Cultural, historical and artistic treasures to be found in each area
The statistics have been telling us for years that Italy is the country with the world's highest concentration of cultural heritage. And it's hard to disagree: you only have to take a walk through the old centre of any town, from the greatest city to the smallest hilltop village, to find you are being literally bombarded by beauty on all sides. Museums, palatial city residences and stately homes, monuments, archaeological sites, churches and monasteries: the sheer quantity of places of interest is breathtaking. Practically boundless.
Art and culture are integral parts of our communities and our everyday lives: they are ubiquitous and instinctive. They are like the air we breathe. That's why Go!Excellence has created an unprecedented Route of Knowledge, an itinerary that takes you from Milan to Mantua - Italian Capital of Culture for 2016 - with a detour that takes in Varese, featuring some suggestions for tours off the beaten track.
Get away from the most popular museums, often the target of hordes of distracted, hurried tourists, and discover some fascinating great little stories. A blend of classical and contemporary, of art and design.
Established in 1618 by Federico Borromeo, with the noble intention of offering an education to the citizenry, the Ambrosian Picture Gallery is Milan's oldest museum. Home to inestimable treasures, its collections range from the cartoon drawn by Raphael as the basis for his fresco of the School of Athens to the Portrait of a Musician, the only work by Leonardo - apart from the Last Supper - that is still held in the city, taking in Caravaggio's Basket of Fruit on the way. Inestimable is also the word for the value of the books in the venerable Ambrosian Library, home to the richest collection of books printed in the sixteenth century and earlier incunabula prints attributed to Aldo Manuzio.
Piazza Pio XI, 2
open from Tuesday to Sunday
10.00 am - 6.00 pm
What was once an industrial building covering nearly 20,000 square metres has now been converted by the celebrated architect Rem Koolhaas: building on its existing location in Venice, the Prada Foundation redoubled its impact when it opened a new exhibition space in Milan in 2015, near the old railway station of Porta Romana. Together with the priceless pieces from the Prada art collections are major-draw temporary exhibitions. For a relaxing break, drop into the Bar Luce, a caf&ecute; designed by the movie director Wes Anderson, with strong overtones of his masterpiece Grand Budapest Hotel.
Largo Isarco, 2
open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
10.00 am - 7.00 pm
Friday, Saturday and Sunday
10.00 am - 9.00 pm
The place where airplanes once used to be built now houses major cultural events. The enormous interiors of the Hangar Bicocca, an art centre that bears the Pirelli brand, hosts one exhibition after another curated by Vicente Todolì (previously Director of the Tate Modern in London) of leading contemporary artists: Dieter Roth, Mike Kelley, Philippe Parreno, Ragnar Kjartansson and Cildo Meireles. Plus there's the permanent exhibition of Anselm Kiefer's imposing, dramatic Seven Heavenly Palaces.
Via Chiese, 2
open from Thursday to Sunday
11.00 am - 11.00 pm
"For me, Villa Panza is a place that represents the heart of European culture and at the same time, through the Panza collection, the fullest expression of the union between Europe and America". That is how the movie director Wim Wenders described the house museum, now protected by the National Trust for Italy (FAI), standing a stone's throw from Lake Maggiore and housing the unique collection of contemporary art compiled by Giuseppe Panza, with a special focus on the maestros of Minimalism: Dan Flavin, James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Lawrence Carroll and Ettore Spalletti.
Piazza Litta, 1 - Varese
open from Tuesday to Sunday
10.00 am - 6.00 pm
Combining the sacred with the profane, this old deconsecrated church in his native Mantua is now home to the museum dedicated to Tazio Nuvolari, the legendary pioneer of car and motorbike racing and a symbol of the enterprising frontier spirit of early motoring. The museum displays several of the Alfa Romeo cars driven by Nuvolari to race victories, as well as curios and other memorabilia - cups, trophies and medals, but also helmets, clothing and racing uniforms - that once belonged to one of Italy's first sporting idols.
Deconsecrated church of the Carmelino
Via Giulio Romano, ang. Via Nazario Sauro
open from Tuesday to Friday
3.00 pm - 6.00 pm
Saturday and Sunday
11.00 am - 6.00 pm
Attached to the architectural complex of Mantua's Ducal Palace, the Castle of San Giorgio houses one of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance in its north-eastern tower: the Camera Picta ("Painted Room") - generally known as the Camera degli Sposi ("Bridal Chamber") - frescoed by Andrea Mantegna between 1465 and 1474. The magnetic cycle of frescos culminates - literally - with the world-famous oculus painted on the ceiling that gives the observer the illusion of being overlooked by a circle of members of the ruling Gonzaga family and putti looking down into the room.
