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Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” Five centuries have passed since Leonardo da Vinci uttered those words, but to me, as both a pilot and an airline-industry lifer, his sentiment continues to ring true. I was blessed to taste flight at a very early age, and to this day I am always eager to return to the skies.

What got me thinking of that quote was American Airlines’ new service to Milan, Italy, which begins this month. Milan, among its many other attractions, is home to Leonardo’s The Last Supper, one of the world’s most famous and beloved paintings. And I would like to use this month’s column to tell you a little more about our exciting new destination.

Located in northern Italy, Milan is the country’s leading financial and manufacturing center. As the fashion capital of Italy, it is also home to some of the world’s best-known designers. Several times a year, you’ll find the newest creations from the likes of Versace and Armani paraded up and down Milan’s runways. Not surprisingly, Milan has become a paradise for serious fashionistas and casual window-shoppers alike.

Along Milan’s streets, it is a short stroll from the secular delights of the shops to the divine inspiration of the Duomo, the city’s spectacular Gothic cathedral which, with its dozens of curlicued spires, rises from the heart of the city. Believe it or not, the Duomo took 500 years to complete. With the capacity to hold 20,000 people, it is the third-largest church in Europe. Although perhaps not quite as large, there are a number of grand palaces in Milan, the most notable of which is the Palazzo di Brera. Inside you will find the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the largest art galleries in Italy, featuring works by masters such as Raphael, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt. Leonardo’s The Last Supper fresco can be seen in the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. And not far away, at Castello Sforzesco — a castle built in the fifteenth century — you will find Rondanini Pietà, Michelangelo’s unfinished final sculpture, along with works by other Renaissance masters.

Music lovers will not want to miss Milan’s Teatro alla Scala (“Theatre at the Stairway”), one of the world’s most revered opera houses. Built in the late eighteenth century and nearly destroyed during World War II, it was led through much of the twentieth century by famed conductor Arturo Toscanini. Extensively renovated a few years ago, it remains a vital part of Milanese life today.

Once Milan’s cultural delights have fed your soul, you’ll naturally want to feed your body. Everyone knows that Italy is synonymous with great food. But of course, the concept of a national cuisine can be misleading, since distinct cuisines within countries can contrast interestingly with each other. For example, Milanese cooking is known for a generous use of butter, and in contrast to other parts of Italy, a Milanese dish is more likely to use polenta or rice rather than pasta.

At American Airlines, we’re delighted to add Milan to our global network of exciting and fascinating destinations. To paraphrase Leonardo, I think once you have tasted all Milan has to offer, you will long to return. And of course, when that longing strikes, we’ll be here to help. Wherever you’re going today, thanks for flying American Airlines.

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Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines