Italy’s financial heart and the home of the national stock exchange is also a global fashion capital...
... and the place where you’ll find Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, one of the world’s greatest cathedrals and many of its finest art collections. And then there’s football, making Milan a contender for the most multi-talented of modern cities.
With more than 50 parks spread across the city, Milan is almost as green as it is glamorous. Choose a space depending on your activity level and you can do anything, from strolling through 18th-century English gardens at elegant Villa Reale to running laps round the artworks in sportier spots such as Parco Sempione in the city centre.
Follow the local lead during summer and head for Idroscalo, about 20 minutes east of Duomo. Once known as Milan’s seaside, it’s actually a reservoir with beaches and good water sports, occasionally doubling as an outdoor concert venue. But hire a deckchair and take to the sands on a sunny August afternoon and it’s easy to believe you aren’t landlocked in the slightest.
Like everywhere else in Europe, Milan is increasingly keen to cut traffic. BikeMi, one of the world’s first cycle-sharing schemes, now rents out more than 5,000 traditional bikes and e-bikes across the city, to both locals and visitors. Several well-marked cycle paths and lanes around the historic centre are safe for two-wheel sightseeing, but less-confident riders might prefer the pretty canal-side routes in Parco della Martesana, 20 minutes from Duomo.
Como is the Italian lake where celebrities vie to buy palatial villas and Milanese go hill-walking at the weekend. Charming Bellagio, its most famous lakeside town, is less than 90 minutes from Milan on a scenic drive that only hints at the splendour of Como itself. If all you want to do is stare, take a lake cruise or have lunch at one of Bellagio’s elegant waterfront restaurants.
Amidst rice fields just south of Milan, this complex of sacred and secular buildings is a fine example of Lombardy’s medieval rural architecture, unchanged for centuries. The church frescos alone are worth seeing. The abbey is open year-round, but the local countryside is at its best in high summer.
This historic town sits alone on an island in Lake Iseo, said to be the prettiest in Italy. Just under two hours from Milan, including a 20-minute ferry ride, the town is known for its quaint architecture and excellent restaurants. If you don’t mind a short climb, the chapel of Madonna della Ceriola is a little Baroque gem, perched on a hill at the heart of the island.