Milan is one of Italy's most fashionable cities but it also holds several historic and artistic attractions, including the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, The Last Supper painting, and the famous La Scala Opera House. Travelers to Milan will find a fast-paced, glamorous city with a thriving cultural scene and a top city for shopping.
Located in northwest Italy in the Lombardy region, Milan is about 30 miles south of the Alps. It is very near the Lake district, including Lakes Como and Maggiore. From Milan, Rome is reachable on a fast train in as little as 3 hours and Venice in less than 3 hours.
The city can be very hot and humid in summer but winters are not too severe. Check out Milan's average monthly temperatures and rainfall before planning your trip.
Transportation to Milan
Milan has two airports. Malpensa, to the northwest, is a big international airport. The Malpensa Express train connects the airport to the stations of Centrale and Cadorna, near the historic center. The smaller Linate airport to the east serves flights from Europe and within Italy and is connected to the city by bus service.
The main train station, Milano Centrale at Piazza Duca d' Aosta, links to major cities in Italy and western Europe. Domestic and international bus lines arrive in Piazza Castello.
Milan has very good public transportation, including buses, trams, and an extensive metro system.
Hotels and Food
If you want to stay near La Scala, the Duomo, and shopping district, there are several top-rated historic center hotels. One of the most luxurious hotels is the Four Seasons Hotel Milano, right in the fashion shopping district, or if you really want to go high-class, there's the 7-star Milan Galleria, a luxury hotel with only 7 suites, each with its own butler.
Two famous traditional Milanese dishes are risotto alla milanese (a rice dish made with saffron) and cotoletta alla milanese (breaded veal). Milan has many fashionable restaurants serving modern Italian cuisine as well. Milanese bars often serve snacks with your before-dinner drink (apertivo) in the evening.
Nightlife and Festivals
Milan is a good city for nightlife with many popular nightclubs, cinemas, and cultural events, including opera, ballet, concerts, and theater. The main theater and concert season starts in October but there are performances in summer, too. Check with one of the tourist offices or your hotel for the latest information.
Milan's biggest feast day for its patron saint, Saint Ambrose's Day is December 7 with religious celebrations and a street fair. The Festa del Naviglio with parades, music, and other performances, is the first ten days of June. There are many fashion fairs, especially in fall.
Milan is a fashion lover's paradise, so you will easily find top quality clothing, footwear, and accessories. Try Corso Vittorio Emanuele II near Piazza della Scala, via Monte Napoleone near the Duomo, or Via Dante between the Duomo and Castle. For exclusive fashions, try the area around via della Spiga called the Quadrilatero d'Oro. Corso Buenos Aires has many chain stores. Many shops are even open on Sunday on Corso Buenos Aires and Via Dante. Markets are held around the canals.
What to See
The small historic center is primarily between the Duomo and Castello and offers many of Milan's top attractions. Here is what you can expect to find:
- Santa Maria della Grazie contains Da Vinci's famous fresco, the Last Supper. Although the building was bombed in 1943, the fresco survived. To visit, it is necessary to book in advance.
- The Duomo is the world's largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in Europe. Building began in 1386 and lasted nearly 500 years! Its marble facade is magnificent and its roof has 135 spires and 3200 statues. Inside, the crucifix is said to contain a nail from the cross of Christ. Its piazza is the hub of Milan. There is also a museum. Be sure to climb the stairs or take the elevator to the top for views of Milan from the Duomo rooftop and a close look at the Duomo's spires.
- La Scala is a very famous opera house seating over 2000 people. Built in 1778, it has a very opulent interior. You can also visit the museum.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a huge glass-roofed shopping arcade lined with expensive shops, bars, and restaurants. Built in 1867, it links the squares of the Duomo and La Scala and has mosaics with the symbols of the cities forming the newly united Italy. Some people consider it good luck to stand on the testicles of the bull of Turin.
- Castello Sforzesco was originally built in the 15th century by the ruling Visconti but was destroyed and rebuilt by the Sforzas soon afterward. It became a museum complex in the 19th century and is one of Milan's major landmarks.
- National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci is housed in what was once a 16th-century monastery. The museum has a vast collection showing the history of science and technology starting from Leonardo da Vinci's machines.
- Sant'Ambrogio is the fourth-century church of Milan's patron saint. Inside are many relics, carvings, and mosaics.
- Pinacoteca di Brera, originally started by Napolean, is Milan's most prestigious art gallery. It holds a huge collection of over 600 works in 40 rooms.
You can also choose to take a guided tour, cooking class, shopping trip, or excursion while in Milan.
Milan makes a convenient base for day trips to the Lakes, Pavia, the hill town of Bergamo, and Cremona, the city of violins. For an interesting day out, book a Guided Tour of Bergamo, Franciacorta and Lake Iseo. In addition to the city of Bergamo, you'll visit a small, charming lake and the Franciacorta sparkling wine region, with transportation from Milan.
Milan Tourist Information Offices
The main office is in Piazza del Duomo at Via Marconi 1. There is also a branch in the Central train station. The Milan City Council operates an information office in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, near the Piazza del Duomo, with information about cultural events.