Melissa Shales

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Simonseeks' ranking

About me

 A freelance travel writer, editor and photographer, I have made my living for longer than I care to admit writing and editing articles, magazines, guidebooks and, increasingly websites on travel. Brought up in Zimbabwe, I made my very first trip to Italy when I was eight. We travelled on a rock bottom budget for three weeks and all I remember of Milan at the time was the milk bottle ad flashing outside our hotel window. Venice didn't fare much better - highlight there was the family of stray kittens living on the roof outside our hotel window (until they ate our picnic supper). Then I grew up and discovered the real delights of these extraordinary cities...

Now I live in London (another extraordinary city) and am fortunate enough to be able to travel the world for a living. It's about one part travel to eight parts sitting in front of a computer at home, but I get to see fabulous places and do wonderful things (usually at high speed) and call it work. Along the way, I started in travel as editor of Traveller magazine and have edited various other small magazines and websites. I have written about 30 guidebooks for companies including the AA, Thomas Cook, Insight, DK, Berlitz, Michelin, Globetrotter, Fodors and Frommer, winning three Best Guidebook Awards along the way. Destinations have included places from India to Barbados, France, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Turkey, returning repeatedly to Italy, one of the great love affairs of my life.  I have edited over 100 other guides.

Currently, in addition to being the Simonseeks Milan expert, I am the South Africa travel correspondent for About.com and have just stood down after a hectic two years as Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers (www.bgtw.org). In 2009, I was awarded a Winston Church Travelling Fellowship (www.wcmt.org.uk) which allowed me to research a project I had long wanted to write, on the history of the railways in Africa. I am currently writing the book. The website and blog is www.steel-safari.co.uk. In November, I was named the British Guild of Travel Writers Best Online Travel Writer 2010.

My Milan

I really got to know Milan for the first time a few years ago while researching the Insight Guide to the Italian Lakes. Often overlooked in favour of more obviously beautiful cities, I loved its combination of edgy modernity and traditional conservatism, mixing high fashion, Mama and Papa's pizzeria and heavy industry in one heady cocktail. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

For unexpected views: the roof of the Duomo, walk amidst the Gothic spires and gargoyles.

For a song in the soul: La Scala, one of the world's greatest opera houses.

For sheer lunacy: window-shopping in the Quadrilatero d'Oro. No normal person could afford (or fit into) many of the designer creations but the windows are super-cool.

For caffè with style: Café Design at La Triennale, the design museum in Parco Sempione. Every cup and chair is different and a design classic, with park views.

Homage to the Maestro: It would be impossible to visit the city – at least the first time – without glorying in one of the greatest paintings ever created, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.

My expert information

Milan (Lombardy, Italy, Europe,

I’ve always liked my cities a little rough around the edges, a bit jumbled up and complicated. Picture-postcard places are all very well but they don’t challenge you. Milan has attitude – it’s a diamond in the rough, and it’s exciting. Famous for banking, industry, fashion and football, the city's four faces could not be more different, and at its centre, the Quadrilatero d’Oro, Rectangle of Gold, is the fascinating heart of the fashion quarter and historic city. Read more...