Nightlife in Milan: opera and the performing arts

by melissa.shales

Milan has enormous cultural wealth, including opera, ballet and music, from classics to jazz, rock to heavy metal, theatre and festivals. Those who look can find world-class entertainment.


La Scala (Largo Ghiringhelli 1, Piazza Scala, Milan 20121; 02 8879 2473/7473; is one of the world’s greatest opera houses, surprisingly modest on the outside, a symphony of scarlet and gold within. The new season starts each year on the Feast of San Ambrogio (Dec 7) and lasts through to mid-June. There is a secondary split summer season in June and early July and September to October, with a six week break in July and August. Both include a mix of opera, classical ballet and classical music. You generally need to book up to three months in advance, so this isn’t an impulse weekend; a trip to the opera here would be a magnificent highlight for a special occasion. For more on the opera house and its museum, see La Scala.

Ballet and music

While classical ballet is housed at La Scala, the home of contemporary dance is the CRT Teatro dell'Arte (Centro di Ricerca per il Teatro, Viale Alemagna 6; 02 8901 1644; Musicals are performed at the Teatro della Luna (Via G. di Vittorio 6, Assago; 199 128800;, while TAM/Teatro degli Arcimboldi (Viale dell’Innovazione 1; 02 6411 42200; showcases a range of events from rock to classical concerts and even TV shows.

Lovers of classical music can find concerts in a wide range of venues including a number of local churches, but there are two other concert halls that have regular programmes. Conservatorio di Musica Giuseppe Verdi (Via Conservatorio 12; 02 762 110; has two auditoria, the Sala Puccini for chamber music and the Sala Verdi for more extravagant symphonic and choral works. It is home to the Cantelli Orchestra. Milan's symphony orchestra, the  Orchestra Verdi, lives at the Auditorium di Milano (Corso San Gottardo 39, Largo Gustav Mahler; 02 8338 9401;

There are two venues of note for jazz lovers: boat-bar in the Navigli, Le Scimmie (Via Ascanio Sforza 49; 02 8940 2874;, which also has other types of live music these days, and Blue Note (Via Borsieri 37; 02 6901 6888;

Theatre and cinema

For those who speak Italian, there are numerous theatres of which by far the most famous is the Piccolo Teatro di Milano (Largo Antonio Greppi 2; 02 8488 00304 (Italy only) or 02 4241 1889; - it's one of Italy’s finest theatres. The company, which was founded in 1947 by Paolo Grassi and Giorgio Stehler, has been awarded Teatro d’Europa status and now performs in three venues across the city, the Teatro Grassi (Via Rovello), the experimental Teatro Studio (Via Rivoli) and the Teatro Strehler (Largo Greppi). Dance and plays are also performed at the Teatro dal Verme (Via San Giovanni sul Muro 2; 02 87905; and you may find concerts at Milan’s oldest theatre, the Teatro Litta (Corso Magenta 24; 02 805 5882;

Most cinemas in Italy dub films into Italian leading to that infuriating lack of lip synch and the sometimes secret joy of watching a laconic Clint Eastwood utter a single word while a torrent of Latin hyperbole cascades around your ears. However, there are a couple of cinemas that show films in their original language with subtitles, although only on occasional nights, so check in advance on the showing. They include the Anteo (Via Milazzo 9; 02 659 7732) and Arcoboleno (Viale Tunisia 11; 02 2940 6054). This website - - has a list of all the local cinemas that offer VO screenings.

More nightlife

Visit my overview on Milan nightlife or read my other guide: Nightlife in Milan: where to party.

Where to stay

For a full list of my recommendations on where to stay in Milan, see Milan Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Milan.


 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 and have just stood down after a hectic two years as Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers ( In 2009, I was awarded a Winston Church Travelling Fellowship ( 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 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.