Founded by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1778, Italy's best-loved opera house is a Neo-classical dream, all kitted out with sumptuous red seats and boxes adorned with gilt; the chandeliers drip crystal in the way that the Milanese audiences drip gold and diamonds. As well as world-class opera performances from the stables of Verdi, Strauss, and Mozart, the repertoire encompasses ballet, symphony and chamber orchestra concerts, and recitals by the likes of Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel in around 15 productions per year under the direction if conductor Riccardo Chailly. On Sundays there are family concerts, with cultural events and workshops taking place all through the season, which opens with great pomp and ceremony on December 7. Tickets for one of La Scala's sublime operas are as rare as hens’ teeth, so book tickets months in advance.