Milan has always been a magnet for visitors flocking for fashion and design, gourmet restaurants and lively bars and nightlife, but if you are a serious culture vulture it is also well worth sticking around for the galleries and museums that are perhaps not nearly as well known as those of Rome, Venice and Florence….
1) Pinocoteca di Brera (www.brera.benicultural.it) (Entrance 9 Euros)
Top of the charts is this collection of old masters ranging from Titian and Tintoretto to Bellini and Caravaggio. Make sure you also see Mantegna’s masterpiece – “Cristo morto nel sepolcro e tre Dolenti” (Lamentation over the Dead Christ) and also wander through the art school to the magnificent ancient library which is free to visitors. The surrounding neighbourhood of Brera is one of charming cobbled streets and cafes perfect for lingering over lunch.
2) Museo del Novecento (www.museodelnovecento.org) (Entrance 5 Euros)
Milan’s first Museum of Modern Art, this gallery has wonderful views of the Duomo from its floor-to-ceiling windows, and also houses a stunning collection of Italian art ranging from Boccioni and De Chirico to Morandi and Fontana as well as the work of Italy’s most significant twentieth century sculptor Arturo Martini. A temporary exhibition of Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints further enhanced the visit, plus the in-house restaurant Giacomo Arengario on the top floor also comes highly recommended.
3) Triennale (www.triennaledesignmuseum.it) (Entrance 8 Euros)
Located in one of Milan’s few green spaces Parco Sempione, the Triennale is a permanent museum paying homage to Italian design. It is a funky, cool space filled with intriguing temporary exhibitions ranging from the design of safety equipment to masters such as Ponti, Alessi etc and photographic work. It has a great, buzzy café with the cheapest cup of tea found anywhere in Milan at 1.50 – a perfect place to take a breather. Nearby and also worth visiting is Castello Sforzesco which also houses a whole range of specialized museums.
4) Museo Poldi-Pezoli (www.museopoldipezzoli.it) (Entrance 9 Euros)
This is a private art collection once home to the wealthy, aristocratic Giacomo family and it displays a vast collection of old masters with the star attraction being an exquisite Botticelli “Madonna and Child”. The works are displayed in a series of historically themed rooms such as the Black Room and the Dante Study.
5) Villa Necchi Campliglio (email@example.com) Entrance 9 Euros
A little off the beaten track, this 1930s villa restored and run by the Foundation FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) is a real gem and well worth visiting. Designed by architect Piero Portaluppi between 1932 and 1935, it was built for industrial magnate Angelo Campliglio, his wife Gigina Necchi and sister-in-law Nedda. Foundation volunteers conduct highly informative guided tours around this art deco jewel with its 1930s décor, design and additional art collections, notably the Claudia Gian Ferrari Collection of 20th-century Italian artworks.
After visiting all these galleries you will be in need of urgent refreshment, so my advice is head straight down to the canal area of Milan (Naviglio Grande – Metro Porta Genova) where a long row of waterside bars, cafes and restaurants await you. The atmosphere is lively and fun and you can partake of that delightful Italian tradition between 6pm and 9pm – Happy Hour Aperitivo whereby 10 Euros secures you a drink and unlimited access to a tasty buffet. If you are lucky enough to be in town the last Sunday of the month, head here during the day for the city’s largest antique and flea market (Mercatore Di Navigli – www.naviglilive.it)