There might never be a better reason to pack your bags this summer. The 102nd annual Lions Clubs International Convention will be held in Milan, Italy—located in the heart of Europe where everything, it seems, is within arm’s reach.

July 5-9, 2019, Lions will be converging on the city famous for its works of art—and the artists who made them—to discuss a different kind of art form. Service, the act of giving, is itself a kind of art. And this summer, Lions will be using their creativity to work toward solutions to the world’s biggest problems. If it’s inspiration you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Milan.

Stained glass is just one of the stars of the art scene in Milan.


Unlike Rome, renowned the world over as the seat of the Roman Empire, and Florence, often named as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Milan doesn’t have an easy tagline. Many visitors come with a short list of sites in mind: usually “The Last Supper,” Leonardo da Vinci’s Renaissance masterpiece, and the grandly ornate and stylistically hybrid Duomo, perhaps with time built in for a stop at one of the city’s many designer boutiques.

But the forward-thinking creativity of the Milanese goes beyond these showy centerpieces. Artworks that run the gamut of time periods and art movements are tucked away in house museums and churches, and the city hums with an inventiveness and dynamism that reveals itself in fashion, design, architecture, and urban development. It’s this confluence of historic and creative forces that makes Milan such a stirring place, one whose many strands you won’t want to stop unraveling once you begin.


Leonardo da Vinci, the inventive Italian polymath, had an expansive range of interests—it would almost certainly be easier to list the subjects he didn’t take a liking to rather than all those he did. But da Vinci is best known as a painter, and his masterpiece “The Last Supper” at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie reveals his genius, even in its ghostly state.

Da Vinci spent almost two decades of his early working life in the city, where Ludovico Maria Sforza, also known as Ludovico il Moro, a regent and later Duke of Milan, served as his patron. In fact, it was Ludovico who commissioned “The Last Supper,” which da Vinci made using the novel technique of applying tempera paints to dried plaster (traditionally frescoes were painted on wet plaster and thus had to be completed quite quickly).

Due to the fragility of the painting, small groups can bask in da Vinci's genius for only 15 minutes at a time (this limit on visitors is the reason why tickets often sell out months in advance). Yet there’s no cap—outside of opening and closing times—on how long you can admire his frescoes in the Sala delle Asse (Room of Wooden Boards) at the Sforza Castle or pages from his Codex Atlanticus notebooks at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a library and picture gallery.

There’s a reason why da Vinci is so renowned, but he’s not the only master in town. The Museo Poldi Pezzoli, an often-overlooked house museum, contains a superb collection of Renaissance works while the Pinacoteca di Brera has some fantastic 15th-century Venetian paintings.


Artistic production in Milan is by no means a thing of the past. The contemporary art scene has recently flourished there. In 2015, Fondazione Prada opened a new permanent location in an old gin distillery on the southern edge of the city; on the northern fringes, Pirelli transformed a former locomotive plant into its own contemporary art space, Hangar Bicocca, in 2012. Both are immensely popular and packed with crowds on the weekends.

Skyscrapers in the CityLife district put Milan's vibrant modern architecture on display.

Milan has also earned a reputation as a design powerhouse. Propelled by the city’s growth as an industrial center over the last century or so, Milanese designers have embraced innovative technology and experimental shapes to create iconic objects—not unlike da Vinci with his inventions.

La Triennale di Milano, a design and art institution in Sempione Park that organizes temporary exhibitions and events, is one of the best places to soak up the city’s design history. For more contemporary works, visit Spazio Rossana Orlandi and browse experimental objects and furnishings sprawled across 19,000 square feet of a former tie factory.

More visibly, the new buildings that have recently reshaped the skyline show an eager embrace of forward-thinking architecture. Perhaps most stunning are the skyscrapers in the CityLife district designed by “starchitects” Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki, and Daniel Libeskind.

Adjacent to these three shining towers is where Lions will call home for five days. The curvaceous MiCo Milano Convention Center is easily accessible by metro (via the Amendola or Lotto stop on Line 1 or the Portello stop on Line 5). It can also be reached by bus number 78 (the Colleoni/Gattamelata stop) and tram numbers 19 (the Boezio stop) and 27 (the Piazza 6 Febbraio stop). But the most enjoyable way to navigate the city is by foot, and MiCo is just a 30-minute walk from Sempione Park.

Lake Maggiore

Northern Italy’s lakes are about as picture-perfect as they come: rough-hewn mountains spill into crystalline water. Each has its own personality, with Lake Maggiore being the grand dame of the bunch. Nowhere is this majesty better appreciated than in Stresa, where a long verdant pathway allows you to relish the lakefront on one side and the town’s opulent hotels on the other.

The three jewel-like Borromean Islands only add to the sumptuous feel of Stresa. Isola Bella is the closest to the town, and its fantastical ten-tiered baroque garden can be glimpsed from the shore. Stop for lunch at one of the excellent seafood restaurants on Isola Superiore before taking the ferry over to Isola Bella to explore this garden, complete with white peacocks, and Palazzo Borromeo, the palace it’s attached to. For a bird’s eye view of these beauties, take the Funivia Stresa-Alpino-Mottarone, a cable car that runs between Stresa and Monte Mottarone with a stop at Alpino midway.


