Three Perfect Days: Milan
Story by Clodagh Kinsella | Photography by Susan Wright | Hemispheres, September 2014
Italy's financial hub may not have the historical flourishes of cities like Rome, Venice and Florence, but scratch its famously stylish surface and you'll find a wealth of world-class art, architecture and design
Moneyed, modern and relentlessly chic, Milan can seem a little un-Italian to the first-time visitor. Large swaths of the city were rebuilt after World War II, so it lacks the sheer concentration of historical landmarks found in other Italian destinations. As a local saying has it: “Rome is a voluptuous woman whose gifts are very apparent, while Milan is the shy, demure girl whose treasures are plentiful but discovered in time."
“Shy" might be pushing it, but Milan's businesslike facade does mask a rich past. Founded in 400 B.C., this former capital of the Western Roman Empire has been reshaped by a procession of rulers, from the Viscontis, beginning in the 13th century, to Mussolini in the 20th—influences marked by the Gothic spires of the Duomo and the blunt Rationalism of the Triennale. You'll find many beautiful architectural landmarks as you make your way around Milan—if you can drag your eyes away from the beautiful people.
Mostly, of course, Milan is celebrated for its style—its fashion weeks showcasing storied labels like Armani and Prada, and the Salone del Mobile furniture fair. As one of the “big four" fashion capitals, Milan boasts unrivaled luxury shopping in plush enclaves like the Quadrilatero della Moda. It's not surprising, then, that this multifaceted city is set to host the 2015 Universal Exposition: technology, culture, creativity and tradition are subjects Milan knows well.
DAY ONE | For centuries, the Virgin Mary atop the Duomo dominated Milan's skyline, but from your suite at Palazzo Parigi, you look out on a new kind of iconography: the high-concept skyscrapers of the Porta Nuova business district. Your hotel goes a more traditional route. Situated in a 17th-century palace, it was transformed over the last five years into an imperial property strewn with antique statuary, elaborate chandeliers and acres of Carrara marble.
Breakfast arrives on wheels. You pick at slivers of exotic fruit and a delicate omelet on your private terrace, and then prepare yourself for a crash course in Milanese design. You've opted to get around today on the back of a slick Garibaldi 71, rented from storied bicycle maker Rossignoli. At the company's Brera store, fifth-generation scion Matia Bonato uses a 20-foot pole to pluck the bike from a lofty ceiling rack. “It's not about strength," he says, “but technique."
A streetcar in artsy Navigli
From here, you judder over cobblestones to Parco Sempione, where you pause to take in the sprawling 15th-century fortification Castello Sforzesco and the 19th-century Arco della Pace. You lock your bike at the foot of Torre Branca, the 350-foot steel-tube viewing tower designed by architect Gio Ponti for the 1933 Triennale. “You know Santa Maria delle Grazie, where they keep 'The Last Supper'?" says the elevator operator on the way up. “My local church."
At the Triennale museum next door, there's more ingenious Italian design on display, including the Olivetti typewriter and the Bialetti stovetop espresso pot. You pay homage to the latter with a coffee overlooking the sculpture garden. Giorgio de Chirico's hypnotic “water-parquet" installation leaves you a little woozy, so you decide to move on to a more utilitarian form of design.
Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni, honoring the inventor of the swooping 1960s “Arco" floor lamp, is less museum than time capsule—its tractor-seat stools, arch-lever files and quirky cutlery left untouched since the designer died in 2002. “I had a terrible childhood," says the designer's daughter, Giovanna, your tour guide. “Because my father loved everyday objects, he always stole my toys." She pulls out a VLM light switch, Castiglioni's ubiquitous design. “He'd carry it around in his pocket. You'd always know where he was by the clicking."
You trade your bike for the metro and emerge in Zona Tortona, a former industrial district that's reinvented itself as a design mecca, home to Armani's head offices and the famous furniture fair. You navigate its narrow, graffitied streets in search of Da Noi In, which is known for its inspired seafood dishes. In a stunning outdoor courtyard, you sample a platter of house-smoked swordfish, tuna and salmon, served with Ligurian olives, followed by aromatic potato gnocchi in a bright basil cream.
Modern designs at the Museo Achille Castiglioni
A postprandial stroll through bohemian Navigli, with its network of canals—the highway system of medieval Milan—makes room for dessert: an apricot gelato from the artisanal chain Grom. From here, you veer north to slow food mall Eataly, where you join shoppers browsing three floors of giant hams, vats of olive oil and chocolate waterfalls, or mainlining piadine flatbread in the eateries along its perimeter. You nurse a prosecco, serenaded by a trio of electric guitarists with gray Afros and a liberal approach to the question of tone.
