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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Milan

This is a city full of iconic must-sees, but there are also some hidden gems and lesser-known spots just waiting to be discovered, says Amanda Robinson

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Like all large metropolitan cities, Milan sets a busy pace. A centre for international business and at the cutting edge of haute couture and design, this city has purpose. Driving through Milan, you can see this all around you. This is a commercial hub, a mecca for fashionistas, with much sleek new investment and expansion, and yes, you can sense the vibrant atmosphere of the city as you move around it. But what about the life that goes on alongside all this hustle and bustle? What is actually going on behind those elegant façades and wrought-iron gates? I was hoping to find out. I was in Milan for a weekend in the company of a hometown girl; her shining enthusiasm for returning to her native city was certainly infectious, and under her guidance I hoped to discover more than a visitor normally would about this northern capital.

As we sped along Milan’s gracious, wide avenues to our hotel, I couldn’t help but notice that they were lined with grey stone buildings that had the unmistakable look of 19th-century Paris; at the corners of some of these long terraces were pavement bistros and relaxed alfresco customers. The many wrought-iron balconies and gates were delicate and attractive, and as I glanced upward (if there is one thing you should always do when you go to Milan, it is look up), rooftops and windowboxes were positively spilling over with green planting of every dimension. It’s an extraordinary sight wherever you go in this city – and, if you get the chance, do visit Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), two apartment blocks in the Porta Nuova planted with more than 900 trees. Back to the French connection, and it transpires that my hunch was right: when Napoleon invaded Italy, it was his intention to set up a brand-new capital for his newly conquered kingdom, and that capital was to be Milan. Napoleon the First was indeed crowned at Milan’s Duomo on May 26, 1805. History also tells us that his reign was short-lived, but he left his Gallic mark on the city’s roads and residences with a truly Parisian style.

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About Italia!

Whether you’re planning an imminent adventure or settling down for some armchair travel, we’ve plenty of travel inspiration this month. Come with us on a weekend in Milan, exploring the familiar and the unexpected, and on a visit to Franciacorta near Lake Iseo, where vineyards are producing champagne method wines to rival the very best. We also take an in-depth look at life in Le Marche, a captivating region of central Italy that really is rather a hidden secret.