Festivals & events in Milan

Fashion weeks, feast days, and whole nights dedicated to whooping it up

Festivals & events in Milan La Scala opening night - © Gianluca Moggi/Time Out
By Tristan Rutherford and Kathryn Tomasetti

Commerce is king in show-me-the-money Milan. Many of its leading art, design and fashion shows are actually trade fairs; often it’s their fringe events and parties that take the city by storm. Touring bands and DJs often hit Milan before Rome or Naples, with outdoor revelry the theme of the finest summer festivals. Spring is the time to peek into palazzi, and there are three dedicated open-house events between March and May. Come the winter, there’s Christmas shopping around the feast of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint: it’s the biggest street party – craft stalls included – of the year.

The more traditional festivals tend to be located around the city’s prominent churches, particularly the Duomo, or in residential neighbourhoods. Commercial events take place mainly at the massive Fieramilano site in Rho, in the north-western outskirts of the city. Built in record time to plans by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, the Rho complex is an avant-garde glass and steel affair, and – for students of architecture – well worth a visit in its own right. Take a look at the Fiera’s website (www.fieramilano.it) for a detailed programme. In addition, the Fiera’s old space, Fieramilanocity, still hosts a handful of events, many of them fashion or art-related.

Before visiting Milan, it’s worth finding out what’s going on in the city: the buzz generated by international events can be exciting, but hotels and taxis are harder to find. The tourist information office publishes Milano Mese, a monthly guide to events throughout the city. For information on disabled access to special events, contact the Associazione Italiana Assistenza Spastici (02 330 2021, www.milanopertutti.it).

Critic’s choice

Salone Internazionale del Mobile (Furniture Fair)

Where: Fieramilano, Rho
When: mid Apr
Tel & website: 800 820 029/02 725 941/www.fieramilano.it/www.cosmit.it
Milan goes into party mode for one of the world’s largest exhibitions of furniture and fittings from top global designers. The event’s main base is in Rho, but the fringe of exhibitions, events and parties back in town are what really make it. Many galleries and smaller designers install themselves in palazzi, workshops and even open-air swimming pools. On the Sunday the event is open to the public.

La Notte Bianca

Where: various locations
When: mid June
Website: www.comune.milano.it
In Italian, a ‘white night’ is a sleepless one. For one night each year, bars, restaurants, shops, cinemas et al whoop it up from early evening to 6am.

Oh Bej! Oh Bej!

Where: Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, West
When: 7 Dec
This street market is one of Milan’s top festivals, held on the feast of the city’s patron saint, Ambrogio. The streets around piazza Sant’Ambrogio throng with crowds sampling traditional food such as pancakes, roast meat, chestnuts and mulled wine; and there are stalls selling crafts and antiques. Goldsmiths made a gift to the city of a silver statue of the saint, exhibited on this day in the Duomo cathedral; there’s also a special morning service in the Sant’Ambrogio basilica.

Spring

Settimana dei Beni Culturali

Where: various locations
When: early spring
Tel & website: 800 991 199/www.beniculturali.it
During cultural heritage week, entry to all of Italy’s publicly owned museums and galleries, and to some privately owned sites, is free. Events include special openings, guided tours, concerts and tastings.

Giornata FAI di Primavera

Where: various locations
When: last wknd Mar or 1st wknd Apr
Tel & website: 0141 720 850/www.fondoambiente.it
During this weekend many of Milan’s historic palazzi and monuments that are closed for the rest of the year open up to the public, thanks to the sponsorship of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, Italy’s version of the National Trust.

Mercato dei Fiori

Where: along the Naviglio Grande, South
When: Apr
Tel & website: 02 8940 9971/www.navigliogrande.mi.it
This flower fair creates a spectacular splash of colour along the canal. Over 200 nurseries and horticultural schools from all around Italy take part.

Stramilano

Where: central Milan
When: 1st or 2nd Sun Apr
Website: www.stramilano.it
Central Milan is closed to traffic as locals and athletes from all over the world take to the streets and race over two distances: the Stramilano (15km/9.3 miles) or the half-marathon (21km/13 miles). The Stramilano starts and finishes at the Arena Civica in Parco Sempione, encircling the whole city. Corso Sempione is a good point from which to watch.

MiArt

Where: Fieramilanocity, via Varesina 76, North
When: early Apr
Tel & website: 02 485 501/www.miart.it
One of Europe’s biggest contemporary and modern art shows, held largely at Fieramilanocity. It brings together critics, collectors, artists and dealers; cultural and fringe events kick off all over the city.

