Oh Milano. Can you believe, after all my worldly travels, that I've never been to Italy!? Yeah. Me neither.
Although I do have an explanation, even if it's not a terribly good one. Every time I think of Italy, I get a bit overwhelmed. There's at least 200 things on my Italy bucket list that I want to experience and see, so when I think about possibly planning a trip there, I just simply never know where to start. Do I want to explore the rolling landscapes of the south? The bustling cities? The exquisite mountain ranges of the north? Everything? I just never feel like I can give it the time and patience it deserves and so I was never able to justify a quick trip without feeling like I was missing out.
Anyway, I met someone in the Galápagos Islands who is from Milan and decided that it was a good an excuse as any to finally dip my toe in the exquisite country that is Italy and book a very spontaneous trip to Milano to visit them and spend a few days revelling in the knowledge that I was finally here.
The outcome, unsurprisingly, is that I'm completely obsessed with Italy, even with the five short days in one city that I've experienced so far, and there are many plans coming up that involve this country. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here's my guide to Milano, the rich and flamboyant and over-the-top city of the north, where high fashion, exquisite architecture and delectable food swirl together in the perfect cacophony of Italian oppulence. I loved it.
How to Get to Milan
Milan is served by three different airpots. Malpensa (MXP) is the main international airport; Linate (LIN) is the closest to town and serves domestic and some European destinations; Bergamo (BGY) is for most other European points. If you can fly into Linate, then getting into Milan is a total breeze!
This website gives a good summary of which airport to use for which trip.
I left Milan by airplane (with EasyJet on the way to Amsterdam for a family wedding) however I arrived in Milan by train from Salzburg where I live in Austria. The main station is Milan Centrale; from here you can get straight on a metro anywhere in the city. After arriving at my AirBnb with all my luggage, I did not use any public transport as the city of Milan is extremely walkable and you can get everywhere on foot. I walked over 40km during my five-day trip.
Where to Stay in Milan
Given that Milan is the second largest city in Italy after Rome and the fashion centre of Europe, you're going to find an abundance of accommodation choices, from lively hostels to glamourous five star hotels. I chose an AirBnb; an entire apartment to myself in the Porta Genova area, which is a wonderful neighbourhood right on the Navigli, Milan's famous canal district where lively restaurants and nightlife await. I loved my little apartment for my stay.
Where to Eat and Drink in Milan
I spent my five days indulging in all the pizza, pasta, risotto and gelato that the city had to offer. Here's my recommendations:
Where to eat on the Navigli:
- Galeteria Orso Bianco - the best gelato I had on my entire trip
- MAG Cafe - a coffee shop and remote working haven by day, and funky cocktail bar by night
- Officina del Riso Navigli - mouthwatering Italian risotto
- Meatball Family - good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs, including vegan ones!
Where to eat elsewhere:
- Cioccolatitaliani Gelateria
- Starbucks Milano Roastery - the fanciest Starbucks I've ever been in and one of just six roasteries in the world
- Organic Pizza and Food - entirely organic menu offering Italian dishes, including vegan pizza!
Things to Do in Milan
In my five days here, I walked over 40km across the city, fitting in as many of the tourist highlights, exceptional architectural places and must-dos in the city. Here's what I got up to:
Spot the iconic Duomo
No trip to Milan is complete without a visit to the famous Duomo of Milan. Believe me, I visited it every single day, just to watch the changing colours of the sunlight on it and to people watch and to awe and its majestic exterior.
Wander the halls of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
One of those places that Instagram has made completely famous, with photos of beautiful people in beautiful clothes under the intricate and breathtaking high domed ceilings of the gallery which houses all the iconic fashion houses of Milan. There's also some yummy restaurants here and a wonderful bookshop where I picked up a few new treasures.
Visit the airy Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio
Originally consecrated in 387 by St. Ambrose, the current building on the site was built in the 11the century and today, this bright open basilica is completely free to visit and to wander its airy halls.
Awe at the artwork inside the Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
Opened in 1518, the Chiesa di San Maurizio was attached to the most important female convent of the Benedictines in the city, Monastero Maggiore. It is home to intricately detailed frecoes by Bernardino Luini, covering all the ceilings and walls.
Visit the Santa Maria Delle Grazie
Home, most famously, to the Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper (tickets for which you must buy well in advance), this beautiful church is a cool and peaceful sanctuary in the heart of a hot and bustling city.
Wander along the Navigli
This was the neighbourhood in which my AirBnb was and I absolutely adored it. Three delightful canals make up the main part of this area, each of which are lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, gelaterias, bars and cafes, making this the social place to be. I visited every single evening and also spent a few days working remotely from cafes canalside here.
Where to eat on the Navigli:
Get lost in the streets of Milan
Really my favourite thing to do (and especially according to my Strava where I docked over 40km of walking) in any new place is just to get lost in the streets, enjoying the sounds, the music, the culture, the smells, the architecture and the beauty to be discovered around every corner. Milan is a perfect place for this.
Ti voglio bene, Milano, e ci vediamo presto.