Resist the urge to splurge in the city’s chic shops and instead lose yourself in its transcendental art
Think of Milan and you think of fashion. The first time I spent more than a few hours in the city, I roamed the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Italy’s oldest shopping arcade, built in the 1860s and still home to the original Prada store, which was opened by the designer’s grandfather Mario in 1913 – wishing that I was rich (or at least, not quite so broke). What on earth is a girl with an overdraft and a fierce lust for buttery leather supposed to do in a place where everyone is so enviably well-dressed? In Milan, even the nuns look chic. In the end, I bought only one thing: an ice-cold negroni in the Camparino, the lovely, high-ceilinged bar that has been in the Galleria almost as long as Prada (Davide Campari first threw open its doors in 1915).
I still love the Galleria – wander through it as you walk from La Scala to the Duomo, which it conveniently connects – and I would tell anyone to have their evening aperitif at the Camparino, where the people-watching is unparalleled. But since my most recent visit, I’m able to see Milan not only with the eyes of someone hell bent on giving their credit card a bashing, but with those of an art lover, too. If you like painting and sculpture – in particular, if you have any interest at all in Leonardo, the city’s most famous adopted son – it is just the place, and one without the crowds and queues you can expect in, say, Florence or Venice.