Scale the operatic heights.
There’s said to be a ghostly soprano backstage at La Scala, though pundits can’t agree whether it is Maria Callas, for whom this was ‘home’, or another 19th-century Maria. Either way, since the opera house was inaugurated in 1778 with a performance of Salieri’s less than memorable opera L'Europa Riconosciuta, this has been one of the finest opera houses in the world. Founded by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and designed by architect Giuseppe Piermarini, luminaries such as Verdi and Puccini premiered works including Nabucco and Turandot here.
Even if you can’t manage to get to a performance, visit the fascinating theatre museum, which showcases a tiny proportion of the theatre’s treasures, from Verdi’s piano to a room dedicated to the Comedia dell’Arte (Harlequin and Pierrot) and even old board games played by the in-crowd during the intervals. The tour includes a peek into the fabulously grand scarlet and gold auditorium if there is no performance on.
The theatre archives include 24,000 drawings and paintings by artists from Picasso to Chagall and Hockney, along with around one million photographs, 17,000 posters and 5,000 operatic recordings of singers and conductors including Callas, Pavarroti, Toscanini and von Karajan. Everything is being digitised and made accessible.