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There are plenty of reasons to venture off Milan's fashion week treadmill. For starters, dozens of outstanding museums dot the city, including the new Museo del Novecento (Palazzo dell'Arengario), which opened in December. The collection of mainly Italian painting and sculpture — like Pirandello and Morandi — occupies the Palazzo dell'Arengario, which was gutted to make room for a giant white spiral ramp that feeds into linear white gallery spaces. Attached is the instant hot-spot, Ristorante Giacomo all'Arengario. If you can get a table, I applaud you.
Fondazione Hangar Bicocca (Via Privata Chiese 2), a factory that used to make engine coils, is now a multidisciplinary art space where artists build and exhibit giant contemporary installations, like Anselm Keifer cement towers called The Seven Heaven Palaces. The space is so big you might need to stop for lunch or a cocktail at the very cool in-house HB Bistrot.
Further afield near Parco Sempione is the Trienalle Design Museum (Viale Emilio Alemagna, 6), where the impressive permanent collection includes Italian furniture, fixtures and electronic design from 1930 on. Currently running is a show of Joe Velluto's tongue-in-cheek conceptual objects. If you get restless from all the heady design ideas, you can wander over to the minimalist Fiat Café for coffee, or stroll back into the Brera district and actually buy some high-design furnishings at Skitsch (Via Monte di Pieta, 11).
Noctural gallivanting in Milan is usually about putting on your best bella figura and heading to the latest tony aperitif bar. At A_MI (Viale Pirelli Piero E Alberto, 14), a Zaha-Hadid-esque space with lots of sculptured concrete surfaces, a stylish young crowd gathers for aperitifs and little bites of sushi and sashimi. And over at the Straf Bar (Via San Raffaele, 3) at the Straf Hotel, the location (off Piazza Duomo) and the scene are close to perfect — casual, easy, with the occasional DJ spinning chill-out tracks. It's a welcome break from the high impact mondo di moda.