Milan is Italy’s city of the future, a fast-paced metropolis where creativity is big business, looking good is compulsory and after-work drinks are an art form.
A Modern Miracle
Since Leonardo da Vinci broke all the rules in his stunning Last Supper, the indefatigably inventive Milanese seem to have skipped straight from the Renaissance to the 21st-century. Not only is Milan a treasure trove of 20th-century art, but art deco and rationalist architecture abound. Today the city leads the way with the largest post-war re-development in Italy, impressive, sustainable architecture and a futuristic skyline modelled by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and César Pelli. And there’s more to come with ambitious plans to mould the city into a hi-tech hub, home to the likes of Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Apple.
Ruled by the Caesars, Napoleon, the Austro-Hungarians and Mussolini, Milan has an ancient and fascinating cultural history. Mercantile Milan invented the idea of the city-state and the Edict of Milan (AD 313) ended the persecution of Christians. Art collections old and new mark the genius of Old Masters and provoke new conversations about where the world is headed. Prestigious nights at La Scala and an illustrious literary heritage are balanced by a diverse contemporary music and publishing scene. In short, Milan is so much more than the puritanically work-obsessed city it is often portrayed as.
Cucina povera (peasant cooking) may be the cry of the south, but Milanese cuisine is a product of a rich urban culture. Just note the golden hue of its quintessential dishes: cotoletta (burnished, buttery veal) and saffron risotto. It was in powerful commercial cities such as Milan that Italy’s great cuisine was born, marrying Mediterranean fruits, spices and herbs with cooking methods, pastry techniques and eating styles from France and central Europe. Even today Milan continues to push Italy’s culinary boundaries, making sushi and dim sum their own, and holding the second highest number of Michelin stars in the country.
Living By Design
Though Italian design is world renowned, its roots lie in 1930s Milan and seeing it in a home context offers fresh appreciation. A visit to the Design Museum is a wonderful way to pay homage to the work of Italy’s best and brightest. In addition, Milan is home to all the major design showrooms and an endless round of trade fairs. And it’s not just insiders who have all the fun. Milanese fashion houses have branched out into spas, bars, hotels, galleries and restaurants. So, why not join them for a touch of la vita moda (the stylish life).
Home to many of the world’s greatest works of art, architecture and gastronomy, Italy elates, inspires and moves like no other.
It might look like a boot, but food-obsessed Italy feels more like a decadently stuffed Christmas stocking. From delicate tagliatelle al ragù to velvety cannoli, every bite can feel like a revelation. The secret: superlative ingredients and finely tuned know-how. And while Italy’s culinary soul might prefer simplicity, it’s equally ingenious and sophisticated. Expect some of the world’s top fine-dining destinations, from San Pellegrino ‘World’s Best 50’ hotspots to Michelin-starred musts. So whether you’re on a degustation odyssey in Modena, truffle hunting in Piedmont or swilling powerhouse reds in the Valpolicella wine region, prepare to loosen that belt.
Italy’s fortes extend beyond its galleries, wardrobes and dining rooms. The country is one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, with extraordinary natural diversity matched by few. From the north’s icy Alps and glacial lakes to the south’s fiery craters and turquoise grottoes, this is a place for doing as well as seeing. One day you’re tearing down Courmayeur’s powdery slopes, the next you could be galloping across the marshes of the Maremma, or diving in coral-studded Campanian waters. Not bad for a country not much bigger than Arizona.
In few places do art and life intermingle so effortlessly. This may be the land of Dante, Titian and Verdi, but it’s also the home of Prada, Massimo Bottura and Renzo Piano. Beauty, style and flair furnish every aspect of daily life, from those immaculately knotted ties and seamless espressos to the flirtatious smiles of striking strangers. The root of Italian psychology is a dedication to living life well, and effortless as it may seem, driving that dedication is a reverence for the finer things. So slow down, style up and indulge in a little vita all’italiana (life, Italian style).
Epicentre of the Roman Empire and birthplace of the Renaissance, this European virtuoso groans under the weight of its cultural cachet: it’s here that you’ll stand in the presence of Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel frescoes, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera and da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In fact, Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Should you walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in Pompeii, revel in Ravenna’s glittering Byzantine treasures or get breathless over Giotto’s revolutionary frescoes in Padua? It’s a cultural conundrum as thrilling as it is overwhelming.