Milan. The fashion and finance capital of Italy but what else does it have to offer? I’d previously visited for just one day, there and back within 14 hours for work, and I have to say, I thought it was a lot of style and very little substance. This time I was returning to cheer on my boyfriend who’d signed up for the Milan Marathon (as you do) and it was with some trepidation that I set out for our 3 night long weekend. Here are 11 reasons why Milan is definitely not just style and is actually a whole lot more substance…
Last time I’d visited Milan it was May and boiling hot. This time it was the last weekend of March/first weekend of April and the sun definitely had his hat on. Blue skies, little wind and everyone had a hop in their step. I could get used to this…
What a cool little neighbourhood. I’d say together with Brera (read on a bit for that), this is one of Milan’s hipster hangouts. It’s off the beaten track and to be honest, it’s not mentioned in many travel articles on the city, but it’s a must-visit, for sure. Nestled alongside a coupe of small canals, expect colourful buildings lining the water’s edge; home to dozens of bars, eateries and independent boutiques. We picked up a couple of drinks and headed to sit and swing our legs over the canal side bathing in the spring sunshine. Bliss!
This is Milan’s other trendy neighbourhood and known as the ‘design district’. You can spot it from the red flags lining the roads around this area. It’s home to the city’s art school, which explains its reputation as the home of all things cutting edge. We were spoilt for choice for places to eat and drink, including real Italian gelato, so just as well our food tour was focused on Brera…
This is up there with the Sagrada Familia in terms of impressiveness. Standing in the centre of the city and made of marble, the Duomo is quite a sight and is packed with tourists taking photos from the piazza in front. The queue to get tickets to go inside seemed to go on for miles but while my boyfriend was doing the marathon, I thought I’d queue and get us tickets for the next day (bonus girlf points!). As I was standing in line next to the 30 minute wait marker, a staff member came over and pointed across to a small doorway opposite where he said there was another ticket office and no queue. I wasn’t sure whether to risk it but I did and sure enough, there was a line 4 people deep and I had our passes there and then within just a few minutes. If you’re heading to Duomo then I also recommend you use this ticket office as its so much quicker. We got the pass that gives us use of the lift to reach the top of the Duomo (well worth the extra few euros if you ask me!) and I’d say that this is probably the best part. You take the lift up and then you can walk around the outside edge of the Duomo coming face to face with the awe-inspiring architecture.
We bought 24-hour metro passes for each day in Milan that cost less than 5 euros each, super cheap! It was easy to navigate and quick making it easy to get around Milan to both the main sights as well as the cooler neighbourhoods like Navigli.
My new favourite drink! It’s hard to believe that the first time I had an aperol spritz (in Portugal), I didn’t think much of it. The Milanese seem to live on the stuff and it was the perfect refresher to the hot weather. Lunchtime or evening, my first round at the bar is now always a Spritz!
Risotto flavoured with saffron. You might wonder what’s so special about that. It sounds like such a simple dish. Milanese risotto is on every menu when you come to Milan. I had to give it a go and believe me, that bowl of simple yellow rice is incredibly delicious!
Another legendary Milan dish, this is the tastiest meat you’ll ever have! Tender, fall-off-the-bone veal is a Milanese speciality and although quite pricey, it’s well worth having. I had mine on top of Milanese risotto for a double whammy of deliciousness at the lovely Restaurant Piazza Repubblica, which I’d thoroughly recommend!
Opposite the Duomo, this is one incredible mall. Mosaic floors, domed roofs and ornate decor, it’s no wonder this place was packed with tourists cameras pointing upwards during the day. It’s also home to designer stores like Prada and Versace. Worth a look!
Most bars in Milan will offer aperitivo in the early evening. Basically, you just have to buy a drink and you get free nibbles! What’s not to love? We found a cute bar, Bond, along the Navigli canal side and were lucky to get a table as the bar was full before we knew it.