If you allow a little poetic licence, Milan boasts two world famous cathedrals. One is the duomo in the centre of the city, an imposing, ornate, triangular structure. The other is the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the San Siro neighbourhood. If you are in the Lombardian capital for a match at the latter, there is plenty to see before and after the action.
Where better to start than the duomo itself? Around 1,000 years in the making, it embodies an astonishing array of architectural styles. Look closely at the two main statues halfway up the front, and you’ll see the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty. A huge gold-plated statue of the Virgin Mary known as the Madonnina tops the enormous structure and when Milan and Inter play it’s known as the ‘Derby della Madonnina’. Worth her weight in gold? You decide, because you can take a guided tour of every square inch of this grand place of worship.
Fashion, of course, is another massive draw for the millions of tourists who visit Milan each year. If shopping for the latest gear is your scene, head to Via Montenapoleone, which is only two minutes away from the duomo. All the big names have flagship boutiques there, and you might see a footballer or two. Even if you don’t spot a calcio ace, you will probably walk past one of their supercars while they are inside splashing the cash.
If that’s a bit rich for your blood, head to the Naviglio district via the Colonne di San Lorenzo. The city’s main canal is lined with places to eat, drink and chat, and the sunsets are outrageous, matching the colour of your spritz. It’s a mixed crowd but still unmistakeably Milanese. At the Colonne it’s a more laid-back, alternative atmosphere. Ripped jeans and faded 80s rock band T-shirt optional.
If you are getting tired, or miss the round ball, head up to the plush Porta Venezia area. You can’t miss the large park, ideal for picnics, cafes and of course a friendly kick about. On a typical day the number of children wearing Theo Hernàndez or Romelu Lukaku shirts reaches double figures. Turtles, ducks and fish live in glorious harmony in the pond in the centre of the park.
Porta Venezia was recently voted into Time Out’s top 40 coolest neighbourhoods in the world. You’ll be spoilt for options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. However, you can’t visit Milan without sampling the aperitivo – a cheeky drink and gourmet nibbles between 6pm and 8pm.
The art in Milan isn’t constricted to the pitch at the San Siro; you can view works by some of the greatest artists in European history. The Museo del Novecento in Piazza del Duomo is a wonderful way to pass a couple of hours. Milan was one of the homes of Leonardo da Vinci, and his influence is everywhere. If you book early you can marvel at the Last Supper and learn more at the museum dedicated to the man at Piazza della Scala. The Triennale, near the Cadorna metro stop, hosts fascinating exhibitions and its terrace bar hits the heights in terms of sophistication and metres, offering a beautiful vista of this football and fashion addicted city.
YOU’LL BE SPOILT FOR OPTIONS FOR BREAKFAST, BRUNCH, LUNCH OR DINNER.
They say some footballers can be divas, but if that’s your thing you should head to the Scala Opera House. A boxy building on the outside, inside it is a grand, glitzy heaven for music lovers. Like a legendary football stadium, you can sense the greats who have performed there, even when it’s empty.
The tram 9 is one of the best ways to travel the city. Starting slap bang in the middle at stazione Centrale, it voyages to leafy Porta Venezia, the underrated Porta Romana (restaurants and bars galore) and terminates in Porta Genova/Naviglio. The 9 also stops close to the notoriously hip cocktail bar Nottingham Forest at Viale Piave 1.
Locals are incredibly proud that they were the first city to provide two European Cup winners (Milan in 1963 and Inter in 1964), and you can chat football with them at the various sport pubs and bars, including Hall of Fame (Wagner), The Football Pub (Duomo), 442 (Sempione) and Bootleg (Pagano).
If you’ve still got time, visit the Sforzesco Castle and adjoining Sempione park, where the vast green space takes you out of the city and a co-operative of drummers play their instruments from morning until night. It’s a great way to escape the traffic and you can still find a kiosk or two selling a spritz – because this is Milan, after all.