Dylan Jones: Unlike Rome or Siena or Florence, Milan's modus operandi seems to be one of disguise

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Milan is the ugliest city in all Italy. Because of my job, I must have been here at least 30 times over the last 20 years, but, shame on me, I hardly know the place at all. Why should I? Everything looks the same. I can find the big hotels - the Principe, the Palace, the Hyatt, the Grand etc - and only a fool could miss the Duomo, but Milan is a city behind closed doors.

The only way to really discover Italy's economic centre is to consult Google Earth. Here, you will see the huge gardens and courtyards that lie, crouching almost, behind the palazzi; here, you can see what all the fuss is about. Unlike Rome, Siena, Florence, or any of the grand Italian cities, Milan's modus operandi seems to be one of disguise.

And while it will never be a tourist destination to rival Lucca, Sorrento or Positano, Milan still has some of the best restaurants in the country. Fashion week in Milan is the sartorial equivalent of Groundhog Day, with fashion houses and magazine editors ping-ponging between the same half-a-dozen restaurants; and we are lucky that we really wouldn't want to eat anywhere else.

There's Le Lange (formerly Tom Ford's favourite); Bagutta (where it's possible to see Valentino's backstage army wolfing down the buffet); Bice (where Armani has been known to go, when he isn't entertaining at Nobu); and, my favourite, the Tour de Pisa. Along with football and church, eating is still the Italian way to communicate with God, and here you can do it with ease. The tiniest of trattorias, Miuccia Prada, Paul Smith and Nick Hart come here for cheeseballs, Tuscan rigatoni and table Barolo. Here, as in all of these places, you need to keep your voice down because any indiscretion will be picked up and couriered across town before you've made it back from the loo.

Italy was the place to be during the World Cup because, while the German efficiency and hospitality was faultless, only in Italy do you find the sort of passionate dedication to rival what you see in South America. During men's fashion week, the Italy vs Australia game coincided with the Versace show. Naturally enough, Donatella asked for a huge screen to be erected at the venue so that everyone could watch the match before the fashion show began. You'll remember that Italy were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes, enabling the national team to go through, and the Versace show to start. Now that's organisation.

Of course, the Italian obsession with the world's favourite sport continues to get them into trouble, but you have to have some grudging respect for a country that is so blatant about its dedication. After all, where else can you see the little boys playing football in the parks practising the art of diving?

d.jones@independent.co.uk

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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