The world’s stage for high fashion, art and design, Milan, Italy, is the creative and modern epicenter of chic. Situated on the plains of the Po Valley in Northern Italy, Milan is the economic hub of the country, as it’s home to the stock exchange and a rebuilt, thriving business capital, which was destroyed in World War II. All of the city’s modernity -- its new architecture, stylish storefronts and steely business persona -- are not for lack of having a true soul. On the contrary, Milan is a city rich in history and culture. Home to La Scala Opera house and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” the gothic Duomo cathedral and the city’s undying love for their football (soccer) teams, it’s in the many layers of Milan that her true essence shows.
With a history dating back to the 200s BC, Milan has many museums and galleries that showcase the talents of centuries of Milanese. The Duomo is the world’s largest gothic cathedral that took 500 years to build, starting in 1386, and its cavernous interior and underground chambers are free to explore. Santa Maria delle Grazie is one of the most famous museums in the city, housing da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” finished in 1497. Reservations to view the work of art are necessary. Pick up a Welcome Card that offers a one-day public transport pass, short history and map of the city and discount vouchers. The MilanoCard, which includes free public transportation and discounts to selected museums, monuments, restaurants and bike rentals, can be purchased at tourism offices and news stands.
Other famed museums and gallerias include the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is open 24 hours a day and includes shops, bars and restaurants, as well as Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, which houses a vast collection of 15th and 16th century antiques, paintings and crystal and the Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum.
A Mecca to fashion of all breeds, Milan is where the world comes to shop and watch the latest trends grace the runways. The original home of Armani, Prada, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, fashionistas of every kind make their pilgrimage to shop in the famous Quadrilatero d’Oro (Golden Quad), where many designers’ flagship stores are located. For offbeat thrift and last season styles, check out L’Armadio de Laura. The traditional bustle of street markets can also be found here. Via Zivetti is open on Wednesday mornings, while Viale Papiniano is open all day Saturday. The flea market, Fiera di Senigallia, is open Saturdays as well, and takes place along the Darsena basin.
Even though the city itself may be faced paced and ever changing with the latest trends, Milan remains steadfast in its traditional Italian and Milanese cuisine. Diner can choose from trattorias, wine bars, cafes and authentic restaurants that range from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall. The aperitivo scene -- extended happy hours (usually lasting until 9 or 10 p.m.) that serve platter upon platter of gourmet bar foods, are especially popular in this area.
The main international airport of the city is Malpensa (MXP), which serves most of the region’s domestic and foreign air travel. The other two major airports are Linate (LIN) and Orio al Serio (BGY), located outside of Milan in Bergamo, Italy. The main railway station, Milano Centrale has trains serving several nearby Italian cities, as well as Barcelona, Geneva, Munich and Paris. The public transportation within Milan is the most accessible way to get around. There are metros, trams, buses and S-line trains that will take passengers to stops all over the city. Tickets can be purchased at news stands or ticket machines in stations.
Milan experiences a humid subtropical climate, with some continental characteristics. Northern Italy typically has hot, humid summers, and cool and damp winters. July and August tend to be the hottest months, with an average high temperature of 84° F (28.9° C). These months are also when the majority of Milanese take their holiday and escape to the coasts. Though this means that the city will be less crowded, it also means that many shops, restaurants and attractions might be closed. Average low temperatures for January can dip into the mid 30s, though it’s typical to have a winter that remains in the 40s all season. The best time to visit Milan is during spring and autumn, when both the weather and the people are pleasantly out in full force.