Next, you stroll down the pedestrian shopping strip Corso Como, emerging into Piazza Gae Aulenti, Porta Nuova's central plaza, which—a plaque informs you—is meant to serve as a contemporary Roman forum. Eyeing the undulating UniCredit Tower, a young man in front of you cries: “I feel nothing!" Judging by the square's many pop-up bars, and the happy chatterers therein, he's in the minority.
An endless elevated walkway deposits you at Ristorante Berton, Friuli-born chef Andrea Berton's sleek testament to restraint. Surrounded by men in thick-rimmed glasses (a Fashion Week hangover), you polish off six first-rate courses, including a dish of baby scallops and licorice that resembles a Yayoi Kusama dot painting. And that, you decide, is enough conceptual flair for one day. You head back to your hotel and the soothing strains of classical piano drifting through the lobby.
The Triennale's kaleidoscopic tower
DAY TWO | Milan's status as a design capital doesn't just rest on skyscrapers and showrooms; its historic monuments were just as innovative in their day. This classical spirit drives you to the iconic Pasticceria Marchesi, which has been serving up pastries since 1824. Following tradition, you settle up first, then wait as an angelic white-haired lady hands you cannoncini—cream-filled puff pastry horns. At the café's tiny bar, women with la Rinascente shopping bags drown out the clink of porcelain, nibbling their confections with a restraint you can't muster.
Sugar level high, you speed-shuffle down Corso Magenta to Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to “The Last Supper," or “Il Cenacolo"—Leonardo da Vinci's depiction of Christ breaking bread and brokering betrayal. Your guide, Alice, who runs Viator's art tour, steers you through the Dominican convent's hidden cloister. You spot a monk in flowing white robes studying a Bible. “They always tell me I should talk less and pray more," says Alice in a respectful whisper.
Hushed reverence seems the apt response as you stand before the painting. Unlike the fresco opposite, Leonardo's work was applied directly onto dry wall, which is the reason for its fragility (and your 15-minute viewing slot), but also for its celebrated vividness. You note how light from the refectory windows suffuses the painting's edge, seeming to expand the room's dimensions. Alice nods and says, “It's the Renaissance doing 3-D."
Art and religion also intersect at San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, whose low-key exterior belies the splendor inside: a seamless patchwork of luminous 16th-century devotional paintings. Next, you make your way to the dazzling Santa Maria presso San Satiro, off Via Torino, whose sole devotee is a businessman, head bowed, a briefcase at his feet. Your final stop on the tour is San Giovanni in Conca, Milan's last remaining Romanesque crypt, surreally hidden beneath the traffic-clogged Piazza Missori.
Personal shopper Melanie Payge
La Latteria, on Via San Marco, is equally overlooked by guidebooks. Old milk stores of its kind are dying out, but the blue-tiled, eight-table joint—covered in pictures of flowers—overflows. “Congratulations," booms a regular as you take your seat. “You've found Milan's last authentic restaurant!" You try the signature Crudaiola All Arturo Con Burgul, an assortment of market-fresh vegetables with glugs of olive oil and bulgur wheat, and follow it up with ice cream and stewed apples. Given the no-reservations policy, newcomers rush your table as you exit.
As you approach the second hotel of your stay, the Bulgari, you are overtaken by brash supercars racing up its private lane. Beyond the hotel gates, though, you find verdant grounds adjoining the city's Orto Botanico and interiors of oak, bronze and matte black marble. Bulgari's first foray into the hotel field is a surprisingly calming space—not least its plush basement spa, where you enjoy an hour-long massage before dipping into the golden, mosaic-lined pool.
Italians are known for their ability to take it easy, and there's no better example of this impulse than the Duomo. The cathedral, characterized by a mish-mash of styles and influences, took nearly six centuries to complete (locals call it their “never-ending story"). On the roof, amid a forest of spires, you are treated to a view of Milan's equally eclectic skyline, dominated by the Modernist monolith the Pirelli Tower and the bulging, buttressed Torre Velasca, famous for taking Brutalist architecture to new heights.
You see pigeons dive-bombing shoppers as you enter the crucifix-shaped Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which opened in 1867 and is said to be the world's oldest mall. Campari was invented below the mall's glass-vaulted roof, so you order the carmine-colored beverage at Camparino in Galleria, which sets you up for a whirlwind perusal of the futurist art in Museo del Novocento, a quick totter across Piazza del Duomo.
Dinner is at the colorful Giacomo Arengario, located at the top of the museum's Guggenheim-like spiral ramp. You have seared tuna steak served with umami-rich asparagus parmigiano, which you munch while taking in an epic close-up view of the Duomo. Back outside, you are surprised to find yourself alone, gazing up at the astonishingly dense concentration of spires. Happy voices lure you back toward the terrace bars lining the shopping arcade. There's time for one more Campari before bed.
