MILAN (AP) — Milan is used to being the center of attention, albeit in brief spurts. The fashion crowd blows through here four times a year for seasonal shows. The city is the site of one of the world's premier design fairs each April. The rest of the year it is the center of Italian finance and business, more backroom deal than global showcase.
Nothing compares with the global attention that the Expo 2015 world's fair is expected to generate, and city officials are going all out to ensure that Italy's fashion and financial capital puts its best foot forward, starting with an extraordinary calendar of cultural events.
Milan's famed opera house La Scala has launched a special Expo calendar, starting with the May 1 premier of Puccini's Turandot, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Skipping its usual summer hiatus, the opera house is also offering shorter operas for children, lasting 90 minutes, as well as half-priced tickets to attract opera-lovers who haven't been able to afford to go to the storied theater.
Milan has unveiled what is billed as the largest Leonardo da Vinci exhibit ever in Italy with more than 200 pieces of art gathered from museums worldwide, including three paintings from the Louvre and 30 signed drawings from the collection of Queen Elizabeth II. Milan is also home to da Vinci's fragile fresco "The Last Supper" located in the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie. Reservations required.
The Triennale contemporary art museum, located in Parco Sempione, is featuring an exhibit on the sidelines of Expo examining the relationship between the arts and food since 1851 — from kitchen implements to the way we set tables, through Nov. 1.
And a new Museum of Cultures designed by British architect David Copperfield opened in March, with artifacts around the world collected from the 19th century to the present day by missionaries, explorers and scholars -- but also including spoils of war and colonialism.
Giorgio Armani is celebrating 40 years in the fashion business this year, and he opened a museum called Silos to mark the occasion. It is four floors of Armani splendor, organized roughly by color, across from his Milan showroom.
Milan has been reinventing itself as a modern city replete with skyscrapers, adding about a dozen to the skyline in the run-up to Expo. The center of the high-rise activity is Piazza Gae Aulenti, located near the Garibaldi train station, and featuring the spiraling Unicredit Towers complex. It is a nice counterpoint to Milan's iconic Duomo cathedral, located a couple of kilometers (more than a mile) away.
Not to be left out of consideration is the one-time Italian capital Turin. Thanks to high-speed trains, its main station is just three-quarters of an hour from the Expo grounds.
Visitors to Turin can view the Holy Shroud (commonly referred to as the Shroud of Turin) through June 24 and a rarely viewed self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci through June 2.
The newly expanded Egyptian Museum, featuring the entire contents of a tomb of the architect Ka and his wife Merit, as well as the Cinema Museum, located beneath the landmark La Mole Antonelliana dome, are among Turin's most significant cultural draws.