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Milan – A Northern Italian Gem

 Some of the statues of Milan's Duomo

Some of the statues of Milan’s Duomo

While Milan may not make it onto everyone’s short-list of Italian cities to visit, there’s a lot going for this compact and elegant city and it’s really a great place to head for a long weekend. Even better if you’ve just had pay day as you’re bound to see plenty of fashionable apparel that you’ll want to take home with you.

Milan is a city that is really easy to reach thanks to the fact that it has three airports – Malpensa, Bergamo Orio Al Serio and Linate – all served by budget airlines. With cheap coach transfers into the city centre, it doesn’t matter which airport you fly to, just get hold of the best flight deal and then head in to the city by coach.

What to do while you’re there

Sightsee

Of course, pretty much every Italian city has a great deal of history within it and Milan is no exception for being home to some remarkable works of art and historic buildings. Top of the list for any visitor is to explore the Duomo – the centrepiece cathedral right in the heart of the city and the fifth largest Christian church in the world. For astounding views across the city, and to appreciate some of the Duomo’s 3,400 decorative statues, climb to the roof. It’s quite a tough climb but you’ll find there’s plenty of room to sit and sunbathe when you get there.

There’s plenty of art to see in Milan, but one painting that almost every visitor goes to see is the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It isn’t in a museum, the fresco remains on the refectory wall of the convent which Da Vinci painted it for – the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. ‘Il Cenacolo’ has been restored numerous times and some say that you’re not really seeing the original as it’s been worked on so much to preserve it. Nonetheless it is an awesome work of art, and definitely worth booking in advance to make sure you don’t miss the chance to see it while you’re in Milan.

Soak up the local atmosphere

Milan is imbued with its own culture and identity. It’s a powerhouse in Italy, home of Italian business and industry and of great significance in the international fashion world. Milanese food is different to the food you’ll find further south – there’s definitely more of an Alpine feel to some of the dishes. Many dishes have lashings of butter, cream and cheese in them. And you’ll find that there’s a lot of rice rather than pasta here. Try pizzoccheri – buckwheat noodles cooked with cabbage and cheese – and soups like zuppa pavese – bread and egg broth. Italy’s most famous exported cake – the panettone – is said to have first been created in Milan.

Another strong cultural identity in today’s Milan is the interest in football, and specifically in the local teams AC Milan and Inter Milan. In Serie A betting odds when this article was produced, Inter were at 4/1 while AC are out at 150/1. Things could be all change, though, once star striker Mario Balotelli has recovered from his hip injury. If you can get to watch a game the San Siro, which both teams currently share, you’ll be in for an atmospheric afternoon. Few other nationalities get as passionate about watching their local football team as the Italians.

San Siro stadium - home of AC Milan and Inter Milan

San Siro stadium – home of AC Milan and Inter Milan, Photo by  JohnSeb 

If you can’t get tickets to the San Siro, there are plenty of bars where you’ll be able to watch the match on a big screen and enjoy a few Italian beers or glasses of vino rosso while you watch the game.

Shop

If you’re interested in fashion, even just a little bit, then Milan is the place to do your clothes shopping. Take an empty suitcase as you’re bound to buy a few things while you’re there. You may not have the budget to shop in the Golden Rectangle (Quadrilatero d’Oro), where you’ll find designer shops and boutiques side by side, but it’s a great place to see the world’s top designer clothing all on show. For a more realistic set of shops to actually find clothes you can afford to buy, head to the Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

Milan has plenty of art and culture as well as being a modern and vibrant city. If you’ve not yet visited it, make sure to give it some consideration for your next city break.

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