Even though Milan is Italy's second largest city after Rome, a city trip to this fashionable metropolis is a wonderfully relaxed experience. The Milanese have style and class, and their city breathes pure art of living.
Those who have already experienced the hallucinatory city bustle of Rome (or worse: Naples) will not believe their eyes and ears in Milan. Drivers stop at crosswalks, rarely honk and don't bawl each other out. Metro travellers first allow passengers to disembark neatly. Conversations are conducted at normal volume and without dangerous arm waving. In short, the legendary Italian temperament is tempered in Milan by an air of stylish cool.
That Milan is a fashion city is something you'll quickly notice. Even in the most common streets you'll find breath-taking window displays. In the fashion district around the Via Montenapoleone, the boutiques are so chic that we didn't even dare go inside. Those who prefer their clothes and gadgets a bit more alternative will like the Corso di Porta. Come on Saturdays, that's when a pretty anarchic flea market takes place at the nearby Darsena Basin, where you can feast your eyes for at least a couple of hours. And then you're right by the Naviglio Grande, the city's trendy nightlife district, where the young beau monde of Milan and far beyond come to be seen.
Da Vinci Code
Milan's classic tourist toppers are not numerous, but each one is impressive. Since the huge success of Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code, Da Vinci's Last Supper in the refectory of the church Santa Maria delle Grazie has experienced a rush of visitors. If you don't book at least a week in advance at www.cenacolovinciano.it, you can forget it. But then again, you could just ignore all the hype and climb onto the roof of the Duomo, the third largest church in the world. Wandering high above the city among the aerial arches and Gothic spires is an experience aptly described as "a walk in the clouds. Afterwards, walk through the imposing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to the renovated Scala theatre.
If you want to visit twelve museums with one reasonably priced ticket, you should go to the enormous Castello Sforzesco, the fortified castle in the heart of the city. You'll find paintings, frescoes, Roman statues, Egyptian mummies, armour, carpets, furniture and much more. The showpiece is the Pietà Rondanini, Michelangelo's very last work. In good weather you can then feed ducks in the vast, but unfortunately not too well-maintained Parco Sempione.
And further: enjoy la dolce vita in this lovely city. Lick an ice cream while strolling along the flashy shop windows. Order a delicious plate of spaghetti alle vongole accompanied by a fresh Italian wine. Sip a super-strong espresso standing up at the bar at a café on Via Dante. Feast your eyes on the extensive antiques market on the Naviglio (every last Sunday of the month). Walk through the student district along the Ca'Granda and be surprised by the lurid chapel of San Bernardino. Peek into the tiny galleries in the artists' district of Brera. Marvel at the palaces on Corso Venezia. And then order that pizza full of ingredients you've never heard of. Milan is an inexhaustible feast for the senses.
A day at Lake Como
If you have enough time, also take a day trip from Milan to Lake Como, barely 50 km from the city. From Cadorna station, a train leaves every half hour (weekdays) or hour (weekends) and stops in Como, on the shore of the lake. From there you can take the 110-year-old funicolare to Brunate, a village on top of a hill with a magnificent view of old and new Como, the lake and the Alps. A boat ride on the lake is also unforgettable. The timetable for the tours is somewhat complicated, but you can find out in advance at www.navigazionelaghi.it.
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