It’s all about the money in Milan, Italy’s commercial hub, so many of its principal festivals are actually trade fairs, with the festive element provided by fringe events and parties. Even so, Milan is often the first port of call for touring bands and DJs en route to Rome or Naples, so you can have a ball with the best of them at the hippest summer festivals. For winter fun , there’s the feast of Sant’Ambrogio, the occasion for intensive Christmas shopping and Milan’s biggest street party.
Traditional festivals tend to revolve around the city’s main churches, particularly the Duomo, whereas most commercial events are staged at the massive Fieramilano site in Rho, in the northwestern suburbs. The third weekend in March is a busy one, with the Milano Oggi Aperto providing access to many historic buildings and monuments that are usually closed, and a major international cycle race from Milan to San Remo cramming the city with lean men in lycra. More fit people fill the streets in mid-April for the Stramilano local marathon.
MiArt is held in early April every year, attracting artists, critics, collectors, and dealers from all over the world to Fiera Milano City, but you will also encounter some interesting fringe events right across the city.
If you’re in Milan in May, you can visit several private houses and palaces that are usually closed to the public, during Milano Cortili Aperti (Open Courtyard) weekend, and you can also browse the massive open-air art exhibition, Pittori sul Naviglio, along the Alzia Naviglio Grande canal. Drive 30km to Legnano for the Sagra del Carroccio, a truly impressive costumed commemoration of a famous battle fought here in 1176.
Locals try to get out of sweltering Milan in the summer, but you can enjoy the city in their absence at the Milano d'Estate, a three-month extravaganza of concerts, exhibitions, and other cultural events in the Parco Sempione that starts in June. This is also the month when the Festa del Naviglio and the Sagra di San Cristoforo turn the Naviglio canals into party central for two weekends.
The Premier League season starts in early September with Inter and AC Milan sharing San Siro Stadium. Mix up your sports by combining a soccer match with a trip to the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza, about 15km north of Milan.
Milan revels in the Christmas spirit for the Feast of San Ambrogio on December 7. The Oh Bej! Oh Bej! street market is one of Milan’s best festivals, filling the streets around Piazza Sant’Ambrogio with shoppers looking for traditional food, crafts, and antiques. December also marks the start of the opera season at La Scala. Stay on for January 6, and you’ll see (and hear) motorcyclists from across the country gathering for the Befana Benefica charity parade from Piazza Duomo to Ticinese.
Of course, Milan and fashion are virtually synonymous. The fashion world gets serious in February with the Textiles and Accessories Fair, Moda In, immediately succeeded by Milano Moda Dona (Milan Fashion Week) in the final week of February. All you style mavens knew that already, of course...