As an epicentre of finance and fashion, Milan is situated in the northwest of Italy, in the Lombardy region. If you see Rome as representing 'Old Italy', Milan can be considered as representing 'New Italy'. Some of its buildings were destroyed by bomb raids during the Second World War, but it has managed to rebuild itself into a bustling business city. The most iconic image of Milan is surely the Duomo di Milano, the city's breath-taking cathedral. One of the largest cathedrals in the entire world, it took nearly six centuries to complete! Literature fans will delight in visiting the rooftop site where Alfred Lloyd Tennyson admired the views of the Alps, with the interior being the place where Percy Bysshe Shelley often came to sit and read Dante.
Take a good look at Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. The painting portrays the moment where Jesus reveals that one of his disciples will betray him. As aforementioned, the Duomo di Milano is a spectacular sight, with 3,500 statues and 135 spires, the Gothic cathedral towers over the Piazza del Duomo. Entry to the cathedral is free, although there is a small charge to go up to the roof (?4 by stairs, ?6 by lift). Milan's castle, Castello Sforzesco, is home to an archaeological museum and the courtyard serves as a local park. Browse the shops in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a huge shopping centre built in 1867. The glass-roofed building contains many mosaics and some people consider it good luck to stand on the tiled Bull of Turin's testicles! If you want to pay a visit to La Scala Opera House, dating back to the 18th century, booking in advance is a necessity. Brera Picture Gallery is Milan's top art museum, with a collection of 600 works, ranging from the 14th to the 20th century by artists such as Bellini, Piero della Francesca and Raphael.
Just a few of the day trips you can make from Milan include Lake Como and Pavia. The former can be reached by train within 30 minutes to 1 hour, and the historic town of Como sits on its southwest shore. There is also a funicular which leads up to a beautiful view over Lake Como and many good hiking trails. Pavia is a pleasing university city with Romanesque and Medieval architecture which lies on the Ticino River, roughly 20 miles south of Milan.
To stay in the city, but to still escape the hubbub, wander some of Milan's parks. Although there's not as much greenery as in some cities, the Parco Sempione contains a small lake and is scattered with monuments and fountains. The Giardini Pubblici comprises 40 acres of land and has the Milan Natural Science Centre in its grounds.
It is worth remembering that most of the museums and places of interest are closed on a Monday.
Milan has two principal international airports: Linate and Malpensa. Malpensa is the main airport and has two terminals, which are connected by a shuttle bus service. Although they run every 20 minutes, they do tend to get crowded and long queues form. Expect to wait up to 45 minutes for a transfer.
We recommend that you avoid eating out near the tourist hotspots if at all possible, as the food tends to be at hugely inflated prices.
If possible, avoid driving into Milan city centre unless you don't mind paying the 5 euro congestion charge per day (Monday to Friday only, from 7.30am to 7.30pm).
Rather surprisingly, cuisine in Milan features rice more frequently than pasta and almost no tomato. Some Milanese dishes include breaded veal cutlets and stewed pork chops and sausage. Gorgonzola cheese comes from the namesake town nearby. In terms of dining out in Milan, if you are looking for up-market and refined restaurants, you'll find them in the historic centre, whereas more traditional and popular ones will be situated in the Brera and Navigli districts.
Seek out some chic Milanese style and bring back some new outfits, if you can manage to fit everything in your suitcase! Food is also a good choice; you could come back with panettone (which is a kind of sweet bread), Italian coffee and cheese.