Whatever time of the year you are visiting Milan, there is never a shortage of seasonal and special events to consider fitting into your itinerary. As well as the traditional annual ‘dates for the diary’, there are always a host of temporary exhibitions and festivals, covering the whole gamut of this great city’s history and culture – and as if that were not enough, neighbouring cities like the wondrous Bergamo offer even more reasons to prolong your stay or plan a return trip in the not too distant.
UP AND COMING
See below for Here To Stay’s moving calendar compilation, aimed at helping you plan the timing of your stay and offering ideas for some of the things you Should Not Miss dates while you’re here. Watch this space for constant additions, and the archive of previous events, some of which are repeated year on year. Please do not hesitate to email us at [email protected] for any specific date information.
NOVEMBER – Giorgio de Chirico temporary exhibition until January 19
The Palazzo Reale organises a major retrospective of one of Italy’s best known XIX-century painters during the last three months of the year. Born in Greece and a true European, De Chirico did live in Milan but spent much time in Florence, Paris and Ferrara before settling in Rome, and is best remembered for his work influencing the Surrealist movement. The subject of a major exhibition at the Pompidou Centre some 20 years ago, this looks set to be a big event in Milan, concentrating on the metaphysical movement, between dream and reality: watch this space.
NOVEMBER – all month
It’s almost panettone time again, and as the usual Christmas fripperies appear in every shop window all thoughts of lighter eating disappear – this is the time of the year to settle for the evening in a traditional Trattoria and tuck into wholesome dishes like Risotto alla Milanese and the very unattractively plated but seriously delicious Cassoeula – read more here and dispel any concerns about having to sit on a beach until at least Spring next year.
DECEMBER : “Artigiano in Fiera” food exhibition – November 30 to December 8
Book your plane tickets now: this is the best show of the year and entrance is free of charge. Plan a trip to Europe around these dates and be sure to include at least one if not two visits to this crafts’ and food festival just a 30-minute metro ride from the centre of Milan. Read more here about “Artigiano in Fiera”, which embraces small businesses and family-led companies from all over Italy and the contemporary traditions that are at the core of “Made in Italy” creativity. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet local artisans (possible also in Milan during the year, enquire here about meeting bespoke jewellers and other botteghe storiche members), as well as filling your suitcases with tastes of Italy to take back home. One visit may not be enough…
BEEN AND GONE 2019
JANUARY 6 – Epiphany Procession of the Magi
It may be the Fall/Winter Men’s Fashion week in Milan for 4 days during the second week of January, but it’s the Procession of the Magi on January 6 that traditionally sees the family crowds lining the streets. A national holiday, Epiphany is the day that Italian children celebrate the arrival of a witch called La Befana, who arrives overnight on a broomstick, bearing sweets for the well-behaved and lumps of coal for the naughty. Meanwhile, a religious procession takes place during the morning of the 6th between the Cathedral and the church of Sant’Eustorgio, where the relics of the Three Wise Men were once held. Expect rustic historic costumes, blaring of trumpets and much pomp and glory along Via Torino and down past the San Lorenzo church.
FEBRUARY 3 – San Biagio and “il panettone avanzato”
We tend to associate the good old Italian staple, il panettone, with Christmas-time, but this classic brioche sweet bread loaf continues to appear on tables throughout the month of January over here. Traditionally considered to have been invented in Milan (read our article on its possible origins near Leonardo’s vineyards here), the baking process is a long and arduous one, including a proofing process that takes any baker worth his or her salt several days to complete. February 3 celebrates the end of the festive season, by inviting everyone to partake in their final slice of panettone while commemorating the saint named San Biagio, so-called protector of the throat, who saved a young boy from choking on a fishbone by feeding him a crumb of bread. Cynics would of course say that February 3 is also a good marketing opportunity for the shops to sell their final stocks off the shelves…
MARCH 9 – Carnival time in Milan
The annual Carnival in Milan rather confusingly starts as the dates in the rest of Italy have ended. This year, for instance, the dates of the masked revelry in Venice fell between February 16 and March 5, while the Carnevale di Milano began on March 9. This unique tradition can be blamed on the city’s resident patron saint, Sant’Ambrogio, who at the time in days of yore had gone Absent Without Official Leave on a religious pilgrimage, causing his loyal citizens to put everything on hold for him till he got back. Modern-day Milanese schools will celebrate by releasing everyone on holiday and so the city will be a mix of less locals (for those with holiday homes) and more kids’ events (for those without).
APRIL 8 – 14 – MILAN DESIGN WEEK 2019
The Milano “Fuorisalone” returns along with Design Week in April, in parallel with the annual trade fair “Salone del Mobile”. Attracting professionals and visitors from the whole world over, and considered to be leader in its field, the whole of the city will see a tidal wave of special events and presentations. It’s also the time when many of the up and coming and best known designers will introduce their new collections and certain districts will host unique cultural happenings. If you happen to be staying during this period, check out the calendar of events here, and do not miss the virtual street parties in the Cinque Vie district.
