Milan is the commercial and financial center of Italy. Historically, it prospered because of its command of trade routes across the Alps and the plains of the Po Valley. The city can boast of one of Europe’s most spectacular gothic cathedrals, plus a wealth of masterpieces, including “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. La Scala opera house hosted the premieres of Verdi’s “Nabucco” and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and “Turandot.” Most of the famous Italian fashion brands are headquartered in the city.
The Milanese tend to be proudly traditional when it comes to food, prizing Lombardian specialties such as risotto alla Milanese, made with saffron, and cotoletta alla Milanese, a flattened and breaded veal chop often served with a garnish of arugula and cherry tomatoes. But they’ve recently become more gastronomically adventurous.
Lesser-Known da Vinci Masterpiece
Leonardo da Vinci’s ”The Last Supper” is in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, but the Biblioteca Ambrosiana houses the “Portrait of a Musician,” which many scholars believe to be a da Vinci and some consider a self-portrait. The library also contains the “Codex Atlanticus,” a 12-volume set of da Vinci’s drawings and writings on subjects as diverse as flying machines, weaponry and musical instruments.
Pastry with a View
The historic Pasticceria Marchesi opened its newest of three Milan locations on the mezzanine level of the iconic Galleria, above the Prada store, with splendid views of the historic arcade from its arched windows. It’s a stylish spot to refresh yourself in between shopping excursions.
Grand Trompe L'Oeil
The 15th-century Santa Maria presso San Satiro itself is small, but the interior seems much larger as a result of the extraordinary architectural perspective created by Bramante in the choir behind the main altar. This optical illusion is regarded as one of the first, and most remarkable, uses of trompe l’oeil in the history of art.
If the luxurious grocery stores in many European cities have become tourist haunts — Fauchon and Hediard in Paris, and Fortnum & Mason in London come to mind — Peck in Milan is still frequented by discriminating Milanese. They come for its outstanding prepared food, exceptional cheese and charcuterie counters, and a small but excellent wine department. Ristorante al Peck is a very fine choice for lunch (closed Monday).