Salone Internazionale del Mobile (Furniture Fair)

Where: Fieramilano, Rho
When: mid Apr
Tel & website: 800 820 029/02 725 941/www.fieramilano.it/www.cosmit.it
Milan goes into party mode for one of the world’s largest exhibitions of furniture and fittings from top global designers. The event’s main base is in Rho, but the fringe of exhibitions, events and parties back in town are what really make it. Many galleries and smaller designers install themselves in palazzi, workshops and even open-air swimming pools. On the Sunday the event is open to the public.

Pittori del Naviglio Grande

Where: along the Naviglio Grande, South
When: 2nd wknd May
Tel & website: 02 8940 9971/www.navigliogrande.mi.it
This open-air art exhibition showcases work by more than 300 artists from all over Italy.

Orticola ai Giardini Pubblici

Where: Giardini Pubblici, East
When: mid May
Tel & website: 02 7600 1496/www.orticola.org
It’s not quite the Chelsea Flower Show, but this growing exhibition/market does take over the entire park. It’s organised by the Associazione Orticola di Lombardia, one of the first Italian institutions to encourage public interest in gardens and plants.

Cortili Aperti

Where: various locations
When: late May
Tel & website: 02 7631 8634/www.cortiliaperti.it
Some ten private residences open their splendid courtyards to the public for one Sunday each year. In previous years, art nouveau buildings on corso Venezia including Casa Fontana Silvestri, Palazzo Serbelloni and Palazzo Greppi have taken part.

Idroscalo in Festa

Where: Idropark Fila, Circonvallazione Idroscalo Est 51, Segrate
When: late May-Sept
Tel & website: 02 7020 0902/www.provincia.milano.it/idroscalo
The summer season of sporting events, concerts, nightlife and picnics gets under way at the Idroscalo Park on the eastern outskirts of town.

Summer

Milano Moda Uomo Primavera/Estate

Where: various locations
When: late June
Website: www.cameramoda.it
Men’s fashion week for spring and summer: not the most important event in Milan’s fashion calendar, but it does bring some of the world’s best-looking men to the city. Shows, events, special presentations and catwalks take place all over town.

Milano d’Estate

Where: Castello Sforzesco, North
When: June-Aug
Website: www.visitamilano.it
Open-air concerts and performances by the likes of REM and Radiohead are organised to entertain those unfortunate milanesi who can’t leave the city in the heat of the summer. The action takes place in and around the grounds of the Castello Sforzesco.

Navigli summer season

Where: around the Navigli, South
When: June-Sept
The traffic-choked streets around the Navigli take a breather for the summer, letting bars and restaurants spill out into the pavements between 8pm and 2am every day.

Festa dei Navigli

Where: along the Navigli, South
When: 1st to 3rd Sun June
An eventful fortnight in the canal area, with street artists, concerts, sporting events, antiques markets, cooking demonstrations and more.

La Notte Bianca

Where: various locations
When: mid June
Website: www.comune.milano.it
In Italian, a ‘white night’ is a sleepless one. For one night each year, bars, restaurants, shops, cinemas et al whoop it up from early evening to 6am.

Notturni in Villa

Where: various locations
When: mid June-Aug
Tel & website: 02 8912 2383/www.amicidellamusicamilano.it
A series of jazz and classical music concerts in patrician villas around the city, such as Villa Simonetta at the end of corso Sempione. Performances start at 10pm and entry is free. See the tourist office and local press for details.

Sagra di San Cristoforo

Where: in front of San Cristoforo, Navigli, South
When: 3rd Sun June
Tel & website: 02 4895 1413/www.visitamilano.it
The feast of the patron saint of travellers takes place in the square in front of the little church of San Cristoforo. Decorated boats float down the Naviglio and vehicles are duly blessed.

Festival Latino Americando

Where: Forum di Assago, via D Vittorio 6, Assago
When: mid June-mid Aug
Tel & website:
02 4570 9915/www.latinoamericando.it
Milan celebrates all things Latino with this festival on the outskirts of the city. Over 60 concerts, events and exhibitions celebrate aspects of Latin music, arts, dance, food, crafts and cinema. Top Latin musicians fly in to give performances.

Autumn

Milano Moda Donna Primavera/Estate

Where: various locations
When: late Sept
Website: www.cameramoda.it
Yet another fashion week. On this occasion, leading Italian designers present their women’s collections for spring and summer. Events galore are held at shops, theatres and galleries.

Milano Marathon

Where: starts Arena Civico
When: early Nov
Website: www.milanocitymarathon.it
Nearly 7,000 competitors take part in Milan’s annual marathon, held on a Sunday at around 9.30am, when most civilised people are still in bed. The race starts and finishes at the Arena Civico in Parco Sempione.

