A car can be a good idea, especially in summer when the lakes beckon, 40 mins away. Driving in Milan is not too challenging.
There are two airports: a taxi from Malpensa to the centre costs about €70; the fare from Linate is €18.
The Malpensa Express runs every 30 mins, connecting Terminal 1 and Milan's Cadorna railway station in about 40 mins.
Country code for Italy: 39. Milan: 02 - code always required.
Italian Hours by Henry James; Insider's Guide to Shopping by Jill Fairchild and Gerri Gallagher. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, considered by many to be the first Italian novel.
Do go / Don't Go
Everybody heads out to the lakes in high summer, when the city can feel deserted. The best times are the January sales, or spring, when it's warm and buzzing.
Risotto alla Milanese, tomato-and-mozzarella-filled panzerotto.
Taxis are dear, and you'll need to ring one, or find an elusive cab rank.
In restaurants, the cover charge represents your tip.
Your most fashionista outfits; huge, extra-dark sunglasses.
A tour of La Scala (www.teatroallascala.org) is no substitute for a performance, but diverting nonetheless. Santa Marie delle Grazie houses da Vinci's Last Supper (open until 6.45pm; closed Mondays; ring +39 (0)2 8942 1146 to book). La Pinacoteca di Brera is a fine-art must, with pieces covering periods from pre-Renaissance to Cubism.
The Fiera di Senigallia market, every Saturday, sells ethnic handicrafts, records and bicycles along the Darsena dockyard. Mercato dell'Antiquariato di Brera, on the third Saturday of the month, has stalls selling books, jewellery, antiques and curios.
Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Via Sant'Andrea house the showrooms of the major designers, including Gucci, Prada, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta. The Armani empire has its multi-concept store on Via Manzoni. For more affordable purchases (MaxMara, Bruno Magli, Pollini, H&M, Zara), head for Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The area around Porta Ticinese is good for street style (Diesel, Miss Sixty, Fornarina) as well as second-hand shops, handmade clothes and intriguing homewares.
It's a good climb to the top of the Duomo - 166 steps, or there's a lift - but worth it for the eyeful.
At aperitivo time, 6-9pm, many bars lay on free canapés. Il Cimitero Monumentale (Tuesday-Sunday 'til 17h15), where Giuseppe Verdi lies, is an amazing open-air museum in its own right.
February Carnevale Ambrosiano, with floats and crowds processing to the Piazza del Duomo, ending on the first Saturday in Lent. Fashion week (autumn/winter collections). April International Salone del Mobile, the giant furniture fair, recently renamed Milan Design Week to reflect its broad appeal. May Pittori sul Naviglio: an outdoor art show along Alzia Naviglio Grande canal. July/August Summer concerts, Thursday evenings in Wilson Park. September Fashion week (spring/summer collections). December Opera season starts.