The elegant interior of La Scala
DAY THREE | You wake on soft cotton sheets in your handsome suite, pad over to the spacious walk-in closet and pluck today's outfit from impressively heavy oak hangers. Suitably attired, you head to the Armani Hotel's Bamboo Bar, with its louvered windows looking over the city's rooftops and women in crisp white shirts downing espressos. Milan may be fashion-obsessed, but food still counts: You kick off your day with slices of robust Culatello di Zibello, the king of Italian cured hams, alongside artisanal rolls and a brut prosecco.
You have more style-watching in store today, much of it overseen by personal shopper Melanie Payge, whose clients have included the royal family of Monaco. You start your journey on chic Via Manzoni, passing a lady in precipitous heels walking four dogs. In two seconds flat, your guide identifies the brand of your sweater (Jil Sander) and then deconstructs a man sporting the classic Milanese look of navy blazer, beige pants and loafers: “Larusmiani," she says, referring to the oldest luxury tailor on the luxe Via Montenapoleone. “That's where they all go."
You enter Gianluca Saitto's Brera boutique to a flurry of baci. “He's the new Armani," whispers Melanie as you explore an array of medieval-style tunics and rock 'n' roll jackets. Roberto Musso's hand-painted Como-silk dresses and Massimo Izzo's baroque aquatic jewelry are just as exclusive. Izzo, a brooding Sicilian, fits a weighty, double-finger seahorse ring onto your hand, and it feels like long-lost treasure dredged from the ocean floor.
Federico Sangalli's Piazza San Babila atelier transports you to the age of haute couture. Here, rows of elderly seamstresses work on pedal-operated machines, using 1950s techniques to create handcrafted clothing for Milanese society ladies. “When I took over the family business, we had perfect technique but an old language," says Sangalli. Then he cuts the lights to demonstrate his latest sartorial innovation: a fiber-optic, glow-in-the-dark silk gown. “When I saw the fabric," he recalls dreamily, “I said, 'I must create a dress.'"
Shoppers in front of a Gucci store on Via Montenapoleone
Your next stop is Melanie's favorite lunch spot, Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone, which occupies the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum's neo-Renaissance courtyard. Gilded youths swap gossip over homemade pasta—for which the restaurant and delicatessen justifiably are famed—while the owner smokes a fat cigar on the sidelines. Transfixed, you consume a generous plate of spinach and ricotta tortellini with butter and sage. Like the venue's supermodel clientele, it's beautifully sleek and light.
You continue your immersion in the good life at Villa Necchi Campiglio, a 1930s residence designed by Piero Portaluppi that now serves as a shrine to the decorative arts. You wander through a series of sublime rooms bedecked in walnut parquet, rosewood and lapis lazuli, their progressive Art Deco lines softened by 19th-century interiors. There is something dreamlike about the place, and you drift around blissfully unaware that you're running short on time for your last stop of the night.
It seems fitting that you'd end your stay in Milan at the iconic Teatro alla Scala—La Scala—the spiritual home of opera, Italy's defining art. The exquisite neoclassical theater opened in 1778 with a performance by Antonio Salieri. Tonight, you'll be seeing “Così fan tutte" by Mozart, the composer who drove Salieri into a downward spiral of pathological jealousy.
The Palazzo Parigi hotel, which occupies a 17th-century palace
There's little time for dinner before the show, but the Italians have elevated the aperitivo into a compelling substitute—not least at the Bulgari. You sip the hotel's gin- and Aperol-laced namesake cocktail at a secluded garden table, while demolishing a tray of salty focaccia, rich almonds, golfball-size mozzarella bocconcini and prosciutto piadine. That's the body taken care of—now for the soul.
Upon entering La Scala, Stendhal is said to have succumbed to the syndrome named for him—the lavish gilt-and-crimson décor overwhelming his emotions so thoroughly he had a breakdown. While you don't swoon with appreciation at the sight of the theater, it is impressive, more so when the music swirls around the room. Soon, though, you find your attention flitting between the lovers on stage and the mise-en-scène of Milanese socialites at play, unsure which is the more compelling.
Keyed up by the opera and the sudden roar of scooters radiating from La Scala's steps, you walk a hundred yards to the still-lit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You're intending to make a final sweep of its elegant naves (and maybe satisfy your newfound Campari itch) but instead stop at the entrance, distracted by two workmen buffing its façade. The curtain has fallen at La Scala, but Milan is already prepping for tomorrow's show.
Antwerp-based writer Clodagh Kinsella has decided to rethink her wardrobe since returning from Milan.
This article was written by Clodagh Kinsella from Rhapsody Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.
Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.
Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.
What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.
However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…
City Hall, Toronto
The checklist sites
No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.
The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.
Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.
Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.
In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.
Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.
Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.
St. Lawrence Market
Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.
Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.
The bucket list
You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.
Explore like a local
Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.
When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.
Toronto skyline view
Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.
Toronto Blue Jay stadium
Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.
Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.
For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).
The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.
How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.
How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.
United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.
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Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.