By Silem Oidualc
In these last years Milan is becoming one of the best and more popular destinations where to spend Christmas holidays. Thanks to the dozens of events it hosts everyday, such as fairs, typical markets, free concerts, cultural initiatives, Milan is today one of the most attractive cities in Europe for old and young people.
Especially at Christmas time the city changes its face; all begins on 7th December with a wonderful celebration for the feast of Saint'Ambrose, the city's patron Saint. Every year Milan in those days organizes an ancient and famous Christmas market full of sweet and typical products: the "Oh Bej! Oh Bej!" fair, that literally means "So Beautiful! So Beautiful!" Here you can find everything, from antique stalls and buskers to roast chestnuts and candy floss. The fair provides an excellent opportunity to do some Christmas shopping, and is particularly enjoyed by children.
At the same time, in Milan it's possible to visit the renowned Milan's Christmas Craft Fair - L'Artigiano in Fiera. L'Artigiano in Fiera is Italy's largest crafts exhibition, attracting thousands of international visitors and exhibitors to the Fiera Milano. With clothes, food, furniture, jewelers, antiques and so much more on offer, this fair is a great place for Christmas shopping. Last year's edition of the L'Artigiano in Fiera craft fair attracted around three million people!
About children, for the second year running, Milan will have its own Christmas Theme Park - the "Villaggio delle Meraviglie". It takes place in the lovely surroundings of the Giardini Pubblici Montanelli, one of the nicest parks in the centre of Milan. From the 6th of December until the 6th of January a fairytale village inspired by everything Christmas will be put in place for the entertainment of children and adults together. There will be Santa's house where children can meet Santa Claus and hand him their Christmas letter.
Next to Santa's house there will be a toy factory where children can draw their favorite character and then see an animation of it. Another big attraction for children will be a rollercoaster in the shape of Santa's sleigh that will ride along on mountains of snow. There will be also an ice skating rink where alongside the "free-skating" sessions (and lessons) many exhibitions and shows will take place.
Skiing in the city center during the Christmas festivities? Why not, in Milan it is possible! Piazza del Cannone hosts this year too the 'SnowPark', which acts as a real ski resort. In fact, visitors can take advantage of a multi-sport area made of two slopes: a ski slope, which also has a practice ground, and one for snow tubing, with a ski-lift. Besides, there is a 'welcome village' provided with everything people might need to enjoy their experience: info point, ticket office, ski school, solarium, refreshment area.
Do we want to talk about shopping? During Christmas festivities Milan shopping is unlike any other shopping experience you may have had in the past. The most expensive showrooms and most prestigious boutiques in the world can be found lining the boulevards and pedestrian walkways in Milan. The famous Via Montenapoleone crossed by Via Sant'Andrea that in turn crosses Via Della Spiga forms a section of commercial real estate that includes outlets for Gucci, Versace, Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Valentino among others. This shopping area is just the high-end products. When you shop for middle range fashion and accessories, the options are even more exciting.
What else? Oh yes... culture. Michelangelo's Rondanini Pietà, Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper - it is remarkable that Milan remains one of Europe's least known glories. The Middle Ages ushered in the epoch of the Visconti, who oversaw the rebuilding of the cathedral, and the Sforza, whose name is immortalized in the Castello Sforzesco, a magisterial fortified complex harboring work by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Mantegna and Bellini.
A still more striking collection of mediaeval and Renaissance art is on display in the Pinacoteca di Brera, a 17th century palace where the chefs d'oeuvre - mostly booty confiscated by Napoleon - range from Mantegna and Raphael to Piero della Francesca and Caravaggio. It is an earlier building, the 15th century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, that houses perhaps Milan's greatest attraction and one of the world's most celebrated works of art: Leonardo's Last Supper.
About where to stay, in Milan there are a lot of hotels. I can suggest the Le Meridien Gallia, a famous historic hotel in the center of Milan. Another hotel I love is the hotel Sheraton Diana Majestic, one of the renowned "fashion hotel" in the city (you have to visit!). Hope this article can be useful to anyone. Christmas is a such wonderful time of year, especially in Italy and spending Christmas holidays in the elegant, historic and internationally renowned city of Milan is a fabulous experience people should try at least once in life.
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