The black clouds may have cleared for the time being but fears of a wet spring can quickly send wandering minds drifting off to sunny Mediterranean coasts and crystal alpine getaways. In the midst of the rain last month here at Your Coffee Break we looked at what the classy French coastal town of Nice had to offer those in search of an escape from these soggy isles. What we found were glorious beaches, a rich cuisine and vibrant nightlife. With the wide selection of airlines that now operate across Europe and discount sites like Voucherbox UK, these luxurious mini-breaks can be easily booked and reasonably justified at no great cost. So of course, why would we stop with Nice!
Hopping just over the border into The Boot (or is that ‘La Scarpone’?), we made our way down to Milan, fashion capital of Italy and possibly the most glamorous city in Europe. Milan’s infamous Via Monte Napoleone renders even Paris’s Faubourg Saint-Honoré or London’s Regent Street bland and slightly dowdy in comparison. In Milan’s ‘rectangle of fashion’ shopaholics can visit Gucci’s flagship store as well the Giorgio Armani superstore. At the other end of the rectangle stands the latter’s new hotel where after shopping (‘window’ or otherwise) you can pop into for a cool margarita or glass of dry Verdicchio. Milan is aptly called ‘The Drinkable City’ and so if Armani isn’t your drinking partner of choice there are plenty of other spots to choose from, including the Four Seasons Hotel which is located in the same district.
Art and Architecture
Beyond being at the kernel of Italy’s fashion scene, Milan also has the canals of Venice and the art of Florence. The former may not be as prevalent as they are in La Serenissima but they are certainly as spectacular. In booking a canal tour you will be able to tick of some sites as you are taken past the ancient washhouses of Vicolo dei Lavandai, to the old Darsena port as well as under the Scodellino Bridge.
Like most Italian cities Milan is creaking with breathtaking art, including perhaps the second most famous painting in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, to be found in Santa Maria della Grazie. Milan also plays host to the Duomo, the third largest church in Christendom. The Duomo is as foreboding as it is beautiful, with 3,500 statues, 135 spires and four brass doors each carved by a different artist. Having taken 500 years to complete building work still goes on at the Duomo.
However beyond handbags and renaissance art, what has been quickly rising up the ‘must see’ list in Milan is Leoncavallo. What some term a squat (the place calls itself a spazio pubblico autogestito, ‘self-managed public space’) has become a vibrant hub of art and grass-root politics. With its provocative graffiti and semi-legal status, Leoncavallo is a place you would perhaps expect to find in a dark corner of Elephant & Castle or Kreuzberg, Berlin, but not in the Fashion Capital of the World. However, in staging theatre, gigs and political debate, Leoncavallo injects a little controversy into Milan, and shows that there is still the chance of being surprised in the Boot.