Milan is the Italian capital of contemporary society's estimation of art and culture, which means that if you value exorbitantly priced accessories in malls meant to resemble ancient Italy or the human bendy straws of the fashion industry that serve as the current pinnacle of beauty, then you'll have this city on your radar. This is more an indictment of our societal values than Milan itself, for beyond the uber-cool Corso Como or the uber-pricey Via Monte Napoleone, there is a lesser known Milan that just may captivate the Embark-style traveler.
For those of you who find an excessive focus on the glamorous and chic to be a bit soulless, don’t fret. Milan is conveniently located within an hour or two of some of the most exciting adventure getaways in Italy, whether you are looking to test yourself against the elements (Matterhorn's Italian side and other epic peaks of the Alps and Aosta Valley region) or scale rock faces and chill on the beach in a world of speedboats and lakeside villas (the Lake District, including Lake Garda and Lake Como), there is plenty to draw you into greater Lombardy, Trentino, and beyond. There are also a handful of national parks where fantastic vistas are commonplace (Adamello Brenta, Val Grande, and Stelvio all fit the bill), ski resorts in the dozens, and even a weekend drive along Stelvio Pass to test your ability to drive hairpin turns at 9,000 feet high in the Alps.. And in case you're in need of a little bit of classic Italy, you've also got the well-preserved architecture and history of towns like Bergamo, Mantua, and Monza within a one-hour train ride.
Once you've spent your day exploring the strange conjunction of consumer culture and antiquity (try the world's oldest shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, for a sublime encapsulation), you'll be quite ready for Milan's nightlife. Start with one of the many aperitivo joints (a snack spread that will vary widely in both quantity and quality; a phenomenon unique to northern Italy) either along the canals of Navigli or the more artsy Brera district, which is actually home to stellar cultural institutions like the Galleria D'Arte Moderna and the Pinacoteca di Brera. Once you've hit these up and maybe checked other popular sites like the Piazza della Scala, the incredible Duomo (Milan Cathedral), and Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to "The Last Supper"), then head to the cocktail lounges, late-night cafes or ubiquitous wine bars of Milan. Sure, you won’t feel like you’ve been in the presence of human artistic and architectural worth to surpass other great Italian cities (although the Duomo is quite incredible and there are more centuries-old churches than you can stuff in your itinerary), but you just may find that Milan's culture is more than the vapid veneer you thought it to be.
Milan is well-connected to other European hubs via both train and air, while the city's public transportation is very reliable. If you are looking to remain more independent when getting around, then there are also bike-sharing and car-sharing services available in the city. Another options for travelers on a short stay is the Milano Card, which allows free public transportation and access to popular attractions for up to three days at a time.
For more on why Milan may actually be a worthwhile city in which to embark, please browse our included, activities, videos, and information. You just may be surprised.