24 hours in Milan
If Rome is a giant open-air museum, then Milan is a huge open-air catwalk. Here it's not pleasure that is indulged, as elsewhere in Italy, but rather the impulse to show -- and so stylishly, it's a feast for the eyes. Next to fashion, models, and motor engines, Milan is also known for its cultural treasures, as our quick tour of the city shows.
If you arrive in the morning at the Malpensa Airport, it's best to take the Malpensa Express train to Cadorna. From there, you can explore the Centro Storico, the historic center, very well on foot or by subway. (Taxis are strongly discouraged, as they will rob you blind.)
On the way to the first goal, the Duomo, there are numerous opportunities for a typical Italian breakfast with cappuccino, chocolate croissant, and spremuta -- freshly squeezed orange juice. The white cathedral and its immense courtyard are impressive even from below; from the roof you get a magnificent view over the whole city.
Right at the cathedral square there is the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, a magnificent shopping mall with a domed roof housing fashion shops, bookshops, and restaurants. From the Galleria, it's not far to the famous Teatro alla Scala, or simply "La Scala," one of the most famous opera houses in the world -- perhaps you can score a couple of tickets to the evening's performance. Just a few blocks away starts the Via Montenapoleone, which reveals a glimpse of Milan's soul: the narrow streets are lined with luxury boutique after luxury boutique, from Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci to Armani. Unaffordable to mere mortals, but still worth a visit.
Of course, art lovers will be more excited by the nearby Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the most valuable painting collections in Italy, with paintings by Caravaggio and Co. Milan's castle, Castello Sforzesco, with its park and museums, also makes a tremendous impression.
After so much walking, the visitor will have earned a pasta dish in a trattoria along the way -- and above all, a chocolate gelato from a salon called Chocolat: not far from the Castello, an unimaginable wealth of chocolate ice cream flavors beckon. Elated on a chocolate high, you can then head for the Santa Maria delle Grazie with the world-famous "Last Supper" painting by Leonardo da Vinci (visits by appointment only) or take a journey into the past: the Basilica of Sant 'Ambrogio dates from the fifth century and is absolutely worth seeing.
A highlight of a day in Milan is certainly the "aperitivo" hour: In the early evening, Milanese in their 20s and 30s gather at the bars in town to drink Campari or white wine spritzers; often there is a free antipasto buffet. The bars can be spotted by the people gathered out front, for example in the neighborhood of Porta Ticinese.From there it's only a few meters to the Navigli, two small channels on whose banks countless restaurants offer delicious dinner. If you still have energy, you can plunge into the nightlife around the Porta Ticinese -- or even visit one of the Milanese clubs, like unconventional Plastic or one of the chic clubs in the Parco Sempione behind the Castello.