It's far from the most beautiful city in Italy, but there are few that can match Milan for sheer verve. A huge metropolis, it's not only the country's most cosmopolitan city and cultural leader: beyond the hip bars, clubs and stylish restaurants, Milan also harbours historic buildings befitting a city that's more than 2000 years old.
Milan has four metro lines, plus 12 railway lines stretching out through the metropolitan area. There are also numerous tram lines and buses, making it easy and relatively inexpensive to get around. The Milano Centrale station connects with the hilltop town of Bergamo, as well as Lake Como, Brescia and other nearby hotspots.
Although Milan is dominated by its massive urban sprawl, its historic landmarks are worth seeking out. Il Duomo is a spectacular Gothic cathedral that took six centuries to build, and one of the biggest churches in Italy. The nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is one of the oldest, most glamorous malls you're ever likely to see with its soaring iron-and-glass structure dating back to the 19th century. The Castello Sforzesco is another close-by site of note, reconstructed over an older fortress by the powerful Sforza family. Also, head to the unusual-looking convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie to witness one of art's greatest treasures – The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.
This is from Milan's only piece of spell-binding art; the city is home to some of Italy's best galleries. The Pinacoteca di Brera is perhaps the finest, counting Caravaggio and Mantegna in its collection.
As for green spaces, there aren't exactly an abundance in Milan's centre, but Parco Sempione on the edge of Sforzesco is great for a stroll right in the heart of the city, entered via the neoclassical Arco della Pace, 'arch of peace'. The Indro Montanelli gardens near Porta Venezia are smaller, but also most pleasant.
There are two less-known art galleries that are nevertheless a delight. Starting as the private collection of a wealthy progressive in the 19th century, Museo Poldi Pezzoli houses an extraordinary collection of medieval, Renaissance and later art, largely religious, though the works also deal with the social issues of the Poldi's time. Meanwhile, the more colourful Museo Boschi Di Stefano hosts a collection of modern art from the 20th century in the house-museum of the eponymous collectors.
The Navigli area in the south of Milan is one of the coolest right now thanks to its little bars and restaurants lining the waterways.
Milan's palette has a reputation for being more refined than the rest of Italy, with many fine restaurants catering to well-heeled types. But there's also a wave of hipper eateries cropping up in the city, while Milan's cosmopolitan inhabitants are more used than other Italians to food from far-flung parts of the world. Cotoletta alla milanese, or breaded escalopes of chicken, is the most globally famous dish, but you should also try risotto alla milanese, which is infused with saffron and indulgent amounts of butter. The city abounds with traditional taverns and local restaurants alongside the more stylish locales. Be sure to try negroni sbagliato, which mixes prosecco and gin, in the place in which it was invented supposedly by accident, Bar Basso.