Top Ten things to do in Milan

Top Ten things to do in Milan

Heres our top ten things to do in Milan

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The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is undoubtedly Milan’s best-known attraction, but tickets are almost as hard to get hold of as front row seats for a Prada fashion show. Those lucky enough to enter the hallowed refectory (attached to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie) get 15 minutes to examine the expressions of consternation, hostility and despair on the faces of the disciples, just as Jesus reveals his imminent betrayal. Thanks to Leonardo’s experimental technique, the fresco is famously flaky – but that doesn’t detract one iota from the experience of seeing it in the ‘flesh’.

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Take in the view from the Duomo

500 years in the making, the spiked gothic cathedral that is the Duomo has been compared to a wedding cake and a ‘hedgehog’ (D.H. Lawrence). Its imposing interior contains some magnificent treasures but, for a truly breathtaking experience, climb the 150 steps (or take the lift) to the roof. Here, visitors can admire some of the 3,600 statues and 135 spires, many carved from pink Candoglia marble – and get a closer view of the famous gilded copper ‘Madonnina’ atop the tallest spike. On a fine day, the view stretches far beyond the city to the snow-capped Alps.


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Teatro alla Scala

Typically Milanese, the discreet, neo-classical façade of Teatro alla Scala, the world’s most famous opera house, belies its opulent interior – featuring acres of red velvet and gilded balconies. Tickets to world-class opera and ballet performances aren’t as hard to get hold of as you’d think, if you’re prepared to be flexible about seating. Look out for a superb programme of popular operas throughout 2015, under new musical director Riccardo Chailly.


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Have dinner on a tram

Synonymous with the city and a piece of living history, Milan’s original yellow and orange 1920s and 1950s trams have varnished wooden seats and iconic fluted glass lampshades. Today, the city’s rolling stock also includes 1970s models and the new-fangled, dark green ‘caterpillars’ – but for a taste of the original version, hop aboard the number 1, taking in some of Milan’s most symbolic monuments as you go. Alternatively, book an evening ride on ATMosfera, a vintage tram serving up dinner with wine, run by the ATM transport authority.

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Milan art galleries…

Thanks in part to Napoleon, who dumped much of his northern Italian loot here, the Pinacoteca di Brera contains one of the most important art collections in Italy. Treasures include the eerily realistic Dead Christ by Mantegna, and Supper At Emmaus by Caravaggio. Smaller but with works every bit as important, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana houses The Musician, an early painting by Leonardo da Vinci, and a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s strawberry blonde hair.

But..there’s modern too..

Milan’s oldest galleries may have been around for centuries; but these days they have rivals in the form of Museo del Novecento and Gallerie d’Italia – both inaugurated since 2010. As its name implies, the Museum of the Twentieth Century houses 20th-century Italian and international artworks, by everyone from Modigliani to Matisse. The free, bank-owned Gallerie d’Italia displays masterpieces by the likes of Canova and Hayez in a sumptuous series of frescoed palazzi, opposite La Scala opera house.

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Shop in style at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

With its glass-and-iron dome, magnificent mosaics and marble floorways, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele arcade is definitely one of the world’s most glamorous (and oldest – it was built in 1867) shopping malls. Among its claims to fame is the planet’s first-ever Prada store, here since 1913. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani – and most recently, Versace – all have a presence, but most visitors come to spin their heels in the famous bull’s testicles, part of a floor mosaic it’s said to bring good luck.

Discover Michaelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece

Its rounded turrets, spacious courtyards and secret passageways would be reason enough to visit this renaissance castle – but the Castello Sforzesco also happens to be home to one of the city’s most precious, yet often overlooked, artworks: Michelangelo’s final, uncompleted sculpture, the Pietà Rondanini. In 2015, the sculpture will be moved to a new, purpose-built display area at the castle and shouldn’t be missed.

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Navigli waterways

A network of canals, partly designed by Leonardo da Vinci, once stretched right across Milan, but these days the Navigli are confined to two long waterways – the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese – in the city’s south. A welcome alternative to the slicker style associated with the fashion-obsessed centre, the bohemian canals are lined with pavement cafés, vintage shops and the occasional gallery. A popular antiques market is held on the Naviglio Grande on the last Sunday of every month.

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Explore (and eat) at Expo 2015

The build-up to Milan’s Universal Exposition (1 May-31 Oct, 2015) has been controversial, to say the least. Yet the high-minded foodie theme (‘Feeding the Planet’), a wealth of creative ideas from the 144 participating nations, and a rich programme of supporting events around the city promise to make this an event not to miss. Among attractions are pavilions by Norman Foster and Daniel Libeskind, an installation by Wolfgang Buttress, and the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s works ever held in Italy. If nothing else, it should be a great excuse to devour some mouth-watering international nosh.

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