Milan: A pocket guide
In spite of its attractions, Milan has always been one of those cities visited on the way to somewhere else, usually a stopover for tourists en route to Venice or Florence, or for business travelers. But its own attractions are staggeringly impressive, starting with its duomo: One of the mightiest Gothic buildings ever erected, it has roused the wonder of visitors for centuries, starting with Chaucer. (Fun fact: A cross suspended above the altar allegedly contains the bit of Emperor Constantine’s horse, made from a piece of the cross; it is lowered once a year to the floor by a machine made by Leonardo da Vinci.) Other mandatory sights are the fabled opera house La Scala, with its incredible museum and costume displays; Leonardo’s Last Supper; the medieval Castello Sforzesco; and the Ambrosiana Library, which contains among its treasures a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s hair (Lord Byron tried to steal a strand, and after that, it was put into a reliquary) and a crystal box with original designs, sketches, and writings of Leonardo.
The Via Montenapoleone, in the center of Milan’s fashion district, is known for people-watching and chic shopping, and the Brera district around the fabulous Pinacoteca Gallery is a legendary artistic and creative center. Milan is also famous for its cuisine: The heart of the Lombardy region, it is the home of risotto; risotto made with chicken broth, butter, saffron, and parmesan is Milanese specialty.