APRIL – Banksy’s A Visual Protest temporary exhibition at the MUDEC Museum closes on April 14
It’s the last month to catch the controversial and non-consensual exhibition depicting Banksy’s unstoppable rise to fame and fortune (see Here To Stay blog article here). An exciting Roy Lichtenstein show is also just around the corner, starting May 1 through September 8 – this relatively recent addition to the Milanese art world is perhaps equivalent to Paris’s Fondation Vuitton, and the fabulous MUDEC Museum shows no signs of slowing down the pace of its avant-garde programme.
APRIL – Ingres exhibition at the Palazzo Reale until JUNE 23
The Palazzo Reale is home to some of the largest temporary exhibitions in Milan and is perfectly located right next to the Cathedral. Recently host to a very successful Picasso show, it now opens with a rather self-congratulatory appraisal of the importance of the city during European times under Napoleon, who has chosen to hold his coronation here. Ingres himself was heavily influenced by the time he spent in Florence and Rome and was greatly influenced by Raphael. The exhibition aims to present him as a precursor to Picasso, with over 120 works on show.
APRIL 7 – MAY 26 Domeniche per Ville, Palazzi e Castelli : open house calendar begins
Following on from last year’s highly successful initiative, this association of around 15 private historical residences in the nearby Bergamo area are once again opening their doors to visitors, and guiding them around their extraordinary family homes during the months of April and May, by rotation. Mostly conducted in Italian, there are nevertheless additional opportunities for privately guided English-speaking tours, and Here To Stay is collaborating with many of the owners to offer marvellous visits of these wonderful villas, palaces and castles, including candlelit dinners, wine tasting experiences, cooking classes and so much more. Bergamo is less than an hour away by train or car and is an absolute splendour – just waiting to be discovered. Contact us by email for more details and see our information about dates on the Bergamo pages of this website, along with our introductory blog article on Villa Pesenti Agliardi and Palazzo Agliardi.
MAY 2 – LEONARDO DA VINCI’S 500TH ANNIVERSARY & CELEBRATING THROUGHOUT 2019
The beginning of May dates five hundred years since the death of the Florentine genius Leonardo, and the list of commemorative celebrations planned throughout the year grows daily. Anyone finding themselves in Paris from October 24 (2019) – February 24 (2020) will of course be able to get advance tickets for what the Louvre museum is already calling “the event” of the year, namely its large-scale tribute to da Vinci’s later years based in the Loire valley at Amboise, but given that this über-talented artist-scientist-philosopher-inventor-engineer Renaissance man spent some 20 years in Milan, the city is going to town and quite rightly making the most of this marketing opportunity. Top tip: check opening times, as many places are closed on Mondays.
You may have to beg, steal or borrow a ticket for the Last Supper (or plan a guided tour in advance with us here), while you can pre-book and stare in wonder at his Atlantic Code autograph manuscripts at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (with or without guide), see where he tended his vineyard at La Vigna (read our blog article on the Casa degli Atellani), picture his flying machines and floating inventions at the Museum of Science and Technology (a must if you are travelling with children) and even make the short trip to San Siro Hippodrome to visit the modern reconstruction of the simply gigantic clay version destroyed by invading French troops in 1482 … just for starters …
JUNE – LEONARDO & WARHOL – THE GENIUS EXPERIENCE, UNTIL JUNE 30
The Crypt of San Sepolcro in the oldest church in Milan is hardly the most obvious location for an immersive installation exhibit, depicting the city as it would have been back in Leonardo’s time. With an itinerary spanning over four centuries, the show culminates in Warhol’s rendition of The Last Supper reinvented in 1986: the whole thing is nothing short of surreal, yet is tipped to be fully engaging. Closed on Mondays.
JULY – “La Sala delle Asse” at the Sforza Castello, until August 18
Staying with the Leonardo theme, this could well prove to be the very best month to visit the recently reopened Room of the Wooden Boards in the heart of the Castello Sforzese (tickets available from May 19). Formerly painted with heraldic motifs for the Sforza family, the Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro had his protégé Leonardo transform this space at the end of the 1400s, shortly before the successful invasion of the French. Previously consigned to oblivion under foreign domination, restoration work has revealed the traces of colour on the ceiling, so see this miraculous work of art while you can – it goes back under wraps towards the end of the summer.
AUGUST – “the deserted ship”
If previous years are anything to go by, this is perhaps not the best month of the year to plan a visit to Milan – it’s likely to be scorching, and the locals are most likely to be elsewhere, so consequently practically all of the most charming haunts will be closed throughout the month. There’s no better time to visit the rooftops of the Duomo cathedral and beat the crowds, mind you, providing you get up and out early to avoid the heat, and advice is at hand if you are in the city in August: email [email protected].
SEPTEMBER 17 – 23 : Milan Fashion Week
The Autumn/Fall season gets underway with a vengeance with the major Fashion Week event of the second half. The city is awash with even more impeccably and eccentrically dressed people and just walking the streets is a visit in itself. This is the best month of the year too for making the most of the balmy evenings and enjoying apéritifs in the open air and on the terraces – or even reserving a late-night splash at the smallest cocktail bar in the world.