From The Straits Times    |

PAOLA GUALLINI, marketing and direct sales assistant for Singapore Airlines’ Milan office, shares the best things to see and do in the historic city.

Hit the shops
If you love getting great deals on the hottest trends, remember that January and July are when you can take advantage of the saldi (seasonal sales). The Quadrilatero della Moda (above), four streets of pure fashion, is every shopaholic’s dream. Here, you’ll find all the big Italian brands like Prada and Roberto Cavalli.

Known for its art galleries and bohemian vibe, the Brera district’s small boutiques offer some of the finest goods made in Italy. This includes vintage clothing from Cavalli e Nastri.

If you happen to be in Milan around the Christmas period, you should not miss the week-long Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Market. It’s held every year from December 7. You’ll find Christmas delicacies, handicrafts, toys and antiques. The location changes, so check with the Milan Tourism Office for where it’ll be held.

Feast on local delicacies
Enjoy Milan’s specialities at either restaurants that serve a refined take on traditional dishes or hole-in-the-wall trattorias that worry more about the quality of taste than presentation.

I’d recommend El Brellin for traditional Milanese dishes – like risotto Milanese (subtly flavoured with saffron) and the cotoletta Milanese (thin breaded veal cutlets) – with a fine dining twist. Located in the Canal District, it has a romantic atmosphere, and looks like a cosy old house from the outside.

For an affordable snack, don’t miss Luini, which has been serving panzerotti (deep-fried pastries) for 150 years.

Enjoy cocktails and canapes
A big part of dining out in Milan is the ritual of having an aperitivo – cocktails and snacks – which is typically enjoyed between 6pm and 8pm before dinner to whet the appetite. Do not miss trendy art bar and bistro Le Biciclette’s (Viale Giovanni Battista Torti 2, Tel: 39 02 5810 4325) cocktails – like gin and tonic flavoured with lavender with a twist of orange and star anise – and bruschetta with chopped tomato slices.

Another favourite of mine is the cocktail bar at Trattoria Toscana, which also proffers aged rum, aperitifs and wines. There’s a delicous buffet served at the bar – you may eat so much that it is difficult to imagine having dinner afterwards.

Party the night away
Young, cosmopolitan Milan has a vibrant nightlife. I appreciate that fashion designer Roberto Cavalli’s exclusive restaurant and lounge Just Cavalli Milano has gone through a number of transformations and continues to keep design and style at its forefront. During the summer, from May to September, the venue spills out onto a terrace and garden.

Housed in a deconsecrated church in the upwardly mobile northeast area of Milan is Il Gattopardo Cafe, a popular haunt filled with beautiful people. Dress to impress to get in.

Immerse yourself in culture
At Dialogue in the Dark exhibitions, visitors are led by visually impaired guides through a pitch dark space. Here, they rely only on their senses of smell, touch, hearing and taste to explore the exhibition areas.

Tickets to world-class opera and ballet performances at the opulent, world-renowned opera house Teatro alla Scala aren’t as hard to get hold of as you’d think, if you’re prepared to be flexible with seating.

Admire stunning views of the city
Head up to the roof of Duomo di Milano itself, where you can admire the cathedral’s 135 spires, many carved from pink Candoglia marble. On a clear day, the view stretches far beyond the city to the snowcapped Alps.

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