As I mentioned in my previous post, I just recently got back from a 3 week vacation in Northern Italy! The primary purpose of my trip was to visit my sister who has been living in Milan for the past three months. Prior to my stay, I really had low expectations of what the city had to offer. Based on what I had been reading and what I had heard through family and friends (including my sister by the way!), Milan was likely to disappoint. However, I must say that after spending over a week in the city, I felt anything but disappointment! As I stood in awe in the middle of Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by all the incredible architecture, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could not appreciate the beauty of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the grand marble cathedral commanding the centre of the square!
With that said, I really don’t believe that Milan gets the recognition it deserves and hopefully after reading this post, your perspective will change as well!
WHERE TO STAY
Milan is made up of quite a few interesting neighbourhoods but I think Porta Garibaldi and Brera are ideal locations for settling in. Although the city is not exactly ideal for travellers on a budget, there are quite a few affordable apartment rental options ($60-$100 CAD/ night on AirBnB) in these areas. Seeing as I was traveling with my parents, I stayed at the UNA hotel Tocq in Porta Garibaldi, which was a 3 min walk from the metro and a 5 min walk from the Porta Garibaldi train station. The hotel and staff were wonderful, the only downfall was that it was surrounded by several night clubs. But if you can look past a little bit of noise on the weekends, I would highly recommend a stay there!
The metro system in Milan is very easy to navigate and there are several metro stations around the city. No matter where you are, you should be able to find one with ease. In terms of getting away from the city, there are a few locations you can head to from the Porta Garibaldi train station including, Bergamo, Como and Malpensa airport. If you are looking to go outside the Lombardy region, however, you will need to make your way to central station (which is worth a visit even if you aren’t planning to go anywhere, its beautiful!)
WHAT TO SEE/DO
Considering what I had heard about Milan, I was surprised to find out that there were so many interesting spots to check out. As in all European cities, I would highly suggest taking a free walking tour on your first day to get a feel for the city and get a little historical background, which is always fascinating! Walkabout Milano is currently the only tour provider in the city and it is excellent. The tour covers a few of the sights I’m about to mention, but won’t take you on an in depth tour of any of them, so you may want to head back to spend a little more time in a few of these places.
1. Piazza del Duomo The Duomo (photos 1,2,3) and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (photos 4,5,6) are definitely the main attractions in Milan. Be sure to head to the top of the cathedral for about €10. Not only will you get a lovely view of the city but you can catch a glimpse of the swiss alps off in the distance. You probably won’t be able to afford much in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele but you can definitely grab a cappuccino at the cafe for €1.60 whilst enjoying a beautiful view of the piazza.
2. Piazza dei Mercanti & Piazza degli affari These two piazza’s are both worth a quick visit. You can have a secret conversation through the walls of piazza dei Mercanti and catch a glimpse of a very “interesting” piece of contemporary art in piazza degli affair (photo 9).
3. San Bernardino alle Ossa Visit the ossuary (photo 10) in the side chapel. You’ll be taken here on the walking tour, and you will see it is quite impressive!
4. Brera neighbourhood Take a stroll around Brera (photo 11). It’s a slightly quieter part of town filled with cute little shops and cafe’s.
5. Porta Garibaldi Considering I’m from quite a young city, I love seeing the contrast between old and new when traveling to older cities. Porto Garibaldi (photos 12 & 13) is an extremely modern part of town and seems to be the up and coming neighbourhood for young professionals.
6. Monumental Cemetery After visiting the Père Lachaise Cemetery, I was sure that no other cemetery could ever impress me as much. But the Cimitero Monumentale (photo 14)definitely proved me wrong!
7. Sforza Castle & Parco Sempione If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while, head over to Sforza Castle and Parco Sempione (which essentially Milan’s version of Central Park) for a little fresh air and perhaps a picnic! (photo 15)
8. Naviglio Grande Naviglio is a very popular weekend destination amongst locals and an excellent place to enjoy “apperitivo” by the water. If you are unfamiliar with this this term, stay tuned for my next post!
Not only is the city of Milan itself worth an in depth visit, it’s also an excellent home base for so many day trip possibilities in and around the Lombardy region! I’ll have another post coming your way with a list of of a bunch of incredible day trip options.
If you are wondering where the FOOD is, well, I decided to save that for another post as well. Given that I was in Milan for quite a long period of time, I had the chance to try out a bunch of noteworthy eateries around town that I’ll be sharing with you shortly!