Scoglio della Malghera. www.navigazionelaghi.it

Milan sits on a flat plain surrounded by attractive countryside with its green spaces, lines of poplars and historic towns. Crema, 40km to the south east, is one of many worth visiting and it has three fine churches in the historic centre: the Basilica of Santa Maria della Croce, the Duomo (cathedral) and the Chiesa della Santissima Trinità. The museum (Museo Civico Cremasco) has fine architecture and art treasures, while Crema is known for its gastronomy, from street food to haut cuisine.

Turin, 125km south west of Milan, in reality is just 45 minutes away on the fastest Italo trains, which often have some amazing online offers (italotreno.it). There's plenty to see including the Shroud Museum with its replica of the sadly widely discredited burial garment of Jesus (the real thing is kept in a sealed box in the cathedral). Turin, with its upmarket street pavements covered by elegant galleries, is one of northern Italy's best shopping and dining experiences.

Bergamo, just 25 miles to the north east and easily reachable by train or motorway, makes a great day trip from Milan. It is a city in two parts, connected by a picturesque funicular: the Città alta, a medieval settlement surrounded by 16th-century walls and full of breathtaking architecture; and the more modern Città bassa, home to chic boutiques and restaurants. Among many sights are the historic Piazza Vecchia and the 14th-century Rocca (castle) in the old town, and the main shopping street, Via 20 Settembre, and Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art (GAMeC) in the new.

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