Milan is an odd sort of place. You’d think that the fashion capital of the world would be a riotous den of iniquity, but it really isn’t. Don’t get me wrong; it has clubs and bars, and there are plenty of places to party till the wee small hours. The good life does exist and so does the sleaze. But Milan, at heart, is homely. Its people prefer a really good traditional meal in an old-fashioned clubby atmosphere with plenty of wine and rousing conversation to coke and cocktails in a flashy club. And because everyone, whether model or mogul, has to get up for work next day, the nightlife tends to start – and end – early. The big thing in the city is the pre-dinner aperitivo, the happy hour cocktail which comes with a buffet so you can dine on martinis, grazing all the while, then go home, go dancing or go to the opera.
Alongside a huge collection of ultra-chic cocktail bars, the city also has a rich cultural life, headed up by the world-famous La Scala opera house. With plenty of wealthy patrons and students in town, there is an assured audience for everything from classical symphonies to experimental theatre and underground music.
My guides to nightlife
To discover my top picks for partying, or more cultural pursuits, see my guides:
For English speakers, the easiest place to look for listings is probably on English-language websites http://milan.angloinfo.com and www.hellomilano.it. Hello Milano also produces a free monthly printed edition, available from the tourist office and a wide range of other places used by tourists and ex-pats in the city.
There are also entertainment listings in all the local newspapers (Wednesday and Thursday are usually the best days) and in the weekly Corriere della Sera (http://milano.corriere.it).
Milano Mese is a free monthly magazine published by the tourist office detailing top events. Not everything is listed – keep an eye out for fliers for church concerts and clubs. Also useful, but fairly difficult to find outside a few top hotels, is the Milan edition of Where magazine (www.wheremilan.com).
While La Scala tickets need to purchased direct (in a thoroughly complicated fashion and far in advance), most other tickets in the city are available via one of two ticket agencies, Ticketweb (199 158 158; www.ticketweb.it) and Ticketone (892 101; www.ticketone.it).
Check out all opening times carefully. Many clubs shut for two or three months in summer, only open at weekends or offer different themes on different weeknights, while cinemas only show VO (original language films) on certain days.