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Pocket Guide: Milan

As Italy's second largest city, and a hub for designers, photographers, and artists, Milan is one of the creative centers of Europe, and for many represents the capital of design and fashion. Milan offers a high-end shopping experience that takes in top Italian designers and world-famous brands. The city has the world's oldest shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in the Piazza Duomo, and a wealth of fashion and jewellery shops along Via Montenapoleone, in the Quadrilatero della Moda fashion district.

Romans to Renaissance

Modern Milan may conjure up images of fashion houses and boutiques, but if the urge to shop until you drop should desert you, it's worth remembering that the city's history, which dates back to 400 BC, is all around you. As capital of the Western Roman Empire, a medieval center of trade, and later under periods of French, Austrian, and Spanish control, Milan's history is long and varied and the city sights are a testament to its importance across the centuries.

A guided Milan city tour will take you through the city's key points of historical interest including Castello Sforzesco, a former palatial residence now open to the public as a museum and art gallery, the imposing gothic cathedral Il Duomo, and La Scala theatre. The tour also takes in a viewing of Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper', viewable only by appointment and housed in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

While Milan is rich in Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque works of art (the Brera Art Gallery alone brings together Italian masterpieces from the 14th century to the modern day), this artistic center looks towards the future and contemporary art exhibitions are held in PAC (Padiglione Arte Contemporanea) and CIMAC (Civico Museo Arte Contemporanea).

Eating and drinking

Milan has a profusion of restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world; brunch is big news in Milan and the nightlife in this eclectic city starts early, with hundreds of bars and clubs to suit every taste. The essential Milanese ritual of happy hour is a famously loosely applied term, and between the hours of 6 PM and 9.30 PM most clubs offer drinks, cocktails, and buffet food at reduced prices. The majority of clubs can be found in the Porta Romana, Porta Ticinese, and Navigli regions of the city, but excellent food and drink are never far away. Getting around Milan is easy too, with a public transport system that includes three subway lines, trains, buses, and an extensive network of trams.

Explore Lombardy

Beyond the city itself, the glacial Lake Como, the third largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe, is celebrated for its beauty and tranquillity. Take a day coach tour of the lake and the historical center of Como, explore the scenery, and visit one of the many silk factories.

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