Classical music lovers will want to make a beeline for Cremona, a city that became renowned for manufacturing musical instruments in the 16th century and where Antonio Stradivari later made his world-famous violins. Today the high-tech Museo del Violino, which opened in 2013, exhibits many gorgeous Cremona-made violins and invites musicians to perform on these precious instruments; be sure to check the website for recital and concert dates. The medieval city center is also worth a visit, not just to see the picturesque Piazza del Comune and the 12th-century Cremona Cathedral, but also to wander the narrow backstreets, where you can still glimpse luthiers practicing their craft.

Lake Como

A playground for celebrities, Lake Como is perhaps the flashiest of the northern Italian lakes. To really soak up the luxury, take a train to Varenna, where you can dine on a terrace suspended over the water and poke around elegant villas in the old town. From there, hop over to Bellagio by ferry (or private boat, if you want to live large) to wander the lakeside village’s cobbled lanes, which are studded with small boutiques.

For something a bit more active, follow the Sentiero del Viandante, an ancient track running along the eastern edge of the lake, from Varenna to Bellano. Just over six kilometers long, this portion of the hike can be comfortably walked in three hours and is relatively flat, except for the initial ascent. Reward yourself with a swim at the public beach in Bellano before hopping on a train back to Varenna.


There’s much to love about this former center of industry (Fiat’s Lingotto car factory, now a huge arcade of shops and entertainment outlets, was an icon of Italian industrialism when it was built in the early 20th century). Turin was the first capital of the unified Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century and the seat of the Savoy dynasty—the royal residences and long, porticoed arcades, allegedly built to keep the aristocrats dry, give the city a regal air. Today, it is Italy’s fourth largest city and also the capital of the Piedmont region, famed for its food and wine, making the dining scene an embarrassment of riches. Add in an elegant café culture and an offbeat art scene—it’s home to both the museum of the Shroud of Turin and an archeological museum dedicated to Egyptian culture—and you’ll never want to leave.


Many people would argue that the best food in Italy can be found in the Emilia-Romagna region. So foodies should not miss the region’s capital, and what some would call the gastronomical capital of Italy, the medieval city of Bologna. Try the renowned tortellini in brodo (a filled pasta dumpling served in broth), tagliatelle al ragù (ragù, better known to most foreigners as Bolognese sauce, was first concocted here) or mortadella (cured pork) at one of the many fine restaurants that dot this ancient city. For an all-in-one experience, take a bus to the recently opened FICO Eataly World, a theme park with 40 food factories and just as many restaurants, as well as educational “carousels” and a cornucopia of food products from all across the country.


You can find cotoletta alla Milanese, a cousin of the schnitzel, just about anywhere in Milan, whether you’re dining at Michelin-starred restaurants or going for lunch at a neighborhood bar. And while the basic recipe is the same—a veal cutlet breaded and then fried in butter—each spot seems to have their own twist on the dish. Some go for boneless while others prefer bone-in, and then there’s the debate over thin versus thick, crunchy versus juicy. Don’t be afraid to order it more than once until you find your favorite version.


Like cotoletta, ossobuco is another veal main found at traditional Milanese restaurants. Yet, unlike the fried cutlet, ossobuco is a slow-braised shank and thus requires more time to cook. The end result, though, is worth the wait: the fork-tender meat almost dissolves on the tongue, and the delicious marrow at the center of the bone adds a punch of flavor. For a real whopper of a meal, order the ossobuco and risotto alla Milanese combination offered at a number of spots.


Most people associate Italy with two dishes: pasta and pizza. While both are certainly widespread, you’ll actually find that rice, rather than pasta, figures more prominently in the traditional cuisine of northern Italy. In Milan especially, which is located in the Po Valley, also known as the “rice bowl of Italy,” you’ll often find risotto on the menu. The city is particularly famous for risotto alla Milanese, a dish made bright yellow by the addition of saffron. Taste-wise, though, the most important components are Parmesan or Lodigiano cheese and bone marrow, which are responsible for the rich flavor.


Come Christmastime, Milan’s pastry shops are stacked high with elegant boxes of panettone, a loaf of sweet bread with origins in the city. Cylindrical in shape and with a domed top, this dessert, which falls somewhere in between a bread and a cake, will blow away any memories you may have of traditional Christmas fruitcakes: the dough is fluffy and pillowy, and the candied fruit and raisins are luscious. Many pastry shops now bake panettone year-round, and a slice of this masterpiece is the perfect accompaniment to your afternoon coffee.

There is nothing more foundational to Lions than service. Convention service projects allow you to step out of the convention center and gain a unique perspective of how local Lions serve in their community. Join Leo and Lion friends from around the world while giving back to those less fortunate.

Space is limited, register today: