Ciao, bella! I’m finally back from my Northern Italy trip and what better excuse to reboot the travel aspect of my blog. Even though I have constant wanderlust and I’m an explorer at heart, being a recent graduate means my bank account has only been slowing gathering up the savings to travel. Slow and steady wins the race and I’m finally reaping the (travel) benefits of getting my shit together & saving (and more saving).
I actually spent less than 48 hours in Milan in total as we left for the train to Desenzano Del Garda at around 5pm on the Sunday…. however, we did feel like we pretty much got to see and do everything we wanted to which, in less than two days, we were really happy with. I definitely think you can successfully do Milan in 2 days and tbh you wouldn’t need any more time unless you wanted to spread things out a little.
Something you should know about Milan is that it’s a very laid back, chilled out city. Both Alix and I are very up-and-out 7am sorta travel folk, and Milan really isn’t that sort of city. People are so chilled and it’s normal to have a slow pace of life here. Even the tourists here seem to be more relaxed, and things didn’t start to get busy until around 9.30am which is late in terms of city tourist attractions.
First off – Get up, grab a coffee & croissant, and take in the laid back lifestyle!
WHERE TO STAY
In terms of where to stay.. you have a lot of choice. The Milan Metro system is really handy, and a 48 hour metro ticket will only set you back around 8 euros – which I think is a bargain for the amount of use you’ll get from it – so you can pretty much stay wherever takes your fancy.
Example, we were looking for a relatively cheap place to stay so we could spend more in Milan, so we found a really well priced room near the Milano Centrale FS train station (from where we were getting the train to Lake Garda) which was about 5 minutes walk to the Porta Venezia station. This area is also where Milan Pride was whilst were were in Milan and it’s generally a pretty laid back neighbourhood.
There really is no need to stay in the very centre (near the Duomo) unless you really want to but it’s definitely more expensive, and areas such as Porta Venezia and Brera are fab areas to lay your head with trendy bars and restaurants aplenty.
VISIT THE DUOMO
This was top on my “To Do” as I love gothic architecture & the Duomo di Milano has always been on my bucket list. I wanted to get there super early to get a pic for the ‘gram, but we woke up later than expected and I took 30 mins longer than predicted to get ready. Needless to say we were both feeling a little stressed and prepared ourselves for the masses….
The cathedral has a metro station (marked with a big red “M”) of it’s own namesake, so we popped on the underground to the Duomo station which took us about 15 minutes from Porta Venezia on the Red M1 line. As we emerged from the underground we were hit by the majesty of the Duomo, it’s like *right* there and it’s so bloody grand. Oh, and it wasn’t too busy at around 8.30am which is when we got round to taking these shots.
FYI – As soon as you come out of the metro station, you will be bombarded with people trying to sell you selfie sticks and trying to “gift” you “free” bracelets, just ignore them or reply with a very firm Italian “No.” and they’ll get the idea.
After 10 mins of photo taking, we got our tickets for the Duomo. On the right hand side of the Duomo, there is a separate building advertising ticket sales and you have to get the tickets here, you can’t buy them at the entrance or in the queue. After waiting in an Argos-like ticket system set up, or number was called and we purchased the Duomo Pass A, which was 16 euros and included: Terraces by lift, Duomo, Museum and Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti.
The lady who worked there suggested this ticket as you get to bypass the passive queue at the front of the cathedral and terraces by lift means you don’t have to work your way up and down to the top of the Duomo in 30 degree heat. Looking back on it, this ticket was 100% worth buying and I would suggest it to anyone going to the Duomo. Plus if you’re thinking of skipping either the Terraces or the Cathedral itself, don’t! It’s all a breathtaking experience!
NOTE – Men & women need to wear knee length shorts/skirts or longer, and women need to cover cleavage and shoulders! You will not be let in if you’re breaking any of these rules as this is a religious place of worship.
BROWSE THE GALLERIA VITTORIO EMANUELE II
Literally right next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest “mall” or shopping plaza in the whole of Itay and it’s architectural splendour is definitely something to check out whilst you’re in Milan. Although this mall is full of luxury, designer outlets which aren’t in the majority of budgets, the sheer beauty of the mall itself is worth the visit.
Beware – at most of the exits of the Galleria there are people trying the give you “free” bracelets who will then demand money from you and pick pocketing is common here so keep your wits about you!
If designer isn’t your thing, and you’ve had a wander in the Galleria, a 5 minute walk past the left hand side of the Duomo (Quadrilatero della moda, or Via Montenapoleone) will have you at the main high street with brands such as Zara, Mango, Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, and Bershka can be found as well as various cafes and gelato shops.
GET AN AMORINO GELATO
Amorino is an insta-famous gelato chain found in many areas of Italy (we also found this chain in Verona) and you can defo see why. Although this chain has made it to the UK, I would still suggest tracking one down as italian gelato is of much higher quality in Italy itself.
The ice cream cone is in a beaaautiful rose shape, and you wouldn’t believe how fast they put it together. A small gets you one flavour, two flavours is a medium, and a large is a generous three flavours. Plus, you can even pay 1 euro extra for a macaron on the top. FYI – If you get a tub, you’ll get four flavours in a medium which is better to try more flavours but it’s obvz not as pretty. Pro’s and cons, depends on if it’s flavour or aesthetics you’re looking for!
WANDER AROUND CIMITERO MOUNUMENTALE DI MILANO
Visiting a graveyard doesn’t sound like the most magical experience you could possibly have in beautiful Milan, but this cemetery is exceptional. It’s accessible by Metro, via the Monumentale station on the Purple M5 line.
With many graves boasting beautiful pieces of art which were either paid for by well off Italian families, or commissions by local Milano artists, this place is lovely to explore on foot and take a humbling moment in the hustle and bustle of the city. The cemetery is free to enter and is vast, so we only wandered around half of the cemetery in around an hour before lunch.
STROLL ALONG THE NAVIGLI DISTRICT
This is like a mini Venice in the middle of Milan, with a winding canal, bridges, and river-side restaurants and bars. This is a popular area for lunch, apertivo, and dinner and boasts an impressive amount of sushi and Japanese restaurants which are seemingly Milan’s equivalent of Chinese food in the UK. We popped down here for lunch as suggested by a few websites, and didn’t want to go for Sushi as we can get decent Japanese food back home in London. We ended up paying 12 euro per person on what was the most disappointing meal of our whole Italy trip, so really read up on restaurants and expect to pay an arm and a leg for a good quality meal as this area is more expensive.
FEAST ON THE FRESHEST PASTA
On our second night in Milan, we were taking a moment of restbite in our room when I googled “best pasta in Milano” and found out that ~ Platina ~ was a 3 minute walk from our hotel… ummm winning?! We booked a last minute table at 7.30pm (which is v. early for Italians to have dinner and we knew it would be quiet, and popped down the road for a plate of pasta. The reviews online lead us both to order the Seafood Spaghetti and… it was the *BEST* pasta I’ve ever eaten. Freshly made, perfectly cooked, and the seafood was exceptional. If I ever go back to Milan, I’m 100% dining here.
Plus, if you’re into Apertivo (Italian tradition of having drinks and snacks before your meal) the bar across the road ~ Mint Garden Cafe ~ which has the prettiest interior ever and also serves a fab morning Cappuccino, does a good Aperol Spritz and the snacks are complementary.
VISIT THE MONASTERY & GLAZE AT 16TH CENTURY FRESCOES
Entry to the San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is free and it’s a fab way to experience some Italian history and get out of the heat in the mid-afternoon. We spent maybe an hour here tops, but it was a great pit-stop on our route around Milan. It’s a walking distance from the Duomo but you can jump on a tram if you fancy it too. This 16th-century church & former monastery is covered floor to ceiling with vivid biblical-themed artwork & frescoes which have been well preserved. Even if you’re not religious, the beautiful artistry is definitely worth checking out.
NOTE AGAIN – Men & women need to wear knee length shorts/skirts or longer, and women need to cover cleavage and shoulders! You will not be let in if you’re breaking any of these rules as this is a religious place of worship.
THINGS WE DIDN’T FIT IN
Even though we were happy with the majority of things we did during our trip, there were a handful of sights and attractions we didn’t see for various reasons:
– Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Summer’ at the Santa Maria delle Grazie
I can’t stress this enough but you *need* to book tickets in advance online and you *need* to check dates when it’s closed. The one Sunday of the month it was shut was the Sunday we had planned to go, so we had to miss this one out. If we ever go back to Milan, we’ll definitely be checking this one out. Entry is 12 euros per person and you have only 15 minutes to enjoy the masterpiece.
– La Triennale Di Milano – Design Museum
We actually went to this museum after the website told us it was free entry, only to find out that there is only one tiny room which is the free exhibit, you need to pay to see everything else. For us, it was a bit of a waste of the 15 minute walk there as we didn’t have the money in our budget to pay to see the rest of the museum, however from what we could see the exhibits looked really modern and fun.
– Porte Sempione – Sempione Gate (Archway)
We walked to the gardens just before the gate, but it was so hot at midday that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do the 10 minute walk in direct sunlight to the arch through Parco Sempione from Castello Sforzesco. If I had another day in Milan, I would do this first thing in the morning like we did the Duomo to see it without the crowds and without the heat!
Have you ever been to Milan?
What was your favourite thing to do in the city?
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