Milan. What to do on a day trip with or without the shopping.
MILAN THE CITY FASHION LOVERS DREAM OF
The first time I ever visited Milan, I was unloading my bag from the bus headed into the city when our driver said to my friend and I, “man, you guys must really like shopping. Why else would you bother with Milan? I usually just tell people to skip it”.
So, it is fair to say that I went into Milan with some confused expectations. A beautiful city with galleries and one of the most stunning cathedrals in the world? Or just a shopping mecca for the designer labels I could only dream about?
Why did we decide to stay in Milan for a few nights again?
MY MILAN EXPERIENCES
On that first visit I was staying in backpacker hotels, generally located outside of the main cities. Milan was no exception. My friend and I shared a bunk bed while two Italian girls took over the rest of the room. They were so noisy and never shut up. I actually have a photo of their clothes strewn across the room up on a personal Facebook album. The caption reads “Why are your dirty undies under my bed!?” I think that was one of the worst places I have stayed. They had a lock out from 10am till 3pm and the showers had flimsy curtains. I have certainly grown out of Hostel trips like that.
HOSTELS ARE FUN?! NO?
During our visit, we only had a day in Milan, spending the next day in Como. We explored the Sforza castle and gardens, Parco Sempione. I have always meant to go into La Triennale di Milano, the design museum, but I either ran out of time or it was not open.
The next time I visited, and the most recent was different again.
HOW TO SPEND THE DAY IN MILAN
Places to visit:
Oldest gardens in Milano, Orto Botanico. This cute little garden surrounded by buildings is a nice spot to unwind and wander through, zigzagging between the garden beds. We sat here for a break to put our feet up after a long day of walking.
To visit the Duomo, it is best to line up early and buy your ticket from one of the overlooked side counters. (I swear, people are sheep, they must like lining up in one spot!) There are a number of attractions in Europe that generate the highest volume of tourists but there are ways to buy tickets that do not involve any lines. Do your research!
If you want to see The Last Supper, at Cenacolo Vinciano, it is best to call a few days ahead to book. So far I have never quite gotten around to it!
MY FAVE MUSEUM
For one of the best views of the Duomo, visit Museo del Novecento. Located inside the Palazzo dell’Arengario in Piazza del Duomo, it hosts a collection of over four thousand works that catalyzed the development of 20th century Italian art. With a grand spiral staircase running through the heart of the building, it is one of the most beautiful galleries. Of course, the collections are also stunning, with a chronological collection to explore. That view opens out as one of the most breathtaking toward the top floor. Do not miss it!
Places to Eat:
Luini Panzerotti, the famed bakery. Everyone goes for the panzerotti. It is busy, the guards tell you where to line up and you have to be quick when you order. The staff do not mess around! Not at all a place for dieters or gluten free goods, this is strictly full of cheese and carbs!
Opposite this, you must also visit Cioccolati Italiani, the most incredible gelateria. I wish we had gone more than once! It is super decadent, melts fast and costs a lot but hot damn, if you want a super fancy gelato and love chocolate, this is a treat!
WHAT NOT TO DO
Well, I am not going to tell you how to run your holiday, but don’t overdo the shopping! Certainly, the prices on Italian luxury goods seemed a tiny bit cheaper in Milan. I saw my little Furla bag for about 30 Euros less than we had gotten it for in Paris.
The Zara, H&M etc stores are all in big fancy buildings, but the stock is the same as anywhere else. I do love & Other Stories. I wish they were here in Australia! There is a big store just next to the Duomo.
If you need free wifi, the Louis Vuitton store is handy for it and nice to wander the floors inside.
As with any big European city, avoid the obvious tourist cafes. You can get good pasta meals at a good price, just look for a nice spot without too many families of wealthy tourists loaded up with luxury shopping bags. On one occasion we went to Mama Burger and got a good burger / salad meal deal. Note the pretty racist logo though, yikes!
Don’t waste forever in lines! Get up early and have a plan if you want to go up to the top of the Duomo. The bonus will hopefully be that the Piazza will be less crowded, though I doubt that it stays that way for long ever.
Dear Wes Anderson, I kind of love you. I mean, we haven’t met, but I feel like you are a man I could see myself admiring up close or from afar.
Located at the Fondazione Prada, Bar Luce is a destination for food and inspiration. Designed by Wes Anderson, the brilliant film director, it takes it’s cues from some of the classic bars in Milan back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Despite Andersons’ tendency for a symmetrical tableaux, Bar Luce is beautiful from any part of the bar.
‘There is no ideal angle for this space. It is for real life, and ought to have numerous good spots for eating, drinking, talking, reading, etc. While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie. I tried to make it a bar I would want to spend my own non-fictional afternoons in.’ — Wes Anderson
MORE THAN JUST A CUTE SPOT
We ventured for an afternoon aperitif which of course comes with nuts, olives, crackers and pastries. On the way out we grabbed an icy pole, which I learned is a really popular thing in Italy. While you are visiting, be sure to check out the exhibitions on at the Fondazione Prada.
Next time I will stay in the city, just for one night so I can get up early and see it without so many people before sunrise, then FINALLY go up the top of the Duomo. I will actually go see the Last Supper and I will buy a handbag!
TELL ME YOUR SECRETS!
Now, since I still have some essential things to do on my next visit, tell me what you have done in Milan. Where did you stay? What did you do? Join in on those long lines and get into one of the major sites? Splurge with a luxury purchase?
I would love to learn more about how you have found Milan, or if you decided to skip it all together.