Winter

Oh Bej! Oh Bej!

Where: Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, West
When: 7 Dec
This street market is one of Milan’s top festivals, held on the feast of the city’s patron saint, Ambrogio. The streets around piazza Sant’Ambrogio throng with crowds sampling traditional food such as pancakes, roast meat, chestnuts and mulled wine; and there are stalls selling crafts and antiques. Goldsmiths made a gift to the city of a silver statue of the saint, exhibited on this day in the Duomo cathedral; there’s also a special morning service in the Sant’Ambrogio basilica.

La Scala opening night

Where: Teatro alla Scala, via Filodrammatici 2, Centre
When: 7 Dec
Tel & website: 02 88 791/www.teatroallascala.org
Piazza della Scala fills with feather boas and black ties as the great and good assemble for La Scala’s first night of the season.

Epiphany

Where: various locations
When: 6 Jan
Epiphany is also known as La Befana, after a kind-hearted witch who is said to bring presents to well-behaved children and coal to naughty ones. Crowds turn out for the morning procession of the Three Wise Men from the Duomo to the church of Sant’Eustorgio, where their relics are said to be kept.

Milano Moda Uomo Autunno/Inverno

Where: various locations
When: mid Jan
Website: www.cameramoda.it
Men’s fashion week for autumn and winter: a bit of a sideshow to the women’s event (see below). Still, the talent it attracts is first rate.

Carnevale

Where: various locations
When: Feb/early Mar
Milan’s Carnevale takes place in the days after Shrove Tuesday, later than in the rest of Italy. The celebrations are largely for children, who roam the streets in costumes spraying confetti and foam at passers-by. A fancy dress parade takes place around the Duomo on the first Saturday of Lent.

Milano Moda Donna Autunno/Inverno

Where: various locations
When: late Feb
Website: www.cameramoda.it
Milan’s moment in the fashion spotlight, as 80-odd designers unveil their autumn and winter collections. Catwalks are assembled at venues in Milan from shops to private spaces, though entry to the shows is by invitation only. Metropol, Dolce & Gabbana’s renovated cinema (viale Piave 24, www.dolcegabbanametropol.com), hosts exhibitions as well as providing a venue for shows; Armani’s catwalk is at the former Nestlé factory he has converted into a theatre (via Bergognone 59).

Public holidays

On public holidays (giorni festivi), banks and businesses are closed, although (with the exception of May Day, Assumption and Christmas Day) bars and restaurants and the shops in the city centre tend to stay open.

Public transport is almost non-existent on 1 May and Christmas afternoon. Holidays falling on a Saturday or Sunday are not celebrated the following Monday; however, if a holiday falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday, many people will take the Friday/Monday off as well, a practice known as fare il ponte ('bridging') - but this doesn't mean offices are closed on these days.

New Year's Day (Capodanno) 1 Jan
Epiphany (Epifania) 6 Jan
Easter Monday (Pasquetta)
Liberation Day 25 Apr
Labour Day 1 May
Republic Day 2 Jun
Feast of the Assumption (Ferragosto) 15 Aug
All Saints' (Tutti Santi) 1 Nov
Feast of Sant'Ambrogio (Milan's patron saint) 7 Dec
Immaculate Conception (Festa dell'Immacolata) 8 Dec
Christmas Day (Natale) 25 Dec
Boxing Day (Santo Stefano) 26 Dec

Our listings

While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.

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By Ruthie - Aug 26 2013

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By Enrico Engelmann - Dec 25 2012

If you are in Milan for New Year’s Eve and you don’t want to go to a new year’s party in a bar or club, crowded, expensive and anonymous, and you don’t have a house party where to go, this can be a solution: http://www.milanofotografo.it/englishSvagoCulturaDettagliEvento.aspx?ID=405
The party will take place in a private location and the target age is around 30-40!

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By Enrico Engelmann - Nov 29 2012

It is impossible to list all the events taking place in Milan in one single list. They are far to many!
For those who are interested, there is now on line also the English version of the section Culture and Fun of my website: http://www.milanofotografo.it/englishSvagoCulturaHome.aspx
There you can find cultural events, a rather complete list of museums and theatre in Milan and more. There are also suggestions for fun events.
Suggestions and critics are welcome!

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By Mary - Sep 4 2012

Very interesting guide,yet not all events were found i.e: vogue fashion out.
I recently moved to milan & i look forward to receive all updates.

Thank you
Mary

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