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When outsiders think of Milan, the first thing that comes to their mind is fashion. While it's true that this second most populous city in the country is home to some of the fashion giants, visitors can enjoy stunning architecture, diverse history, and rich food as well.
Some incorrectly assume that Milan doesn't have the magnificent architectural history that other Italian cities have because it was heavily bombed during World War II. However, not only did many treasures survive, much of the city was also rebuilt. The Santa Maria delle Grazie is a 15th century convent that is home to Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Last Supper.
Additionally, the Teatro alla Scala Opera House is one of the most popular in the country since opening in 1778. Another popular historic site is the Duomo, the world's largest Gothic cathedral. Construction on the cathedral began in 1386 and continued for another 500 years.
Of course, no visit to Milan is complete without squeezing in a little time for shopping. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the oldest and most opulent shopping malls in the world. Construction on the massive five-story structure began in 1865 and completed in 1877. The Fashion District is home to ritzy boutiques from the famous fashion designers who call Milan home. Located between Piazza Duomo, Piazza Cavour, and Piazza San Babila, this area is ideal for budget-busting shopping sprees or sophisticated window-shopping.
When fashionistas exceed their purchasing power, they can enjoy the traditional Italian cuisine that is a staple in Milan. The city is known for risotto alla milanese, which is a dish made with rice and saffron, and cotoletta alla milanese, which is a dish of breaded veal. An immensely popular pre-dinner meal is the aperitivo, or a local version of happy hour. However, this happy hour isn't so much about drinking as it is about socializing with friends and enjoying a light drink and snack.
Since Milan is in the Lombardy region of Italy, the area usually has hot and humid summers and cool winters. July and August are the hottest months, and as a result many locals take a holiday and businesses close down for a break. Most consider spring and autumn the best seasons to visit Milan, although October and November are the rainiest months of the year.
On Dec. 7, residents of the city celebrate Saint Ambrose's Day in honor of the patron saint of the city, Saint Ambrose. On this day, government and businesses close and special church services are held. The streets fill with craft stalls and booths that sell local foods and drinks. The Naviglio Festival is held the first ten days of June. During this time, the streets and canals of Naviglio come alive with music, street performers, and parades.
In trademark style, Milan artfully blends modernity with history. While the city is certainly known for being one of Italy's most modern and most fashionable, it also offers an array of cultural and historical attractions, some of which top the list of the world’s most famous.