Susan Hegarty 26 February 2009
Milan, the industrial heart and powerhouse of Italy can sometimes be over looked as a city break destination with people opting instead for more obvious Italian cities like Rome, Venice and Florence.

To say that I was blown away by Milan would be an understatement. I spent 2 nights there and it simply wasn’t long enough to experience all this city has to offer. To keep the cost of accommodation down we stayed in The Antares Rubens Hotel, a few minutes from the city centre we used the excellent and cheap public transport to get around. This hotel was a perfect base and ideal for our needs.

On the top of our sightseeing list was the Last Supper painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is essential to pre-book this due to its popularity and we were blown away by it. The painting is so realistic that you can almost feel the emotions of the disciples being portrayed.

Next on our list was the amazing Duomo. The third largest church in the world and having taken 500 years to complete it is a sight to behold with its 3,500 statues and 135 spires. A climb to the roof is a must where we saw all of Milan laid out before us, we were lucky to go on a clear day where we could see the snow covered Alps in the distance.

For people watching there is no better place than the magnificent glass roofed arcade of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Opened in 1867 it is a masterpiece of glass and mosaics and it is the place to be seen, it’s where the wealthy fashionable locals hang out and the style is a sight to behold!

The Rectangle of Gold is where the famous Milan boutiques are located, Armani, Prada and Versace to name a few. For people with a more conservative budget there are many outlet stores that offer discounts of between 50-70%. Milan is also famous for its flea markets where every imaginable item is sold. There markets are very popular with locals and tourists alike where many bargains are to be had with some markets pulling in crowds of 150,000 people!

Art and museum lovers are spoilt for choice in Milan with the famous La Scala Opera being another big attraction.

Football fans will be in their element at the San Siro Stadium where you can take tours and view the museum.

Night owls are well catered for with a large selection of trendy bars and nightclubs, a lot of which have happy hours with DJ’s and free platters of food including oysters and smoked salmon.

If you travel to Milan during the summer the man-made lake Idroscalo is a welcome break from the hot busy city. Located on eight square kilometres of forest and parkland it offers beach clubs, barbecue facilities and two open-air swimming pool. With a six kilometre cycling and hiking path around the lake it’s an ideal spot for families and has swings, climbing frames, jungle gyms and skate board ramps to keep the children amused.

Milan is also an ideal base for seeing the surrounding areas with a host of day trips possible including trips to Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Como as well as Genoa, gorgeous Portofino and the marvellous seaside towns of Cinque Terre.

For those who have always wanted to see Switzerland hop on The Bernina Express that will take you on one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world passing gorges and glaciers and ending up in the exclusive resort of St Moritz.