Milan’s Cosmopolitan Charms


Clients planning a trip to Italy often think of Rome, Venice and Florence. Not always Milan. Which is a shame, as Italy’s second-largest city has a personality all of its own.

Known as the fashion and business capital of Italy, Milan's tidy streets are populated by immaculately-dressed business people, phones in hand as they head to their next appointment.  Even the tourists seem a cut above: I don’t think I saw a single back-pack during my three days there recently.

And I found the rivalry between the Milanese and the Romans very entertaining.  As we were told, the Romans think the Milanese are uptight and business-obsessed, while Milanese peg their southern compatriots as lazy and unambitious. And we thought there was competition between Toronto and Montreal!

The Last Supper
The Last Supper

When it comes to sightseeing, Milan has its “Big Three”: the beloved Last Supper painting, in a downtown convent; the renowned La Scala Opera House; and the massive cathedral, the Duomo.  The city’s crown jewel, the Duomo, took 600 years to complete and features over 3,000 statues and carvings. Tours, including a walk on the roof (accessed by an elevator up and stone spiral staircase down), are very popular. Advanced, timed ticketing is strongly recommended.

Not surprisingly, the shopping in Milan is first class, with the best in luxury brands widely available. One must-see, located just off the Duomo square, is the elegant Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria mall. It’s 150 years old and features stunning high ceilings, ornate iron work and detailed inlaid stone floors. Japanese tourists and local fashionistas stride past Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior and other high-end stores, perhaps enroute to the mall’s Caffe Biffi, founded in 1867 and still the spot for sophisticated Milanese to meet.

Vittorio Emanuele mall in Milan
Vittorio Emanuele mall

When it comes to accommodation, a great pick for clients is the ME, part of the stylish Spanish Melia hotel chain. A 10-minute taxi ride from the train station and pleasant 15-minute walk from the Duomo, it’s got a great location adjacent to a pleasant, leafy square. As well as the welcoming terrace bar by the main entrance (doubly charming in the evening when fairly lights twinkle in the trees) there’s the STK steakhouse for serious carnivores, and a rooftop bar/resto called Radio for a great selection at breakfast-time. Come evening, Radio, with its divine terrace, is the perfect destination for chic aperitivos.

The 132 classy hotel rooms at ME are contemporary in style with very spacious marble-clad bathrooms and twice-daily housekeeping service.

Best of all were the staff, hand-picked for their enthusiasm, friendliness and willingness to be of assistance (including pouring a welcomed glass of complimentary Prosecco in the off-lobby library, the perfect pick-me-up after a long day of sightseeing).

Getting around Milan’s city centre is easy with many stores, restos, and main attractions within walking distance of the ME.  The Metro (€2.20 per ride) is easy to navigate, features English signage, is clean and certainly felt safe. And there are frequent trains between Rome and Milan, taking about 3 hours.

Martha Chapman


A contributor to Open Jaw since 2006 - and known to all in the business - Martha has worked in the travel industry all of her career and covers events, destinations, personalities and issues in the travel world.

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