Rebecca Underwood Discovers Milan

Rebecca Underwood Discovers Milan

For those considering a city break and perhaps yearning for a touch of romance, glitz and glamour, Milan offers visitors a rich tapestry of history and culture and a glimpse into the dazzling Italian fashion and design industries. Capital of the Lombardy region and the second largest Italian city, Milan, founded by the Celtic Insubres, became the centre of the Western Roman Empire.

Today, Milan is the centre of industrial, commercial and financial activity, home to Italy’s stock exchange, major national banks and companies and is recognised around the world as the fashion and design capital of Italy. The city has much to offer and continues to attract millions of visitors from around the world.

I headed for the major attractions including the Duomo di Milano, an imposing marble Gothic cathedral, dating back to 1386. The towering spires and the facade are adorned with 3,400 ornate sculptures and demand the viewer’s undivided attention. It is absolutely stunning.

To the right of the cathedral’s spectacular facade stands the Royal Palace of Milan. Once the seat of Milan’s government, the building is now a cultural centre and also houses the impressive Museum of the Palace. The extensive array of exhibits guides the visitor through the Neoclassical and Napoleonic eras onto the Restoration period and finally the unification of Italy.

The refectory of the Santa Maria del Grazie is where Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece depicting the Last Supper is displayed. I was mesmerised. Painted on the north wall between 1494 and 1498 it is a magnificent example of da Vinci’s genius. On the opposite wall is the fresco of The Crucifixion by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano dating back to 1495 and it is a simply astounding piece.

Milan attracts art lovers from all over the world and is home to an extensive selection of art museums including the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, which is located in the centre of the city and displays the private collection of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli. Exhibits include the works of a large number of prominent Italian artists including Lorenzo Bartolini, Canaletto and Caselli. Botticelli’s masterpiece, Lamentation over the Dead Christ with Saints, dated 1490 to 1495, is one of the many treasures.

For those of us who love the grandeur of the opera or the grace of the ballet, the stunning opulence of La Scala is unforgettable. This world-renowned theatre opened in 1778 and it is well known that the composer Giuseppe Verdi conducted his Requiem there on 25 May 1874 and his opera Otello was premiered in 1886. The appreciation of the audience then and now remains unchanged. Elegant ladies in glittering dresses escorted by gentleman wearing their finest attire fill the auditorium, waiting for the plush red velvet stage curtains to part and the show to begin. The atmosphere reflects the anticipation of a spectacular performance in surroundings befitting the talent of those on the stage.

Located within walking distance to La Scala and in the heart of the high end fashion district, a short stroll from a plethora of enticing boutiques including Prada, Armani, Byblos, Valentino, Emilio Pucci and Fendi stands a first class hotel. The Four Seasons, located on Via Gesù, off the Via Montenapoleone, offers guests the highest standards of comfort and an unrivalled service. The property was once a convent dating back to 1428 and touches of the character of the original building remain intact including remnants of a colourful mural in the main lounge, a number of arches and a stunning cloistered and landscaped courtyard. Accommodations are luxurious and spacious with every comfort demanded by the discerning guest. Plump down pillows, soft linens and a tranquil atmosphere ensures a deep and invigorating slumber. I opted for the exquisitely furnished Designer Suite; 109 square metres of absolute luxury with a full marble bathroom plus a guest powder room with a spacious shower.

Italy Milano Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Milano, piazza Duomo.

For those who seek to be pampered, the hotel facilities include an impressive spa with a wide range of body therapies including massage, facial and nail treatments and a fitness room with weight lifting and stretching areas and a beautiful indoor swimming pool, which is just perfect for a few leisurely laps after a strenuous day of shopping and sightseeing. Or you may prefer to relax in Il Foyer, the hotel’s luxurious lounge.

A collection of sketches, made for La Scala, by the renowned opera set designer and costumer Filippo Peroni, adorn the walls. A delightful afternoon tea is served and features 29 different types of tea. And for an exceptional dining experience, consider the contemporary, light and spacious La Veranda, located on the ground floor, which presents a first class menu of succulent dishes. Sample the seared wild sea bass filet with zucchini, sweet cherry tomatoes and black olives; perfectly accompanied by a glass or two of the Sicilian Favinia ‘La Muciara’ Firriato 2011. And for an unforgettable desert, try the Venetian style tiramisu with a cool glass of Moscato d’Asti Pio Cesare 2012.

For those who wish to venture further afield head for Il Baretto at the Baglioni located on Via Senato. This is a more traditional style of restaurant, plush surroundings, excellent service and a fine menu. Consider the delicious risotto a la Milanese with osso bucco, a succulent veal shank served with saffron risotto; perfectly accompanied by a glass or two of Ca’ del Bosco Curtefranca Rosso 2009. And savour the cialda con zabaione, a crispy basket of fruit with an Italian custard desert and mixed berries; ideally accompanied by a glass of Sicilian Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2010.

Be sure to visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls and is crammed with all sorts of goodies covering four storeys. If those shopping bags are weighing you down, stop off for a light snack at the Park Hyatt’s La Cupola, located on Via Tommaso Grossi, will suffice. Sink into a plump chair under the glass dome and admire the classical architecture. Order a delicious club sandwich and a frothy cappuccino and you will experience la dolce vita of Milan.

Images of Milan courtesy
Accommodation images courtesy of Four Seasons.