See: The glorious main attractions: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the spectacular Duomo. Seek out treasures this chic city doesn’t fuss about, such as masterpiece paintings in the Pinacoteca di Brera and Ambrosiano (featuring such greats as Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio) and modern wonders in the Triennale Design Museum.
Wandering around Milan’s grand vias and piazzas, you’ll be gawking at fashion models AND calcio stars, as Milan is home to Italy’s two top teams, A.C. Milan and F.C. Internazionale Milano. Join in with Italy’s passion for sport at San Siro stadium, or go on a San Siro tour.
Shop: Experience the Fashion Capital of the World! Near the Duomo, admire the Belle Epoque Galleria, world’s oldest mall, and the new Excelsior Milano, Italy’s first luxury department store. Slip back in time at Pettinaroli fine stationery, that’s been around since 1881. For the high fashion heart of Milan, head to the nearby Golden Triangle (Quadrilatero to locals), that’s tucked into a few blocks, centering around Via Montenapoleone. Sigh over dazzling window displays amidst this Mount Olympus of designers: Dolce & Gabanna, Versace, Valentino, the Armani Superstore, etc. A few blocks away is the bohemian Brera district, full of antique shops and boutiques, such as Patrizia Pepe and Luisa Beccaria. And 10 minutes further out is a secret favorite of designers: 10 Corso Como, a warehouse-sized dazzling place packed with goodies.
Eat: True to its sophisticated style, the Milan restaurant scene features excellent food from all over the world and every region of Italy. If you choose to dine alla Milanese—meaning risotto, ossobucco, and costololetta (veal cutlet)—they are delicious at Antica Trattoria della Pesa and the very casual Latteria di San Marco, perfect for lunch. Or there’s the extraordinary Michelin-starred Cracco Peck, part of the wonderful Milan Peck enterprise, that includes a gourmet food hall for exquisite take away. Also, it’s delightful to get in on Milan’s hip weekend brunch scene at such places as the Sheraton Diana Majestic and Cantina della Vetra.
A not to be missed Milanese snack is panzerotti (fried turnover stuffed with tomato and mozzarella), served from the busy counter of Luini, around the corner from the Galleria.
Extraordinary cakes, cookies, and pastries can be enjoyed in elegant surroundings at Cova Pasticceria, that’s been around since 1817.
We drove from the airport with a prearranged automatic car hire. One of my companions refused to drive any other type.
Drink: A prosecco at sunset on Obika mozzarella bar’s rooftop terrace, which faces the awe inspiring roof of the Duomo is heavenly. Thenget in on Milan’s apertivo tradition, from about 7 to 9 pm, when lots of bars put out a delicious buffet, so for the price of a cocktail, you can eat very well. Top spots in the center include the old school Moscatelli,Bar Basso and the super-posh Radetzky. Further out in the Navigli neighborhood, a hotspot for bars, pubs, and restaurants, you’ll enjoy the Café El Brellin, Spazio Movida, and Tango bar, which serves Spanish style tapas.
Stay: There is no shortage of luxury choices here, including the world’s first and only 7-star, Town House Seven Stars Galleria, the 5-star Bulgari, with its awesome garden and spa, and the Grand Hotel et des Milan, that’s been around for over 150 years. Recommended 4-stars range from the ultra-chic Hotel Milano Scala, to elegant Petit Palais and Antica Locanda dei Mercanti, which features beautifully designed rooms with terraces. Budget digs are easiest to come by outside the city center, with the Indochine-themed Vietnamonamour B&B, located in the quiet, old fashioned Piola arearanking as a primo choice. There are also low cost options near the train station, including the clean and basic Hotel Casa Mia.
Walk: Parco Sempione, Milan’s centrally located park, is perfect for a stroll amidst quiet shaded paths, English gardens, children’s playgrounds, a large lake and kiosks for food and drink. For a smaller greenery experience in the center, there’s the Giardini Pubblici, which features beautiful statuary and The Museum of Natural History. Or you may enjoy exploring the artsy Navigli neighborhood, where Milan’s old canals have been uncovered, by wandering on your own or on a guided boat or walking tour.
Get Out: To glamorous Lake Como, that’s graced by Villa d’Este, a 17th century grand estate, exquisite for lunch on the terrace or a stay of a lifetime. Or explore the magnificent hilltop town of Bergamo, stopping for lunch at a traditional restaurant, such as Da Mimmo or Trattoria La Colombina, to enjoy delicious polenta dishes. For nature lovers, there’s Monte Barro park , where you can explore forest paths surrounded by flora, fauna, and butterflies.
Listen: Mecca for classicists is Teatro La Scala, one of the world’s most prestigious opera venues, built in 1778. Though afficianados grumble that quality has fallen, it’s still a splendid experience to mix with the black-tie set. For Milan’s symphony orchestra or choral concerts, the Milan Auditorium, opened in 1999, has amazing acoustics and a varied schedule of events. Classical music can also be enjoyed in the Conservatorio, Italy’s top music academy. And do check to see if there’s a concert at the Duomo while you’re around—it’s guaranteed to be an event for the memory books.
Jazz fans love that a branch of New York’s famous Blue Note has come to Milan, or there’s Caffe Doria, near the train station, for jazz and Dixieland music. RocknRoll and Tunnel are fun for rockers, and disco rules at Hollywood or Shocking Club, where you’re sure to see fashion models grooving to the beat.
Avoid: Disappointments that will come if you don’t make advance reservations for dinner, or to see The Last Supper, opera at Teatro La Scala, or a football game at San Siro. Unlike other Italian destinations, Milan requires planning. And take note that many restaurants are closed on Sunday.