Milan doesn’t really have any high or low seasons. This is a year-round destination. What is does have are exhibitions. Major international events such as fashion weeks flood the town and drive prices sky-high. Unless you are desperate to be in with the in-crowd, avoid them like the plague.
The Italians do tend to take off on holiday themselves in August so quite a few hotels and restaurants shut and the city can be stiflingly hot. The best weather is probably in April/May and September.
The third weekend of March is a busy one with a big international cycle race from Milan to San Remo and the Milano Oggi Aperto, which sees many historic buildings and monuments that are usually closed to the public opening their doors for a peak inside. Mid-April sees the streets bursting with eager runners for Stramilano, the local marathon.
A number of private houses and palaces open their doors to the public in May during the Milano Cortili Aperti (Open Courtyard) weekend. There’s also a huge open-air art exhibition, Pittori sul Naviglio, along the Alzia Naviglio Grande canal (www.navigliogrande.mi.it). And 30km (19 miles) out of town, at Legnano, the Sagra del Carroccio is a splendid costumed commemoration of a famous battle fought here in 1176. More practically, the Salone Internazionale Del Mobile, a massive international furniture exhibition, comes to the Fiera Milano Rho.
June is action-packed, with the opening of Milano d'Estate, a three-month series of concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events in the Parco Sempione and the Estate all'Umanitaria festival of cinema, dance, music and theatre. On the first Sunday of the month, the Festa del Naviglio lights up the Naviglio canals with street artists and performers, food, sports, crafts, general handicrafts and concerts. On the third Sunday of June, the areas around the canals are again in party mode, this time for the Sagra di San Cristoforo - St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. Finally, the fashion caravan troops back to the Fiera Milano for Milano Moda Uomo, the year’s main menswear show.
In July and August, the concerts in the park continue and others are held on Thursday evenings in Wilson Park. The Festival Latino-Americano is hosted by the Forum di Assago. Outdoor movies are shown at the Rotonda della Basana and in August, the Milan Bluegrass Festival comes to the KC Campground.
The Premier League Football season kicks off in early September with two of Italy’s top teams - Inter and AC Milan – sharing San Siro Stadium. Get the timing right and you may be able to combine a footie match with the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza, about 15km (10 miles) north of Milan, (http://italiangp.it/italian_grand_prix_tickets.asp). If that’s not enough glitz and glamour, the fashionistas arrive back in town during the last week of the month for Moda In and Milano Moda Dona – Milan Fashion Week (www.cameramoda.it; www.mimilanopretaporter.fieramilano.it).
The weather isn’t wonderful in Milan in winter, although you are close enough to the Alps to combine a trip to the city with a weekend on the ski slopes. However, the city does get wonderfully festive and as everything stays open and the shops are all draped in Christmas sparkle, this could be a perfect time for a city break. The Feast of San Ambrogio on December 7 is celebrated with a huge Christmas market, and the start of the opera season at La Scala. There are parties and festivities on New Year’s Eve, but the time to be here is on January 6, when motorcyclists from all over Italy gather for the Befana Benefica charity procession from Piazza Duomo to Ticinese.
In February, the processing continues in the run up to Lent with the Carnavale Ambrosiano, supposedly the longest carnival procession in the world, with many floats and Milanese characters winding their way through the streets to the Piazza del Duomo. After that, the serious work of the fashion world kicks in with the Textiles and Accessories Fair, Moda In, immediately followed by Milano Moda Dona – Milan Fashion Week in the last week of Feb (www.cameramoda.it; www.mimilanopretaporter.fieramilano.it).
The following are public holidays in Italy. Note that when they would normally fall on a Saturday or Sunday, public holidays are moved to the next working day.
January 1 New Year's Day; January 6 Epiphany; March/April Easter (different each year); March/April Easter Monday (different each year); April 25 Liberation Day; May 1 Labour Day; June 2 Anniversary of the Republic; August 15 Assumption of the Virgin; November 1 All Saints' Day; December 7 Feast of Sant’Ambrogio (St Ambrose – a local holiday in Milan, for the city’s patron saint); December 8 Day of the Immaculate Conception; December 25 Christmas Day; and December 26 Boxing day (known in Italy as "Santo Stefano").
Banks and offices and many shops shut, but most restaurants and visitor attractions remain open, although they usually follow Sunday opening hours.
Italy is one hour ahead of London, six hours head of New York, eight hours behind Sydney, 10 hours behind New Zealand. Clocks move forward one hour for summer time on the last weekend of March and go back one hour on the last weekend in October.