Il Duomo di Milano
Piazza del Duomo, Centro Storico
The construction of Milan’s most famous cathedral started in 1386, and the fabric of the city seems woven into this incredible building, the fifth-largest church in the world. A highlight is the five bronze doors that depict scenes of Milan’s history, and many notable Milanese are buried inside (including one of the architects, Charles Borromeo). The exterior is a panoply of white marble threaded with pink, and the dozens of gothic spires are an icon of the city. Climb up to the roof and walk among some of the thousands of statues, spires, and gargoyles—and take in some of the best views of the city.
Largo Isarco, 2, Morivione
A combination of seven older buildings and three new ones in Porta Romana create this center of contemporary art and culture, all masterminded by Rem Koolhaas and opened in 2015. You’ll find a solid collection of twentieth- and twenty-first-century artworks by the likes of Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor, a cinema showing art house and vintage films, a creative space (designed in conjunction with a neuropediatrician) for kids, and one of Milan’s best bookstores. There’s also, of course, the Wes Anderson–designed Bar Luce—a 1950s-style Milanese café that’s alone worth a visit.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Zona Magenta
Da Vinci’s The Last Supper captured the moment Jesus announced to his disciples—over dinner—that one of them would betray him. It’s one of the world’s best-known masterpieces, and it’s hidden in the old refectory of this convent, having survived bombing during WWII (workers sandbagged the fresco, sparing it the wreckage suffered by the rest of the building). The structure itself is beautiful, too—especially the Bramante-designed cupola flanked by colonnades, and the cloister inside.
Via Bergognone, 40, Zona Tortona
Giorgio Armani opened this cultural hub just a few years ago to celebrate his fortieth anniversary in the fashion business. The “Silos” aspect of the name pays homage to the building’s former life as a grain-storage facility, but the space now holds hundreds of pieces of Armani apparel and accessories that, in their own way, chart how fashion is influenced by society over the decades. Clothing aside, the museum regularly hosts exhibitions of photography and film. The courtyard has a pleasant café for a coffee break after a look around.
Museo Poldi Pezzoli
Via Alessandro Manzoni, 12, Brera
Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli fell in love with the idea of the house-as-museum on his grand tour of Europe in the early 1800s. What is now the Victoria & Albert museum in London—with rooms representing different time periods—left an especially strong impression. The museum is in a neoclassical palazzo that feels like an endless cave of treasures: There are tapestries, armor, paintings, and sculpture, and the radically different décor and genre of each room make this one of the most fascinating museums in the city. We especially like the Dante room, which features an intricately detailed stained-glass window, scenes from The Inferno, and a portrait of the author himself.
Casa degli Atellani
Corso Magenta, 65, San Vittore
This large villa came to the Atellani family via a donation from the Duke of Milan in the late 1400s. The family wasted no time transforming the property into Milan’s party house of the period (Leonardo da Vinci actually stayed there while painting The Last Supper), and its magnificence is still (basically) intact. An audio guide accompanies you through the many rooms filled with paintings and antiques that belonged to the family. The surrounding gardens and vineyard are great for strolling through after a cappuccino and pastry at the café.
Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera
Via Brera, 28, Brera
This beautiful seventeenth-century building is still a functioning university, but thanks to its significant inventory of cultural loot, it also operates as a museum, known as the Pinacoteca di Brera. The site started as a convent but opened as a museum in 1809. Nowadays, it’s home to Milan’s primary collection of paintings, with pieces you’ll probably recognize from your art history textbook—Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin, Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus—as well as more modern works by artists like Modigliani. After browsing the galleries, take a stroll through the on-site botanical gardens.
Teatro alla Scala
Via Filodrammatici, 2, Broletto
This world-famous opera house was the passion project of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who oversaw its construction in the 1770s (the opening night performance was Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta). Intense bombing during WWII led to a series of major renovations (the most recent in 2004), and today it’s just as resplendent as it was in the eighteenth century. Red velvet, silk brocade walls, and gilded stucco are illuminated by a huge glittering chandelier composed of nearly 400 lamps. If you’re in town and appreciate opera or just theater in general, a performance at La Scala is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Viale Vincenzo Lancetti, 34, Derganino
Nina Yashar is one of the queens of the Italian design world, so there was an electric sense of excitement when the gallerist and furniture dealer opened Nilufar Depot three years ago. The space is a converted silverware factory near Milan’s Garibaldi train station, a three-story wonderland comprising thousands of historic and contemporary pieces, including work from legends like Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti. It’s not technically a museum, but coming here can feel like the ultimate education in Italian design. And because inventory changes all the time, there’s always something new to see, no matter how many times you go back.
10 Corso Como
10 Corso Como, Porta Nuova
You can easily spend an entire afternoon—or a few of them—perusing the art galleries and design and fashion boutiques at this mega concept shop. It’s become the authority of Milan’s retail scene, and a visit here is an education in what’s currently on trend. Have a cappuccino at the picture-perfect café for a midafternoon pick-me-up.
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