Today I will be flying to Europe from Sydney to see some good friends and family and simply to make the most of the European summer, which we all love, don’t we?!
First stop of my exciting trip will be Milan, city that I adore – unlike a lot of Italians, for some reasons – and city that gave me so much back in the 4 years I spent there. What I am sharing with you now is MY Milan’s weekend guide that I put together for first timers in the Italian fashion capital.
I can guarantee you that all the places I have listed below are still there, buzzy and active as usual! But I might add some more hidden gems after my visit, who knows… I might discover some new corners of town myself, and share them with you!
These activities will keep you so busy that you won’t have time to go to the Expo. In fact, there is so much more to Milan than the Expo these days.
THE EXPLORING BIT
Not sure what you are after, if more food, more shopping, more cultural events… but I will give you a mix of mi picks here.
Milan gives its best during spring (unfortunately it also gives you a lot of mosquitoes, but you can easily do something about it!), so walking is the best way to get around. I’d recommend you to start walking from Navigli (the famous canal district) to the city center and get pleasantly lost along the tiny streets and the nice canals. On the way to the Duomo (the main cathedral) you will pass through Corso di Porta Ticinese, which is a lovely street full of cafes, restaurants, bars and classy vintage shops.
At the end of Corso di Porta Ticinese just cross the road and you will hit the Colonne di San Lorenzo (Saint Laurence Columns), very characteristic as well, where young crowds of people hang out at night playing guitar, chatting, or drinking a beer and eating a bite on the go. Turn right after the columns and you are in Via Torino – again, more shopping, ice-cream places and cafes – which will lead you right in front of the Duomo. Getting in the Duomo is free, but what you can also do is walking to the top, where the little Saint Mary statue is, for a stunning view over the whole Milan, with the Dolomites all around. Milanese people call it ‘La Madunina’, and it’s the symbol of their city.
Once in the Duomo square you will be in the heart of Milan, and I simply suggest you to go with the flow and discover what the tiny streets around can offer. Which is a lot and very surprising, I find.
Walking through the famous – and only recently restored – Vittorio Emanuele Gallery. At the end of it you will find the popular La Scala Theatre.
Take Corso Vittorio Emanuele – more shopping and celebrity spotting – and then turn left in Piazza San Babila (San Babila Square): you will be in Via Montenapoleone, the Chelsea of Milan. Not sure you will be able to afford anything there, but it is worth a visit. It is Milan fashion at his top. A classy icon.
Just behind the Gallery, hidden in a Via Santa Ranegonda, not far from The Scala, you’ll find the best ‘panzerotti’ place in the whole Milan: Luini is a bakery that has become an institution for all the locals. I warn you: queues here can be very long, but it will all be worth it for your fried or oven (my favourite!) panzerotto! Oh wait, what is a panzerotto? a mini calzone, in a nutshell.
Take via Dante – packed with elegant cafes – and you will have the Castle right in front of you. It’s called Castello Sforzesco – the Sforza family which once reigned in Milan lived in there – and it is situated in the most beautiful park of downtown Milan, Parco Sempione. Here is what you will find once inside the park:
you can visit the castle itself and walk through the part to the opposite side to see the Arco della Pace (Peace Arch): our own Arc de Triomphe;
the Modern Art Museum (called La Triennale di Milano) which never lets you down: great exhibitions, quirky cafe’, beautiful structure and outdoor space
The main museum is right in the Duomo Square, and it’s called Palazzo Reale (The Royal Palace). They always have great quality exhibitions on.
Absolutely go to Brera!!!! It’s one of the oldest – and wealthiest – parts of town and you can get there either from the end of Via Montenapoleone or from the Castle. The closest tube station is Lanza or Moscova. The Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Picture Gallery) is here, and it’s famous all over the world for its art school and its art collections. The streets you will have to look up on Google Map are a few, but Brera is so small that I am sure you will walk through most of them without the help of technology:
- Via Palermo
- Corso Garibaldi
- Via Brera
- Via dei Fiori Oscuri
- Via dei Fiori Chiari
- Via Solferino
Another part of town you will HAVE TO go to is Corso Como, again another icon of the fashionable side of Milan. The famous shop 10 Corso Como is where stylists from all over the world come to find inspiration. They also have a cafe area (sit back and enjoy a tea/coffee/wine in their garden), an exhibition area upstairs and an hotel with 3 rooms only, each with a different style.
