Everyone knows Milan as one of the world capitals of Fashion and Design, as a hotbed of talent, creativity and innovation.
With its frenzied rhythms, trends and styles in constant revolution, its open declaration of having successfully attained unsurpassable prestige make both Milan and its residents self-confident, aware of their strong points and of the simple fact that all that is “Made in Milan” is destined for worldwide success.
However, it is often forgotten that Milan is also, and in fact above all, a great City of Art with a huge heritage that ranges from Art Nouveau architecture to Medieval relics, with an abundance of monuments, churches, historic buildings, theatres and museums, therefore the New York Times selected Milan as fifth classified in the 41 Places to Go in 2011
The history of Milan is a centuries-long saga that over the centuries has collected numerous artefacts from the Roman and Paleochristian eras, passing through the Middle Ages to the rule of the Visconti and the Sforza, the Spanish and Austrian domination, the Napoleonic period and finally its annexation to the kingdom of Italy.
This brief panorama is sufficient to show just how many elements and artistic and cultural influences are still present and visible in the city today.
In Milan one can admire classical masterpieces by Tiepolo, Titian, Raphael, Mantegna and Leonardo, the vast collection of the Brera Picture Gallery, the majestic Sforzesco Castle and major religious buildings such as the Cathedral, the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie (Church of Our Lady of Grace) or the Basilica of Saint Ambrose.
The city is awash with historic buildings, including Palazzo Clerici in the heart of Milan’s historic centre, with its wonderful galleries frescoed by Tiepolo, St. Mark’s Baroque Church and the twentieth-century Teatro dei Filodrammatici.
In the Church of Sant'Eufemia, founded in 472 A.D., you will find fine frescoes, including the “Sposalizio di Santa Caterina” (the marriage of St. Catherine) of the school of Leonardo, while the St. Peter’s Church in Gessate has some of the most important Lombard Renaissance works such as the “Stories of St. Ambrose” that decorate the interiors of the Grifi Chapel.
The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace) is home to Leonardo’s famous Last Supper, one of Da Vinci’s most celebrated and mysterious works, commissioned by Ludovico Sforza. The fresco, created with an experimental technique that called for a combination of tempera and oil colours, is gradually deteriorating due to atmospheric agents and the passing of time.
Being able to say you’ve seen it is a privilege that future generations may not have the opportunity to enjoy, making this a must for all Art and History enthusiasts.
Another of Milan’s “hidden art treasures” is the Poldi-Pezzoli museum house. In addition to its jewellery collections, period furniture, chinaware, tapestries and paintings, it is home to Boticelli’s masterpiece, the “Madonna with Child”, Tiepolo frescoes and Pollusco’s amazing “Girl with earring”.
The literally dozens of city museums, almost all in the city’s historic centre, means that visitors can to go from the Museum of Cinema to the Natural History, Science and Technology Museum and the La Scala Museum.
It you have children in tow, the “Leonardo da Vinci” Science and Technology Museum and the Civic Museum of Natural History will undoubtedly leave them speechless. The first exhibits an incredibile collection of man’s greatest inventions, including scale models of Leonardo’s machine, a number of steam locomotives, a 1940’s submarine and replicas of ancient medieval forges.
The Museum of Natural Hisotry, has several life-sized dinosaur models, a vast collection of fossils and precious stones and a series of dioramas with stuffed exotic animals.
In addition to the “traditional” cultural destinations, Milan offers a vast selection of Modern and Contemporary Art, with hundreds of galleries and exhibition spaces, such as Palazzo della Permanente, the Triennale and the Prada Foundation.
It is not even necessary to plan all the details: just leaf through any local newspaper to get an idea of the incredible range and variety of displays, exhibitions, inaugurations and events that Milan has to offer at any time of the year and make your choice. There is no risk of being disappointed!
A few decades ago, the city began a series of reconstruction and conversion projects for old spaces and industrial buildings, mostly to be converted into exhibition spaces and Art and Design workshops. Many now house exhibitions, which are often accompanied by musical and multimedia events of great interest, almost always in a trendy and informal setting, on a par with similar structures in New York, London or Berlin.
Let us not forget that Milan is also a world capital of Music and Theatre, where each event goes beyond being Art and Culture, and is a high society event, with the Show Business, Finance and Politics elite attending every premier.
The Piccolo Teatro and La Scala have a full programme of theatre performances, operas, dance shows and concerts, with the many larger and smaller jazz, cabaret, independent theatre or experimentation clubs as counterattractions.
With something for everyone, the dedication it reserves to the artefacts of the past, the sheer variety of attractions it has to offer, its inherent dynamism which guarantees its status as a city that is symbolic of innovation and trendsetting, Milan will be a truly unforgettable experience.