Piazza Sordello, 40
open from Tuesday to Sunday
8.15 am - 7.15 pm
Peep-Hole recently moved from the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Porta Venezia to the area around Milan's Monumental Cemetery and is now housed in the buildings of the historical Battaglia Foundry, where some of the greatest sculptors in Italy - and the rest of the world - have created their works and still do to this day. A non-profit exhibition space with an international flavour that hosts some of the most interesting artistic personalities of the moment, Peep-Hole was conceived and is managed by Vincenzo De Bellis, currently the Director of MIART, the Milan Fair of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Via Stilicone, 10
open from Wednesday to Saturday
2.30 pm - 7.00 pm
Once you are through the main door of number 23 Corso Monforte, you find yourself in a peaceful oasis. The Palazzo Cicogna Mozzoni's noble courtyard and its luxuriant garden seem to catapult you light-years away from the chaotic traffic in Milan's San Babila area. It was here that the artist Lucio Fontana had his studio, from 1952 to the year he died. The same spaces are now home to the Studio Giangaleazzo Visconti, an art gallery that showcases the works of many of Italy's leading twentieth-century artists: Fontana himself, of course, Piero Manzoni and Vincenzo Agnetti, as well as some interesting names from abroad.
Corso Monforte, 23 - Milan
open from Monday to Friday
10.00 am - 1.00 pm; 2.30 am - 6.00 pm
In this hybrid location, a sliding wall transforms the theatre-layout of the cinema into a conference room and exhibition space. The "Il Cinema del Carbone" project has given the old Oberdan cinema a new lease of life, chasing away the shadows that threaten so many small cinemas in Italy's towns and cities with closure. As well as showing a calendar of quality films, "Il Cinema del Carbone" hosts seminars, workshops, meetings and discussions with authors and moviemakers and has become an interesting animator of the cultural scene in Mantua.
Via Oberdan, 11 - Mantua
The Bibiena was established to provide a place for intellectuals of the Enlightenment to meet together, hence the name "Scientific" for the theatre designed by Antonio Galli Bibiena in the 1760s, an architectural jewel that also shows signs of the work of Piermarini (who designed La Scala in Milan). It was here, in 1770, that a barely adolescent Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played a concert that contemporaries reported as being memorable; and it is here that cultural events and musical performances of the highest quality are organised today.
Via dell'Accademia, 47
Giving itself a name that pays tribute to Twiggy Lawson, the legendary icon of Swinging London, this place had to be something a bit "far out" (as they used to say then). The atmosphere is intentionally retro in this multipurpose space where a genuine food & drink area cohabits happily with a concert hall with a keen eye on the Italian and international indie scene. In the last few years, the playbill has featured several cult underground line-ups, including the Canadian band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Jackie O' Motherfucker.
Via de Cristoforis, 5
open from Monday to Thursday
ore 5.00 pm - 1.00 am; Friday 5.00 pm - 2.00 am; Saturday 6.30 pm - 2.00 am; Sunday 6.30 pm - 1.00 am www.twiggyvarese.com
The Fiction Aisle - Heart Map Rubric, 2015
smooth jazz: a jazz supergroup experiments with pop ranging from Sinatra to Pink Floyd
East India Youth - Culture Of Volume, 2015
synth pop: an album that puts the new heirs to Kraftwerk and the Pet Shop Boys firmly on the map
Traams - Modern Dancing, 2015
alt. rock: England is the source of this rock: rough-edged and Sonic Youth style, yet utterly elegant
Bisan Toron - Toward The Roar, 2015
world: a voice like Tori Amos and atmospheres borrowed from Enya for this Syrian-born singer
by Aleksandr Sokurov (2015)
with Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Vincent Nemeth, Johanna Korthals Altes
In Paris under the German occupation, the life and times of Jacques Jaujard, Director of the Louvre, become entangled with those of the German officer Franziskus von Wolff Metternich. Starting out inevitably as enemies and adversaries, the two find common ground in a shared mission: to save the works of art in the world's most important museum from destruction and being scattered to the four winds.
Dall'Ellade a Bisanzio
In the summer of 1960, while all Italy is focused on the Olympics in Rome, a group of young people from good family backgrounds (and with good background reading) leaves for a fascinating trip to Greece. Towards Olympia.
The routes of flavour
Verona - Milano - Firenze
Perfumes and aromas of typical fine food and wine products.
The routes of secrets
Milano - Parma - Bologna
Curiosities and revelations on the less trodden paths.