THE FOOD AND DRINKS BIT
Milan is packed with some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Italy, which means you will rarely get disappointed by its food scene. I don’t have specific recommendations for food, but if all you have is a weekend, then head to Brera and Navigli for a treat, and for a great vibe and cool atmosphere. Avoid the Duomo area which tends to attract more tourists and be more expensive.
Trattoria Toscana in Navigli (in Corso di Porta Ticinese): a must for the cool guys in town. Head there for the aperitivo time to capture the cool essence of Milan-by-night in the back courtyard.
Traditional pizzeria – which is also restaurant – right in the heart of the canals: La Magolfa. I always go there with my friends, it’s cheap, nothing fancy, amazing real Italian food and super authentic atmosphere (make sure you end your dinner with one of their amaros!).
On the main canal, this is one of the best places for the ‘Gnocco Fritto’, the typical Italian fried dumplings (mmmhhh…. delicious!!!): Osteria dello Gnocco Fritto.
Princi: the best slices of pizzas in Italy! It’s not a place for dinner, as in it’s not a restaurant but this is a concept that Italians love: go for some pizza bites – and a cheeky beer – before proper dinner. There are a few around town, but the first – and most iconic ones – are the one in Brera (in Largo La Foppa, right in front of Moscova tube station, on the green line) and the one next to Corso Como (Piazza XXV Aprile, 5). Princi has also opened in Soho – London – now and and it’s always packed!
Da Claudio Fishmonger: this place is a normal fishmonger during the day, but then turns into a fashionable and classy aperitivo bar every evening! Go there for some fresh fish and a glass of prosecco before dinner (and for some amazing people watching and celebrity spotting…. and a lot of chatting over a drink of course!!!).
Osteria dei Poeti in 40 Corso Garibaldi. Hidden gem for a super authentic and elegant dinner option.
Aperitivo in Piazzale La Foppa (next to Princi and to the Moscova tube station): go to Radetzky for more people watching, good quality aperitivo and a glass of wine or a cocktail outside in the little square.
THE PRACTICAL BIT
from MALPENSA: take the Malpensa Express, which is a train within the airport that will take you to Milano Cadorna. From there you can either get a taxi to your destination or jump on the tube.
from LINATE the best way is to get a taxi. If you want to spend a bit less you can get the shuttle bus service from Linate to Central Station and from there either the taxi or the tube to reach your final destination.
from ORIO AL SERIO: there is only one way, unfortunately and it does take ages… the shuttle bus service to Central…
Milan is not like London. There are only 3 tube lines and they take you pretty much everywhere in town. Or you can walk or cycle, which is muuuch better! Milan is small and all the main attractions are concentrated in a relatively small area. It is also a flat city, which makes it perfect for cycling around.
Stay in one of these following areas so that you can easily walk or cycle everywhere within minutes. Regardless the area you pick, Aribnb is the way to go! You will then get to explore the city like a local and you will make the most of the beautiful Milanese people’s interior design (and trust me… they do know one thing or two about design there!).
Airbnb in Navigli (closest tubes: Romolo, S. Agostino and Porta Genova) where I am staying this weekend. This charming and well designed flat is situated in a casa di corte (courtyard house) which is typical of this area of Milan. If you are an Airbnb new user get a voucher on your first booking, by using this link.
Isola (closest tubes: Porta Garibaldi and Zara)
Brera (closest tubes: Lanza, Moscova, Porta Garibaldi)
- Porta Romana (closest tubes: Crocetta and Porta Romana)
So I did well and kept my promise: no mention of the Expo in this blog post. We will all be too busy exploring the real Milan instead… the one that you only find in its streets, cafes and squares.
Now, let Milan entertain you!