The most gloriously modern city in the country, Milan is Italy’s fashion and design capital—a fast-paced metropolis for the impossibly stylish where even football is an art form.
Its wealth of outstanding attractions reads like the who's who of the greatest cultural marvels in Europe. A Milan holiday is where you’ll find the undisputed home of opera at La Scala, the grand Gothic masterpiece of the Duomo—600 years in the making—and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Santa Maria alle Grazie Basilica, with da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper adorning the walls.
Overflowing with inspiration and energy, Milan leads the way in cutting-edge ideas. For those who like to stay ahead of the fashion game, the city gives you the chance to lap up some of la vita moda, ‘the stylish life’. Rub shoulders with the rich and famous in the Golden Quadrilateral, the chicest of hotspots, where you can splurge on the latest offerings from the industry’s biggest hitters— Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Versace, to name but a few.
La Rinascente, Milan’s cavernous department store on the Piazza Duomo offers some equally stylish but more affordable options, and the laid-back Brera District is filled with Bohemian boutiques along with an abundance of art galleries.
Get your breath back by sampling some of the distinctive cuisine, with the city’s restaurants holding the second highest number of Michelin stars in the country. Drawing influences from all over Italy, as well as France and central Europe, A Milan city break is renowned for pushing the boundaries when it comes to culinary delights.
An hour northeast of Milan, Bergamo looks to be two cities in one. The tangle of cobbled medieval streets of the ancient Città Alta, or Upper Town, sits on a hilltop ringed by 5km of Venetian walls, with stunning views over the southern plains. Connected by a funicular railway, the more modern Lower Town (Città Bassa) is resplendent with grand boulevards and art Nouveau architecture. Lying among the beguiling foothills of the Italian Alps, Bergamo is ideal for a day trip away from the fast-paced Milan.
A name synonymous with Formula One, Monza’s Autodromo Nazionale plays host each year to the Italian Grand Prix, along with the touring car and superbike world championships.
But leaving the high-octane world of motor racing, Monza is also teeming with a rich cultural heritage and a landscape described by some as the most beautiful in Italy. The vast expanse of Monza Park was founded by Napoleon in 1805 and the city’s Royal Villa is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture and houses one of the region’s best design museums.
Just a short train ride from Milan, Monza makes a great pit stop on your Italian getaway.
Brescia is the second largest city in the Lombardy region but is perhaps Italy’s biggest tourist secret. Its location close to some of the country’s most popular destinations means Brescia is often overlooked by holidaymakers. Lying halfway between Milan and Venice, and right on the doorstep of the incomparable Lake Garda, has made it a city most people travel through rather than stay in. The result is a city full of stunning architecture and fascinating treasures unspoilt by crowds, where you can mingle with the locals. Among its many highlights are the Pinacoteca Civica Tosio Martinengo art gallery, containing works by the great Renaissance painter Raphael, and the Capitolium, a Roman temple from 73AD and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spread across one entire city block, Milan’s cathedral is the fifth largest Christian church in the world. The seat of the city’s Archbishop, the mammoth architectural wonder’s construction began in 1386 and took thousands of workers more than six centuries to complete. Made entirely from the mottled pink marble of the Candoglia quarries near Lake Maggiore, it is adorned with more statues than any other structure on earth—around 3,400. A spectacular example of the passion and flair of Italian craftsmen, the Duomo is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
It’s hard to miss the Milan Cathedral, as it sprawls imposingly across an entire block of the city. You’ll find this spectacular Gothic cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, where it’s stood for over 600 years. It’s the world’s fifth largest Christian church, designed to impress visitors with a staggering collection of artwork and craftsmanship. This includes 3,400 statues, 700 decorative figures and 135 gargoyles. It’s said to hold one of the nails from Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as unique features like an ancient sundial. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with inspiring views across all of Milan to the Alps in the distance.
Dinner on a tram
There’s perhaps no tastier way to see the sights of Milan than aboard a thoughtfully restored vintage tram. The Tram Ristorante ATMosfera is a mobile restaurant that transports dinner guests through the streets of Milan in style. Enjoy a full four-course meal from entrée to dessert and coffee, made with high quality local ingredients and accompanied with wine. There are three menus to choose from, including meat, fish and vegetarian. The tram restaurants are very popular, so you need to book in advance.
Peck historic deli
Peck is no ordinary deli. It’s a foodie’s dream come to life, filling counter after counter with a celebration of Milan’s culinary heritage. Originally founded by a butcher from Prague named Franz Peck in 1883, the deli was once a gathering for writers, artists and bohemians. Today, you can pick up local and regional goodies including an extensive selection of oils and vinegars, wines, spirits and pasta. Fresh food includes fruit, cheese, porcini and truffles, charcuterie and a mouth-watering selection of pre-prepared dishes like marinated squid and handmade tortellini. Put together the perfect picnic here, or dine onsite in the accompanying restaurant.
The most illustrious opera house in the world, La Scala is associated with names famous enough to be familiar to even non-devotees. It was here that the legendary violinist Paganini made his debut in 1813. Toscanini became principle conductor in 1898 and the first ever performance in 1778 was produced by Antonio Salieri, the supposed nemesis of Mozart, dramatised in the film Amadeus.
The opulent interior holds 3,000 seats, arranged in red velvet-lined boxes and topped by two galleries where sit the most ardent fans. It’s not unknown for these ultra critical opera-lovers to boo sub-par performers from the stage!
Santa Maria delle Grazie
It’s one of the most recognisable works of art of all time, but nothing can compare with experiencing Leonardo’s masterpiece The Last Supper in the flesh. Housed in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the work, painted between 1495 and 1497, covers the north wall. Da Vinci’s experimental painting techniques have left the mural in an infamously delicate state, so visitors are granted just 15 minutes to admire perhaps the world’s most illustrious mural.
The climate of Lombardy is ideal for cultivating rice and corn, so a variety of risottos make up many of the region’s specialities. Typically infused with saffron, the dishes have a rich, golden colour. Several cheeses unique to the area are also important in traditional dishes. The soft, creamy Taleggio is made from cow’s milk and was once ripened in underground caves. In more recent times, climate-controlled cellars are used.
It’s practically impossible to make a bad choice of restaurant in Milan. Running the entire gamut from small, family-owned eatery through to Michelin-starred extravagance, you’re in a city—and a country—famed the world over for the quality of its food. Inspired by eating styles from all across Europe, and blended with Mediterranean fruits, herbs and spices, Milan’s cuisine is an event all of its own.
A city break to Milan is an unforgettable experience. With enough world-class attractions to fill several cities, there’s something for everyone. The vibrant atmosphere, dream shopping and endless style will have you falling in love with Milan and its people. Save money and take the stress out of arranging your vacation by booking your flight and hotel together with easyJet holidays.