Compared with some of Milan’s other historic buildings, the Teatro alla Scala is quite understated when you view it from the street. But step inside, and you’ll be gobsmacked by the opulence and grandeur of one of the world’s greatest opera houses. This special venue, which replaced another opera house that had perished in a fire, celebrated its grand opening in 1778 with an operatic performance of Antonio Salieri’s L'Europa riconosciuta.
One of the many show-stopping features of this grand auditorium is the crimson-lined private opera boxes that encircle the theatre from one side of the stage to the other. They scale to the ceiling over six magnificent levels. It’s a sight so theatrical in itself that it rivals the prestigious performances of the world-renowned artists who have graced its stage for the past 200-plus years.
While visiting Milan, taking in an opera or ballet performance at Teatro alla Scala is a bucket-list-worthy experience. A maximum of 140 last-minute tickets are available for purchase two and a half hours before each performance from the Filodrammatici box office at the opera house’s main entrance. Even if you can’t catch a show, make a beeline for the excellent theatre museum. It details the history of the opera house and showcases oodles of historical and theatrical treasures, musical instruments and costumes and features a gallery of 19th-century portraiture. The museum is open every day (except a handful of days throughout the year) from 9am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm to 5:30pm. Also, if you’re fortunate enough to visit La Scala (as the locals abbreviate it) when rehearsals are not in session, you can view this stunning theatre from up in the iconic boxes.
The opera house is right in the heart of the city. Take the tube to Duomo station, where you can pause to appreciate the famous Milan Cathedral from the Piazza del Duomo before walking the few blocks to the Teatro alla Scala. The opera house is also close to the historic and lavish Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade. Make time for a spot of shopping, or at least have a wander through.