Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 17, 2022
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Milan chic

The next time you’re conferencing, consider spending a few days in Italy’s coolest city

If you’re contemplating a conference in Milan, you’re in for a treat. Given that it’s positioned amid a string of tempting northern Italian destinations, from Turin and the Lake district, to Verona and Venice, the city is often seen as just a stopover.

But Milan has plenty to offer in its own right. It contains splendid cultural sites — from Leonardo’s Last Supper to Michelangelo’s last sculpture — and you’d be hard-pressed to see them all in 36 hours.

This bustling city is home to many of Italy’s top fashion houses and industrial designers. Not surprisingly, shopping is an art form, and eye-pleasing window displays lure you with presentations of mundane objects like razors or socks.


3pm Destination Duomo

Whether arriving by train at the monumental Central Station or at the convenient Linate Airport, head for the centre of town and the stunning Duomo (cathedral) for a fine first impression. Up among the hundreds of statued Gothic spires is a roof-deck accessible by elevator in one of the largest churches in the world.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II next to the Duomo is a 19th-century shopping mall. But this is no ordinary mall. A soaring glass ceiling spans sculptures, frescoes and inlaid marble flooring. It’s the perfect place to take a ringside seat to indulge in the Milanese pastime of people watching. The bar Zucca (Via Aldo Lusardi; tel: 011-39-02-5832-7185), with its zinc counter and chandelier, is where Gaspari Campari invented his namesake aperitif in the 1890s.

6pm Italian tapas

Happy hour in Milan often includes all-you-can-eat buffets of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres. You can make a meal of the offerings for the price of one drink — and many do. Exploit (3 Via Pioppette; tel: 011-39-02-8940-8675), near the columns of San Lorenzo, one of the few vestiges of ancient Rome still standing, is a popular spot where €6 gets you a drink and a wide variety of nibbles: olives, mini pizzas, chunks of Parmesan cheese and meatballs.

8pm Foodie moment

Then again, with just a couple of nights in the capital of Lombardy, you owe it to yourself to sample some of the famous local dishes. Trattoria Milanese (11 Via Santa Marta; tel: 011-39-02-864-5199) though somewhat touristy, serves a traditional risotto milanese, richly flavoured with bone marrow and saffron, and the perfect dish meant to accompany it — braised veal shank, better known as osso buco.


9am Caffè late

You are never far from a bar in Milan, which is where you go for a fix of caffeine. Whether cappuccino, lattè or a straight-up shot of espresso, the taste beckons to be savoured. The Milanese, however, drink it standing up, quick down the hatch, and get on with their day. Some bars charge a little more for table service. Indulge in that pleasure and have a spremuta (fresh-squeezed juice) and flaky pastry on the side.

10am Fortress of culture

The Castello Sforzesco (Piazza Castello; tel: 011-39-02-8846-3700; towers regally over the centre of town, a monolithic monument begun in the 14th-century as part of the city’s fortifications. A testament to the lavish lifestyle of Milan’s historic ruling class, the grand rooms that overlook multiple courtyards now house the Civic Museums. Don’t miss the ceiling most likely decorated by Leonardo, and the so-called Pietà Rondanini, a statue of the Madonna and Christ that Michelangelo was working on at the time of his death. The Parco Sempione, Milan’s largest park, surrounds the castle and is great for a stroll among the locals.

1pm Feeling Peckish

Italians typically sit down to lunch punctually at one o’clock, which means a mad dash for tables throughout the country. Most restaurants have fixed hours and close between meals, which often doesn’t fit with a traveller’s itinerary. Peck Italian Bar (3 Via Cesare Cantù; tel: 011-39-02-869-3017) stays open all day long. More importantly, it is run by the gastronomic mecca that is Milan’s most famous — and not-to-be-missed — food emporium, Peck.

Just steps from Piazza del Duomo, this casual bistro serves fresh, seasonal fare to loyal locals and in-the-know visitors. You could hold off on dessert and coffee and have them at the café on the second floor of the Peck Food Store (9 Via Spadari; tel: 011-39-02-802-3161; around the corner. The store will ship products around the world and shrink-wrap blocks of Parmiggiano to stash in your suitcase.

3pm Shop It

Time to shop. Pass the Duomo again, this time stopping at Rinascente (Piazza del Duomo; tel: 011-39-02-885-2471;, an upscale department store, which recently added designer goods ranging from paperclips to dishes, lighting and luggage.

Stroll the pedestrian Corso Vittorio Emanuele II towards Piazza San Babila, the entrance point to the so-called “Golden Rectangle” where fashion’s biggest names line the chic cobblestone streets. It’s a heady experience with models coming and going and surprisingly, some bargains can be found amidst the offerings of Armani, Prada, Missoni and Dolce & Gabbana.

D Magazine Outlet (6 Via Montenapoleone; tel: 011-39-02-7600-6027) sells the previous year’s designer collections at half-price or less. The diminutive and aptly named Basement (15 Via Senato; tel: 011-39-02-7631-7913) also deals in discounted designer wear.

For a break from all the retail therapy, duck into Pasticceria Cova (8 Via Montenapoleone; tel: 039-02-7600-5599), a jewel-box tea room where they serve one of the finest examples of Milan’s Christmas fruitcake, the light, citrus-scented panettone, available from November through February.

8pm loving la traviata

If you haven’t prebooked seats at La Scala (2 Via Filodrammatici; tel: 011-39-02-860-775;, the famous opera house, head for an equally atmospheric evening in Milan’s canal district, or Navigli. This landlocked city is connected to the Adriatic Sea thanks to some crafty engineering by Leonardo da Vinci. Today, the two canals are the focal point for countless trattorias, nightclubs and bars. The last Sunday of the month hosts a huge flea market.


10am Da Vinci Mode

Besides the opera, the other attraction worth making reservations for here is The Last Supper (tel: 011-39-02-8942-1146;; adults €6.50), Da Vinci’s miraculous and luminously restored fresco at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Admittance is restricted to just 25 people every 15 minutes. However, tour companies, such as Zani Viaggi (tel: 011-39-02-867-131; can sometimes fit last-minute guests on tours of the painting, albeit for €50 per person.

1pm Footie Fever

For fans of the beautiful game, a trip to Milan would not be complete without a pilgrimage to the mighty San Siro Soccer Stadium (5 Via Piccolomini; tel: 011-39-02-4871-3713;, home field to both of the city’s teams, AC Milan and Inter. A concierge at a better hotel should be able to find tickets for the 80,000-seat stadium. In a country passionate about soccer, those not so inclined enjoy another kind of ritual — a quiet Sunday afternoon passegiatta, or stroll, gelato in hand, and casual window shopping.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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