Lay of the Land
Milan's Gothic Duomo is at the heart of the city's concentric layout. Immediately to the north are two of Milan's most worthwhile sights: the 19th-century shopping arcade of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the world-famous La Scala opera house. Northeast of the Duomo is the Quadrilatero d'Oro, the "golden rectangle" of streets where all the major Italian and international designers have their boutiques, and where you'll also find some of the best aperitivo bars and high-end hotels. Further afield, two areas are worth exploring: The Brera neighborhood, north of La Scala, has quiet cobblestoned streets full of funky clothes shops and antique dealers, and also is home to the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery; the Navigli district, to the southwest, is a former dock district, where indie fashion boutiques, restaurants, and trendy bars now occupy the streets between the canals.
WHEN TO GO
Cold and often foggy in winter, hot and humid in summer, Milan does not have Italy's most desirable climate. But few come here for the weather. Bargain-hunters should note that winter sales generally start around January 7, summer sales in the first week of July. Others may want to avoid these dates, as this is not a time for leisurely browsing. The city bursts with chaotic life during the Furniture Fair in mid-April, and during the four key fashion weeks. The women's shows take place at the end of February (for the following season's autumn/winter collections) and the end of September (spring/summer), while the men's collections roll out in the second halves of January (autumn/winter) and June (spring/summer). The pro of going during fashion week is that everybody who's anybody in the fashion business will be there. The major con is that you often wait ages for a taxi, hotels are booked up months in advance, and even restaurant reservations can be difficult to get.
HOW TO GET THERE
Milan has two airports, Malpensa and Linate (information for both at www.sea-aeroportimilano.it). Served by most international and intercontinental flights, Malpensa is 30 miles northwest of the city center and has direct flights from the U.S. via Alitalia. Linate is much more convenient: Only 4.5 miles east of the center, it serves many domestic destinations and several European cities. A taxi from Malpensa into town will set you back as much as €70 ($95); from Linate, it shouldn't cost more than €20 ($27). Milan's main train station, the architecturally bombastic Stazione Centrale, has regular high-speed departures to Turin, Venice, Florence, Rome, and points south, as well as trains to major European cities such as Paris and Vienna. For train information and reservations, see www.trenitalia.com.
Taxis are plentiful, reasonably priced, and mostly reliable; you can pick them up from licensed ranks or just hail one in the street. Unusual for an Italian city, Milan also has an efficient subway system, plus an extensive bus and tram network. For information on routes, tickets, and passes, visit the Web site of citywide operator ATM at www.atm-mi.it.
The main tourist office (with rather frosty service) is right on Piazza del Duomo (1 Via Marconi; 39-02-7252-4301); there are other smaller branches at the train station and the two airports. The official Web site is www.milanoinfotourist.com, but English-speaking visitors are better served by Hello Milano—www.hellomilano.it—the online version of a monthly listings magazine that is distributed free in hotels and tourist information offices. In addition to its breakdown of local happenings, the Hello Milano magazine includes a colorful map of the city.View Italy Factsheet