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After having spent the first half of the day seeking extreme fashion, it felt reassuring to travel back in time for the afternoon with a visit to the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan’s historic art museum.

Courtyard of Pinacoteca di Brera

This former monastery, also the home of the Brera Academy, a venerated art school, displays Italian paintings spanning several centuries, many of them considered masterpieces. One of these is the 15th century “Christo Morto” also known as “Lamentation Over the Dead Christ,” by Andrea Mantegna, which is dramatically presented solo and under a spotlight. The painting offered a very striking image at the time—and remains so today; this is a portrait of the corpse of Christ lying supine on a bed, a single hole punctured in each of his hands and feet. There are also paintings by Piero della Francesca, Tintoretto and Caravaggio, to name only a few of the other masters on display. (However, to see Milan’s most famous painting—Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church—tickets must be booked at least two months in advance of your visit.)

Michelangelo Pietà Rondanini

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In the evening, I made my way to the delightful Mimmo Milano for dinner. This heavenly candle-lit space—pristinely white with antique books lining the shelves—allows larger groups to sit at long elegant dining tables or smaller parties, like me, to sit in a cozy armchair by the fireplace. The cuisine hails from regions throughout Italy—Sicily, Puglia and Tuscany, among them—all of it amazing. As engaging as I found Milan to be, I was relieved to have the pressure lifted a bit as I zipped further north with a car and driver the next morning. Within the hour, we were coasting alongside the glistening water of Lake Como— headed toward another way of life altogether.

All photos Wikipedia and Thinkstock

After a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the Brera, I walked through another leafy splendor—Parco Sempione, Milan’s biggest historical park. At the edge of Sempione is Castello Sforzesco, a restored castle with the original moat from the medieval town surrounding it and several courtyards within bordered by charming gardens. This is also where I found the Museo d’Arte Antica, which offers a glimpse of Michaelangelo’s last sculpture—an unfinished yet poignant statue of Mary and Jesus—as the great artist died while working on it. Conveniently, there is a well-trafficked walkway that ushers crowds out of the castle and leads toward Milan’s iconic Duomo, a formidable Gothic structure that cannot be missed: it’s the fifth-largest cathedral in the world.

QUEST Magazine Issue 3  

Explore France, Italy, China, Maldives and some of the best places to travel this summer in Ker & Downey's Summer issue of QUEST magazine.