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Ten Things to Do during a Weekend in Milan

Elegant, chaotic and beguiling by turn, Milan is stuffed full of ancient monuments, sophisticated shops and world-class museums and galleries. Here are the ten best things to do during a weekend in Milan. The perfect size for a short city break, Milan has an excellent, integrated public transport system – the best time to travel is in the middle of the day after rush hour – and most of her major sights are within easy walking distance of each other. First stop on Saturday should be the centro storico where most of the popular sights are found, including the Duomo, the majestic Gothic cathedral adorned with 135 spires and 2,245 statues; this magnificent structure was begun in 1386 but not finished until 1965. Inside, the floors are of complex patterned marble and its five aisles are dotted with Renaissance and Baroque tombs and side chapels. If the weather is good, take the elevator (left-hand exterior wall of the cathedral) up to the roof for unrivalled views over Milan to the Alps. Then head to the Museo del Duomo in the Palazzo Reale, just right of the Duomo, where treasures from the cathedral are displayed in chronological order. Darkened rooms full of carved stone angels compete for attention with Renaissance sculptures of the Madonna, bejeweled crucifixes and tapestries; there’s a cluster of ugly gargoyles and lovely 15th-century stained-glass as well as wooden models of the cathedral. From there, walk across the Piazza Duomo to the glorious Art Nouveau Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to discover the upmarket stores, including Prada, Gucci, Tod’s and Swarovski, and bag a table for traditional Milanese pasta and risotto dishes at glamorous Zucca – all glittering frescoes, wood panels and marble counters – for a late lunch. In the afternoon visit Milan’s best art collection, the Pincoteca di Brera, for a romp through Italian art from medieval to Surrealism, via elaborate Renaissance altarpieces, Baroque works, Mannerism and the Italian Impressionists. Masterpieces include Cristo Morto by Andrea Mantegna (1480); Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin (1504); and Caravaggio’s somber Supper at Emmaus (1601). Recent work includes pieces by sculptor Marino Marini and Amedeo Modigliani. Next, nip down the road to explore hallowed network of shopping streets in the Quad d’Oro, Italy’s premier designer shopping area. If it’s YSL, Chanel, or Versace you’re after, this is the place to be. Don’t miss the lovely antique glassware at Vetrerie di Empoli and do stop off for an espresso at Gran Caffè Cova (both on Via Montenapoleone). By night opera fans should dress up for the plush seats and incredible acoustics of La Scala – but remember to book tickets online way in advance. On Sunday dive into some of Milan’s historic churches: try Sant’Eustorgio for its multicolored 15th-century Cappella Portinari; San Lorenzo Maggiore for the Corinthian columns standing proudly outside and the fragments of gold mosaic inside; or (book in advance) pay a visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s controversial Cenacolo Vinciano (The Last Supper) in Santa Maria della Grazie. Buy lunch in the delicious gourmet deli Peck in Via Spadari and walk up to the tree-lined avenues of Parco Sempione to enjoy a family-friendly picnic before diving in to the museums in Castello Sforzesco; the best is undoubtedly the Museo d’Arte Antica, where highlights include Michelangelo’s unfinished but moving Rondanini Pietà. In the evening, stroll the buzzing cobbled streets of Brera for Milan’s nightly passeggiata and find a table in one of the many trattorie of Via Fiori Chiari. **Written by Sasha Heseltine

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