Weekend getaway: Milan

Milan Cathedral, ItalyThe fashion and business capital of Italy is somewhere to fall in love with Europe again.

The strange thing about big European cities, is that you don’t fully appreciate them until you have lived away from them for a while. You almost take their presence for granted. Then when you do visit, they seem like the best place on earth and you want to move there.

Milan is often overlooked, with Rome, Venice and Florence being the preferred destination for tourists. But the Italian capital of fashion and business is exactly the sort of city that reaffirms a love for European culture.

Modernity and history work well together, with buildings older than many countries housing modern offices. In the shadow of a grand Gothic cathedral, couples cruise around on scooters while the old tradition of coffee and- conversation rages on with accompanying hand gestures.

Café Zucca in Galleria, on the piazza near the cathedral, is perhaps the perfect example of the city’s café culture. It’s been serving coffee since 1867 and was once the hangout of Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini after their performances at the nearby La Scala opera house. It’s still serving today as people cram into the ornate Art Deco space for their shots of caffeine.

The companion of the café culture is football, the opera of the people. A trip to see AC or Inter Milan is a must. If the missus doesn’t fancy that, then check out http://www.exclusivedetails.it, which offers a personal shopper service. While many of the shops are brand names already available in the Middle East, a local expert will know the best independent places and can get you into appointment-only boutiques.

We can also highly recommend the Stone Island flagship store (on the Corso Venezia) as somewhere to buy high quality clothes. But just wandering the cobbled streets and boulevards turns up the kind of individual fashion items that in the 1980s — before city breaks were common — English football fans would proudly bring back after away games. While other people took a while to discover the charms of this great Italian city, the advent of budget airlines has opened Europe up to the masses, even though the grand old continent has been taking something of a battering of late. Just ask the Greeks.

We should remember that the European ideal is more than just exchange rates and bitter arguments about immigration. It’s also about good food, culture, history, architecture, fashion, design and football. Milan is a perfect example of all these things.

DO
Visit during the season so you can watch a game at the San Siro. Inter are the current Italian and European champions, but AC Milan are always well worth watching too. If you can get a ticket to the Milanese Derby then that’s worth the trip in itself. The spectacle and noise of 85,000 fans packed into this otherworldly cauldron really is something stunning. Sort out your tickets well before you go, however, as they’re always in high demand.

EAT
Head to the Luini bakery (it’s near Duomo) for the best panzerotto in the city. Essentially a deep fried, folded pizza it tastes incredible and the queues to get one are testament to the popularity of the place.
Luini, 16 Via Santa Radegonda. http://www.luini.it

STAY
The The Radisson Blu Hotel has recently opened in what was the Chedi Milan. Very little has been changed, so now you get a Chedi at Radisson prices. As you’d expect, the decor is understated and elegant, with light rooms, huge bathrooms and neat public spaces, including a lovely courtyard. A little farther out, it’s more of a romantic hideaway than just somewhere to crash each night, but is a 15-minute tram ride from the city centre and just 2.5km from the San Siro stadium.

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