Milan Things to Do
The cultural life of the city seems to revolve around its most famous edifices, the Galleria, the Duomo and its large piazza, and the Teatro alla Scala, the world's most renowned opera house. The rest of the city is bustling through much of the day, evening and often late into the night.
In Milan the nightlife, as with the restaurants, is probably the best in Italy. The clubs are fairly numerous and often filled with very pretty people, courtesy of the local fashion industry. As with most of Italy, the clubs are fun, even if the patrons are usually more concerned with exhibiting "la bella figura" rather than dancing and partying. Most clubs are open each day until at 3am, and often longer on weekends. The high cover charges usually include a free drink. One area to visit at night is the old port neighborhood of Navgli that retains the funky character that most ports have, and is home to many jazz clubs and good restaurants.
monuments and museums
galleria vittorio emanuele II
Named after the first king of Italy, to whom it was presented as gift for the unification of Italy, it was completed in 1878 and remains one of the most elegant shopping centers in the world. It is a glass-roofed arcade over four-story buildings housing shops that connect the vast Piazza Duomo to the Piazza della Scala in front of the opera house. In the Galleria you can shop in some of the city's finest stores, enjoy arguably the best coffee in the city, albeit probably the most expensive, and engage in excellent people-watching. A highlight for many, and expression for a hope of good luck is to step and spin on the testicles of the mosaic of the bull (a symbol of Torino, the "little bull", that it faces toward the west) at the Galleria's center.
This large piazza is set in front of the Duomo and it is a much-traversed centerpiece of the city. In addition to the many pedestrians scurrying about, it contains a statue of the first king of the united Italy, plenty of pigeons, and is lined with shopping including La Rinascente, Milan's largest and oldest department store.
This ornate Gothic church, Milan's cathedral, took over 500 years to complete is at the center of Milan. Began in 1384, it was mostly complete by 1399 (greatly straining the city's finances in the process), though its facade took until 1809 to complete. It is the fourth largest church in Europe (after St. Peter and those in Seville and London). This style remained as it was believed that this would be more useful in which to impress the northern Europeans. Over its extremely long construction phase, its facade eventually remained true to its Gothic heritage. It saw several changes from Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque and then back to a version of the Gothic. It is a large, busy piece of art that features 135 spires and 2,244 statues of saints. Its very vast interior includes five aisles and is supported by fifty-two immense pillars, and can seat up to 12,000 worshippers. The interior is mixture of Gothic styles culminating with a Baroque altar, and is packed with statues and seemingly acres of stained glass. A visit to the rooftop, filled with spires and statues, including the 12-foot tall gilt statue of the Virgin, La Madonnina, can provide amazing views of the city and even the majestic Matterhorn on a clear day.
museo del duomo
To help understand the wonders of the Duomo, it is a good idea to visit the museum of the cathedral first. It is located on the south side of the Duomo in one wing of the Palazzo Reale, which was used by Milan's rulers from the Visconti through the Austrians. It contains artworks and models associated with the building and decoration of the church including designs for the 1886 competition to replace the facade.
teatro la scala
This, the most prestigious opera house in the world, got its start under the patronage of Maria Theresa of Austria in 1778. It opened with an opera by Salieri, Mozart's rival. Most of the famous Italian operas of the 19th century were premiered here, including many by Verdi who lived for many years in Milan. The opera season is December through July. There adjoining museum, Museo Teatrale alla Scala, has an excellent array of opera artifacts.
pinacoteca di brera
This collection was actually put together by Napoleon and opened in 1809. As it removed artwork from the churches, monasteries and convents of northern Italy for the Louvre he did the same for Milan. The highlight of the collection is probably Raphael's "Marriage of the Virgin", which beautifully presents an ideal setting in the best Renaissance tradition. Other important Italian works are from Piero della Francesca, Mantegna, Bramante, Caravaggio, and a fine collection from the Venetian masters of the early and late Renaissance including Carpaccio, Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, and the Bellinis. There are also a number of non-Italian works including fine pieces by El Greco, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck. In addition to the master of distant centuries, there is a wing dedicated to the 20th century artists, mostly the Italian Futurists, but also the surrealist De Chirico and his followers.
This was originally a fortress that guarded one of the gates to the city. The Visconti used it as the base for their power. The short-lived Ambrosian Republic destroyed it in 1447. When the republic was replaced by the new Duke of Milan Francesco Sforza in 1450, he began its reconstruction in anticipation of conflict with Venice. It housed the Sfrorzas, and later served as barracks for foreign soldiers during the long occupation that followed. It was heavily damaged in bombing raids during World War II, but rebuilt. Today it is home to a sprawling courtyard that is great for picnics, and several museums including the art museum that contains Michelangelo's unfinished Rondanini Pieta', which is very different than is famous Pieta' in Saint Peter's he completed over fifty years before. There are also other museums and galleries that contain artifacts from Milan's history, and musical instruments.
da vinci's cenacolo "the last supper"
Certainly the most copied, if not the most famous painting in the world. Da Vinci's experimental use of tempura on glue and plaster for this painting on a wall rather than the durable, if difficult to apply, well-worn fresco technique caused paint chips to flake from it over the centuries. Though the various restoration efforts over the years have not fully restored the painting to its original condition, it is still an amazing work of art and very popular for visitors.
leonardo da vinci museo nazionale della scienza e della tecnica
This museum is filled with industrial and technical devices. The Leondardo da Vinci Gallery hosts models and drawings of his inventions.
Milan is Italy's best city for shopping both in terms of diversity of goods, and prices where the amount of competition keeps prices lower than much of the rest of Italy. In addition to clothing and footware, couture and less expensive, other items that are good to shop for include leather, ceramics, jewelry, linens, lace, stationary, and home furnishings.
Most of the most famous fashion houses in Milan have their showcase boutiques here, around the Via Montenapoleone. Some of the names that you will find in this neighborhood are Valentino, Armani, Versace, Dolce e Gabbana, Ferragamo, Prada, Moschino, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Fendi. Be aware that the prices at these stores will be higher than elsewhere.
fiera di senigallia
This is an open-air flea market with a wide range of goods including jewelry, clothes and household items that is held each Saturday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.