Culture and history meld beautifully in this fashion capital

My very first memory of Italy is stepping into the Piazza del Duomo and being bowled over by the Duomo di Milan, the cathedral. The sheer enormity and intricacy of the workmanship is breathtaking.

A happening tourist city, Milan was founded in the 7th Century BC by Celtic tribes who settled along the River Po.

It has changed hands between Napoleon and the Austrians, and it is here that Mussolini worked as editor of Avanti, a socialist newspaper in the turbulent years after World War I.

Milan has a number of sights and monuments to enjoy a couple of activity-packed days. I choose to start with the cathedral — it has been the city's social, geographical and pigeon centre since medieval times, commissioned in 1386. The first sight of the monument is unforgettable. Its marble façade is shaped into pinnacles, statues and pillars and held together by a veil of flying buttresses. Around 135 spires and 3,200 statues decorate the roof and the façade. The crowning glory is the central spire, 108m tall and capped by a gilded copper statue of the Madonnina, the city's traditional protector. Interestingly, there's no bell tower.

The interior is as beautiful as its exterior. Climb right to the roof and take in the view of the city.

The piazza is buzzing with people, locals and tourists. The passers-by and the glamorous shopping areas around the piazza are enough reason to believe why Milan is the fashion capital of the world. If you want a retail fix, just hop onto a flight to Milan. Over-the-top posters crowd the streets of the Golden Quad, where world's top fashion designers put up their creations. And, oh, I chance upon a Ferrari store — and for a huge fan such as me, it's like getting sticky toffee pudding with a free serving of rich chocolate cake!

Apart from stores teeming with brands, there are charming restaurants and cafés with seating on the footpath to enjoy the lovely summer sun.

The smell of pizza and coffee wafting through the street is tempting, but those on a shoe-string budget, watch out!

Milan's culture and history is its pride — this is evident in the care and investment made in preserving the architecture and the history of the city.

Jet Airways commences direct flights from Delhi to Milan on December 5. For details, visit Go to www.jetairways.com.