No matter how well dressed you think you are, you’re going to feel like a slob compared to the average citizen of Milan, as everyone seems to be impeccably dressed no matter where you turn. Milan is the crossroads between the old and new Italy–you might feel like you’re in another European country while wandering around but then suddenly you’ll run into a huge cultural site that makes it clear you’re still in Italy.
See & Do
- Duomo: A massive gothic-styled cathedral in the middle of Milan, this is the main “postcard” attraction in Milan. We were there on the holiday of All Saints Day so it was especially packed, but it was still well worth a walk inside (free). We decided to head to the top: you can either go up by stairs (€7) or by elevator (€12). Unless you’re physically unable to, take the stairs as it’s a quick climb up and you’ll probably end up waiting as long for the elevator as it takes to walk up. Pro-tip: There was a massive line to buy tickets at the entrance to the stairs. Walk around to the other side of the cathedral and there’s a hidden little ticket window that sells entrance tickets (it’s an official ticket counter attached to the side of the cathedral, not some shady side shop). Buy your ticket here and bypass the entire gigantic line of people. I honestly have no idea why this is not more well publicized. Note that according to local superstition, you’re not supposed to climb up to the top if you’re a university student who hasn’t graduated yet! Rating: 4/5
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: A gigantic shopping mall right next to the Duomo, worth it for the architecture alone if not for the high-end shopping. The center of the Galleria contains the emblems of Turin, Venice, Florence, and Rome. You’ll see a little hole burned into the genitals of the bull on Turin’s emblem–it’s popular belief that if you put your heel on it and turn three times you’ll bring good luck. Rating: 4/5
- Castello Sforzesco: Explore the galleries of the Duke of Milan in the Castello--free admission on Fridays from 2pm-5pm. If you’re into art, this is a great place to spend a few hours. There are several museums within the grounds of the Castello beyond just art, such as antique furniture and musical instruments. Rating: 5/5
- Brera: Upscale district of Milan with quaint little streets and luxury apartments overlooking high-end retail shops. If you’re in the mood for paying full price at Gucci or Armani, this is where you want to go. This area reminds me of downtown Zurich.
- Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli: Milan is most definitely not famous for its green spaces, and when you’re there you will notice that parks are few and far between, which is why this public park is a (literal) breath of fresh air! We spotted a girl decked out in full dress that would be appropriate for a nightclub while wearing sneakers going for a jog. We don’t even dress to that level for a night out let alone working out. Rating: 4/5
- Navigli: Two criss-crossing canals that comprise a nice little night time hangout spot. This place gets seriously packed during the weekends (and especially so because we came during a holiday). Forget dinner–if you want the true Milano aperitivo experience, this is the place to go. Rating: 5/5
Eat & Drink
- Luini Panzerotti: You can’t miss it, it’s the place with the gigantic line a block away from the Duomo in Milan. Panzerotti is a famous delicacy of Milan that is similar to a calzone but with much softer bread (and a wider variety of fillings). Sure, this place may be a bit of a tourist trap but the line moves fast and the food is cheap and quite delicious. We got two savory panzerottis and one sweet one for dessert. Tip: There are two lines, going in on either side of the shop–stand on the one farther away from the Duomo, it will be much shorter. Rating: 5/5
- Rinomata Gelateria: Famous gelateria on the corner of the two canals in the Navigli district of the city. Curiously enough, they have Japanese translations for the gelato but no English translations. The gelato is pretty good, especially the cinnamon, stracciatela, and nocciola flavors. We tried the coffee flavor as well, but it was a bit too intense. Skip the crepes, they are nothing special. Rating: 5/5
- Aperitivo: Who needs dinner when you can have aperitivo in Milan? Aperitivo in Florence is a few snacks and drinks before dinner, whereas in Milan it is an entire production with a literal buffet of food including pasta, pizza, salads, meats, cheeses, dessert, etc… To compensate for the buffet, drinks are inflated in price (~€9 euros for the first drink). Navigli is bustling with aperitivo joints, and you can’t really go wrong by ducking into a popular one. We ended up heading to two places over two nights–the first one was on a boat called Il Barcone near the edge of the canal. Seemed a bit touristy at first but they ended up having some nice food and good drinks! The next night we hit up Slice Cafe as it seemed pretty popular with the younger crowd. The price at Slice Cafe was right and the pizza was great, but the other food was a bit lackluster and the drinks were literally the worst I have ever tasted in my life, like the absolute cheapest liquor they could muster up. Rating: 5/5
- AirBnb – Navigli Studio: The location can’t be beat, steps from the metro and right on the doorstep of Navigli. I would strongly recommend staying in this neighborhood as it’s a lot of fun at night! That being said, the room itself was quite cramped–we literally had to climb a ladder to get to the claustrophobic bed area. To be fair, it was pretty clear when we booked it that the room was laid out like that, but it was still pretty jarring to actually experience it (imagine waking up in the middle of the night and climbing down a ladder in the dark to use the restroom). Rating: 3/5
- 11/01/2013 – Walked 9.88 miles