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Italy's most stylish city is going green for 2015
Italy’s industrial capital is getting green. The work-driven finance and fashion capital has been chosen to host Expo 2015, the international exhibition whose theme will be Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. With design always top of mind, forward-thinking city planners are taking the opportunity to give Milan a makeover that should ultimately render it less smoggy and hopefully more tourist-friendly.
Much of Expo will be displayed around Milan’s convention centre (called Milano Congressi or MiCo), where most medical conferences are held, on the Fiera Milano fairgrounds just outside Milan. But changes will be visible in the city centre as well. City Life (city-life.it), a new neighbourhood still under construction will feature three futuristic complexes, condos, parks, waterways and a museum.
A new metro line is being built and BikeMi (bikemi.com) bike-sharing stalls are up all over the city. You must register for the programme in advance, and the bikes can only be borrowed for two-hour slots, but you can pay for a day or week. The best part for visitors: new traffic regulations now discourage cars from entering the city during weekdays.
The streets that fan out from the Piazza del Duomo are perfect for a bike tour on an afternoon off, but around dusk, it’s time to give in to that Italian evening ritual called the passeggiata (the stroll). Alone or arm-in-arm, take in the architecture of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, stop at a caffè, then do some window shopping around the high-end Via Montenapoleone.
You’ll want to spend an evening exploring the now-trendy streets clustered around the Pinacoteca Brera Museusm (28 Via Brera; brera.beniculturali.it), the 17th-century palazzo that houses what’s considered the world's finest northern Italian paintings. Then there’s the romantic Navigli neighbourhood made up of towpaths running alongside the remaining navigli (canals) that once laced the city, much like Venice. Designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, the canals were long neglected until recent preservation efforts.
Today, Navigli has become the city’s most upbeat night-life destination – a perfect setting for that other Italian ritual, the pre-dinner aperitivo: a Campari soda, a non-alcoholic Crodino, an Aperol (Campari’s taste but with less alcohol) or a Negroni (vermouth, gin and Campari). Then dinner. For a taste that’s typical of Milan, look to a plate of risotto. Da Abele (tel: 011-39-02-261-3855; 5 Via Temperanza) is a popular trattoria, where only three varying risotti are offered each night.
No last minute at The Last Supper
While you should book a hotel that’s close to the convention centre through your conference organizers, don’t worry: you’ll be able to go back and forth to the city centre by using the metro.
Most visitors to Milan want to see Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper in the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent (Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie; cenacolovinciano.net) which despite all the best efforts remains in a state of decay. As a result, 25 people are allowed to view the fresco for 15 minutes at a time; before entering, they must pass through a series of devices to remove pollutants from their clothing. Easy enough, right? Not really. You must reserve well in advance.
There are though a number of companies that have bought advance tickets for a small profit: Select Italy (selectitaly.com) and Last Supper Tickets (lastsuppertickets.com) could score you tickets with a few week’s notice. And if you’ve not booked ahead of time, you can always stand in line and hope someone else hasn’t shown up. Remember that in summer, the church will turn scantily-clad visitors away, so make sure you cover your shoulders.
Alternately, tour operator Zani Viaggi (en.zaniviaggi.it), guarantees Last Supper admission as part of their city package.
From the first Renaissance man to running men: soccer fans will be thrilled. Two teams take turns using Milan's San Siro (officially called the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, 5 Via dei Piccolomini) where you can catch a match on pretty much any weekend from September to May. Go to the rival teams sites for tickets: AC Milan (acmilan.com), Inter (inter.it).
Get lazy lakeside
With Italy’s serene and storied lake district less than an hour away by train, it would be a shame to miss seeing Lakes Como (discovercomo.com), Maggiore (illagomaggiore.com) or Switzerland’s Lugano (lugano-tourism.ch). If you have just a day, take a tour the islands and towns around Laggo Maggiore departing from the cities of Stresa or Pallanza-Verbania.
Boat tour company Isole Lago Maggiore (isolelagomaggiore.com) provides both small-group or private excursions of the lake’s historic towns and islands. Trains depart daily from Milan’s Stazione Centrale for Stresa (about an hour and 10 minutes) as well as Pallanza-Verbania (add an extra 10 minutes). If you have a couple of free days, consider visiting both lakes and the cities of Como and Lugano. There are two or three express trains leaving daily from Milan’s Stazione Centrale: it takes roughly 30 minutes to reach Como and an hour to Lugano. For train info and bookings, go to trenitalia.com.
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