Milan art tour: fresco heaven, without the crowds

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.

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