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Founded by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1778, Italy's best-loved opera house is also one of the most famous in the world. It is a  neoclassical dream, all kitted out with sumptuous red seats and boxes adorned with gilt; the chandeliers drip crystal the way that the Milanese audiences drip gold and diamonds. As well as world-class opera performances from the ouvres 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 of 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 Dec. 7, which is the feast day of Sant'Ambrogio, the city's patron saint. Even though La Scala seats around 3,000 people in its six tiers of seating and boxes, tickets for one of the theater's sublime operas are as rare as hens' teeth, so reserve tickets months in advance.

Book online, pay by credit card on [tel] 02-861-778, or go to La Scala's booking office in the Galleria del Sagrato, Piazza del Duomo, open daily noon–6pm (closed Aug). The ticket office at the opera house (Via Filodrammatici, 2) releases 140 last-minute tickets for that evening's performance 2.5 hours before the curtain goes up; expect long lines so get there early.