Street smart: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

ONE of the fashion capitals of Europe, Milan is as stylish as they come. Stroll along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, the most popular shopping street in the city, for the widest selection of drop-dead gorgeous clothes, shoes and accessories (window shopping here is the stuff of dreams). Named after the great Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy, the boulevard is a traffic-free zone buzzing with shoppers, buskers and oh-so-trendy locals.


YOU know a shopping arcade is doing something right when it gains a nickname as "il salotto di Milano" (Milan's living room). The magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is like an Italian QVB on steroids: flagship stores for Prada, Fendi and Louis Vuitton strut their stuff alongside boutiques for lingerie (Intimissimi) and beauty products (Limoni). Business people will nonchalantly pay €10 ($14) for an espresso here, while spoilt princesses carry their little dogs around in designer shoulder bags. Look out for the ground-floor mosaics; the raging bull mosaic is said to be very lucky: if you manage to spin three times on one foot placed on the bull's (cough) genitals, something good will happen to you. For the bull, not so much.

Corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza del Duomo; +39 02 725 241.


ATONE for your shopping sins at the Duomo di Milano, Milan's magnificent cathedral. Mark Twain was a fan, saying of the Duomo: "What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast!" One of the world's largest churches, it was commissioned in the 14th century but not finished until the early 19th century, giving new meaning to delayed gratification. If you give all other sightseeing in Milan a miss, be sure to take the famed trip to the duomo's roof. Walking the marble terraces, you'll drink in an epic view over the city to the Alps.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, alight at the Duomo Metro stop.


TALK about rich cultural heritage: after performances at La Scala, Verdi and Toscanini were known to stop in at Zucca cafe for a nightcap. King Umberto I was a frequent patron, claiming Zucca served the best coffee in Milan. Once the favourite haunt of artists, writers, politicians and musicians, today Zucca is popular with tourists and locals who stop by for a meal or drink with a side order of some of the best views over the Corso.


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, corner Piazza Duomo; +39 02 8646 4435;


MILANESE are known for their worldliness, so it's no surprise they flock to Messaggerie Musicali, a four-level book and music store stocking newspapers, CDs, books and DVDs from around the world. With a ticket office for booking seats at the local theatres and concert halls, it's a one-stop culture shop. Open late in a precinct enlivened by the city's largest concentration of cinemas, there's no better place to stop in after watching a flick to pick up a movie soundtrack or novel.

Corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Galleria del Corso; +39 02 760 551.


SMALL is beautiful, or at least it is at this charming shop dedicated to belts. The shop front is so tiny, customers must browse one at a time but browse they do — inside, every inch is decked out with belts in every shape, style, colour, length and material. Locals will tell you Piazza San Babila, where you'll find Bralux, is a popular meeting spot in the city. If you have an assignation with a dashing Italian count (and really, who doesn't?), arrange to meet him at the gurgling fountain in the middle of the piazza, before buckling down to some belt shopping. It's a cinch.

Corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza San Babila; +39 02 798 685.