From the walks in the City Centre to the strolls on Navigli, Milan is probably the most international city in Italy and our hometown. You can experience the vibe of the past by visiting the Dome and the Castello Sforzesco or feel the development of the city in the new Gae Aulenti square where the Unicredit tower shines. And when the night comes, you do not want to miss the cocktails and the buzzing night life. Treat yourself to some cocktails and wake up to wash your headache with a brunch.
Discover now the 10 tips that will make you wish to book a flight to Milan
For so long just known for its leading role in the Italian economy the ‘capital of the north’ is now on the map for tourists and it is a true, vibrant and inspiring international city. Welcome to Milan, Ladies and Gentlemen. The place we will always call home.
1. A Dome and a Castle (Duomo)
It is too beautiful to be true. For a long time, this has probably been the only worldwide known landmark for Milan and it is incredible when you see it from the bottom end of the big ‘Piazza del Duomo’ (the square). It is stunning.
For the best view, a Milanese like me would suggest getting to the centre with the red Metro line but jumping off at Cairoli to see the Castello Sforzesco first (yes, Milan has its own castle). In hot summer days, you can also enjoy the vast Sempione Park, reachable from the back entrance of the castle.
Once done with the medieval memories, just walk down via the pedestrians only Via Dante and Via Orefici and… there you go… I will leave you with the beauty of entering Piazza del Duomo for the first time.
You need to know… The symbol of the city called ‘Madunina’ in Milanese dialect is the gold Virgin Mary statue at the top of the Dome.
And not only you can enter the cathedral (do it, it’s amazing!) but you can climb on top (through a well hidden system of ladders on the right hand side looking at the Dome in the front).
A fantastic view also unfolds from the roof terrace of the Rinascente (the famous shopping mall) that is on the left side of the Dome.
An Aperol Spritz or glass of Prosecco is all everyone can wish for.
2. Strolling the city centre (Tram Cordusio)
If you are walking down Via Dante and Via Orefici, you can take a detour to another worldwide famous landmark: the opera theatre La Scala (click for tickets and info on the museum).
If you imagine a big building like the Opera House in Sydney, you couldn’t be more wrong. It is discrete and fits the pattern of the city centre, but if you have the chance to buy tickets, absolutely do it. It is quite expensive but a magic experience, especially if you manage to get to see an opera rather than just a concert.
For an aperitivo or dinner following the play, I recommend trying il Marchesino from the famous Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi.
Go for the traditional bowl of risotto alla Milanese (also called yellow risotto – risotto giallo – due to the saffron in it). It is delicious.
And… after the theatre and the dinner, remember to get back to Piazza del Duomo, walking down the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
You will fall in love with Milan, I am sure.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the centre of the city is also home of the most glittered shopping.
Head to the so-called ‘Via Montenapoleone fashion district’.
Even if the prices are quite high and you might not want to splash your cash here, it is definitively worth a stroll.
3. Cappuccino, no better way to start off your day (Colazione = breakfast)
Milan is about the city, art, fashion… and food, of course!
And if you are like Sara and depend from cappuccino, well this is where you want to try it.
Milan offers one of the best cappuccino you can find in Italy, it is a delicious coffee-based hot drink with solid and tasty milk foam on top.
Whether you ask to add cocoa powder or cinnamon in it, just remember this is perfect for breakfast together with a ‘cornetto’ (little horn sized brioche) but you should never get it to end a meal. For that just ask for an espresso (or simply ‘un caffè).
Don’t be like all the other tourists!
4. Churches and bars @Colonne di San Lorenzo
Moving slightly away from the city centre and the Dome, Milan is full of other stunning churches to visit.
Arrange a long day walking tour from the Santa Maria delle Grazie church (hosting the famous Da Vinci’s Last Supper) to the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio.
Then, after lunch onwards to the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore and the Sant’Eustorgio Basilica.
Your final stops will be in a pedestrian area, also very famous for restaurants and bars.
The area around the columns in front of the San Lorenzo Basilica (called ‘le Colonne’) has all you need to have a very long night of fun.
To visit the Last Supper, it is necessary to book in advance.
5. Milano da bere (Drinks)
The famous ad slogan “Milano da Bere” (Milan to drink) was created in the eighties to promote a liquor has so much to tell about the soul and the challenges of this city.
And though with changes happened in time, it is still representing the optimism and the drive that Milan always had, especially if compared to a more decadent Rome.
And as we speak, in 2017 it could hardly be more dynamic.
So if the ‘Milan to drink’ is still a great reality of the city, you’ve got to try all the fantastic places to test it.
The list is probably too long and everyone can find their favourite place, from posh to traditional, to the more innovative.
A winery (Enoteca) is generally a good place to have a good bottle of Italian excellence, one we recommend is Cantine Isola.
But if you are more in the mood for cocktails, my choice goes to Nottingham Forest.
Amongst the 50 best bars in the world, it is a casual location where you can experiment bar-chefs techniques mastered into incredible cocktails.
Innovative, international and truly at the heart of Milan.
Like all the main cities in Europe, brunch is a thing in Milan as well.
It started the ‘truly American way’ in places like the famous California Bakery, however now it is a Milanese thing where you can try a proper Italian style brunch.
If you also want to couple your Sunday lunch with live music, definitively go to Santeria.
7. The City (Unicredit Tower)
Milan is not only art, churches and nice streets to stroll around between a cappuccino, a gelato and an aperitivo.
It now has its shiny glass&iron little city, which represents an excellent example of re-development of a previously decadent area.
Nestled around the iconic UniCredit Tower (the tallest in Italy!), it is a spot not to miss where to get a glimpse of the business life of Milan.
8. The secret Milan (Corso Como)
After ‘Le Colonne’ and the ‘Navigli’, Corso Como is for sure a fun area full of bars and clubs.
If you are visiting during the day, you can arrange a lovely stroll into the most secret places of Milan, simply by heading towards Piazza della Moscova.
Also reachable with the Metro green line, it is a perfect starting point to explore lovely streets like Via Milazzo, Via Palermo and Via Solferino and the long Corso Garibaldi.
9. Food for everyone (Temakinho)
And what can be best than a nice dinner after a long day of explorations?
Milan is truly international, in the sense that you can find every kind of food you might wish for.
If you are looking for something more traditional Milanese, the best area is for sure the historical ‘Navigli’.
Recently redeveloped, it is also perfect for nightlife.
But if you fancy something a bit more international than Risotto alla Milanese (with saffron), Risotto and Ossobuco (yellow risotto with braised cross-cut veal shanks) or cassoeula (a pork feast in a pot with cabbage!), it is just a matter of choice. Temakinho is a good option to couple lovely drinks with Japanese-Brazilian cuisine.
Another Milanese classic you have to try is the famous ‘cotoletta a orecchia d’elefante’ (very large and thin breaded veal cutlet – so big to look like an elephant’s ear).
You can find it in many places, but if you want a great one and you don’t mind going a bit far from the city centre, I do recommend booking a table at Al Garghet.
The atmosphere is great both in cold winters and in hot summers when you can enjoy the perfect garden.
10. Indulge (Pasticceria)
Unlike the south of Italy, where pastries are huge, in Milan you can find loads of amazing ‘pasticcerie’ serving small and delicious pastries.
Perfect if you want to keep your calories intake under control (I know, not easy in Italy…) or get a bit more variety for your sweet break, trying more than just one at a time.
I generally go for the latter, and of course I couple my sweet moments with a good cappuccino.
What else should I ask for?