All roads lead to Milan – no matter which industry I write for, somehow, I end up in Milan each year. As Italy’s city of the future, it is a fast-paced metropolis where creativity is big business and looking good is an art form with fashion, food, art and architecture being pillars of life.
I have driven luxury cars here, visited shipyards to look at yachts being conceptualised, attended art and fashion galas, learnt how technology helps motorcycle riders perform better on racetracks and even represented my company in a science centre congress one year.
Milan has an ancient and fascinating history and is an important industrial and cultural centre with its own art collections, an interesting literary heritage and a vibrant social and music scene. It is a city where natural wonders, old world romance and ancient art merge seamlessly with new age design trends, financial hubs and urban steel.
Milan is not just a fashion capital. It attracts as many artists, artisans, and architects as possible and the city boasts an impressive, sustainable architecture with a futuristic skyline modelled by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and César Pelli. The city is also home to new start-ups and global companies like Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Apple.
Architecture is what I appreciate most about Milan. Buildings range from the Renaissance-style Santa Maria delle Grazie church, a Unesco World Heritage Site, to the 19th-century shopping plaza, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The art-nouveau townhouses come with stained-glass windows, detailed floral motifs and ornate metalwork but what fascinates me most is Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), a metropolitan reforestation project devised to regenerate urban biodiversity with trees, shrubs and plants covering luxury apartment buildings.
Art enthusiasts go to Milan for the many museums and art galleries. It is home to one of the most famous Renaissance paintings in history, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1494-1498) with unrivalled collections of Italian modernism and one can see works of artists such as Umberto Boccioni and Lucio Fontana as well.
Food in Milan delights all your senses and are typically rich and hearty, with meat, risotto, pasta and pizza taking centre stage. My hosts always recommend dishes where I can sprinkle their famous local cheese on the dishes. When I am attending an event, we always start our evenings with a reception where local cheeses, freshly cut vegetables, crisps, cured meats, olives and local bread are served before dinner.
For travellers looking for great photo opportunities, the imposing gothic cathedral that took nearly six centuries to complete is the perfect backdrop. Visitors can climb up to the rooftop and have sweeping views of the city with close-up views of the menacing gargoyles and intricate spires on the building.
Retail therapy in Milan is a must as the city is home to the biggest names in the fashion industry, such as Valentino, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani and my favourite brand Missoni. I almost cried when the Missoni shop in City Walk across my home closed and I had to venture into the bigger malls to get clothes that were accessible to the masses.
Shopping in Milan is not limited to just clothes, bags and shoes. Milan’s art deco and furniture brands are trendsetters in interior design. The city is a hub for designers, with showrooms, studios and outlets welcoming international buyers all year round.
Performing arts and theatre is a big deal in Italy and Milan is no different. The Teatro alla Scala, built in 1770s is a must visit. I come from a family of theatre buffs with my husband being an award-winning theatre actor and a daughter who studied drama all her life and has attended more theatre shows than movies so the first thing we check out on a holiday is theatre shows. Teatro alla Scala is a spectacular performance hall with red velvet, brocade and gold elements giving it a lavish ambience.
To get around Milan, try out the yellow tram which is a famous symbol of Milan. Some of the trams running in Milan are versions of the original 19th- and 20th-century designs while some come with wooden interiors, long benches and glass lamps dotted along the ceiling. You can be transported to a bygone era while exploring Milan.
Post pandemic, Milan may just be the first city we will venture to for a dose of the best food, culture, art and of course cars. You can fly there directly with Emirates Airlines or to make up for the lost travel time to different cities during the pandemic, take Turkish Airlines, stop for a few days in Istanbul and get to Milan via Turkey. It is time to discover the world again, albeit safely.
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