Thursday, October 19, 2017

Milan Essentials

After having lived 1 and a half years as an expat in Milan, I have accumulated some tips that could be useful to my dear friends who want to visit the city. Instead of writing again and again the list, I decided to write a small guide with the main points where I'd take you if I was still there. And... to my Italian colleagues: obviously I don't know the city as well as you, so please don't hesitate to contribute with the cool places you know ;)

I'd recommend you to look for a hotel/airbnb in the areas of Porta Venezia and Brera. They are both located near the center of the city (max. 20min walking ditance) and in them you'll find the main Train/Bus Stations to get to the airport. In Brera there's Garibaldi Station and Cadorna Station. In Porta Venezia there's Stazione Centrale, the place where most of the national trains stop.
In addition, these areas are well served, full of bars and restaurants and not dangerous at all.

THE CENTER - Quadrilatero della Moda
I'd start the tour from Corso Venezia, walking down the avenue till San Babila, where you'll start feeling the fashionable air in the streets and the stores. Once you're in San Babila street, you'll be able to see the top of the Duomo at the end, don't stress, the most iconic and beautiful view is from where the statue of Garibaldi stands with his horse, you'll see it easily once you've crossed the Duomo square.
If you are not a fan of churches but you want to do some sightseeing, I'd recommend you to visit the Duomo's terrace. In case you are not claustrophobic you can access the rooftop by going upstairs through the spiral stairs on the side of the monument. I'd say that visiting the interior is not a must and usually there's a long queue.
Then, I'd take you to La Rinascente. This is a huge Shopping Centre full of Luxury-Premium-Emerging brands that is considered to be the biggest in the city. Don't miss the Annex of La Rinascente! A hidden part of the mall where you can find much more affordable stuff for young people.
Before leaving the building you can also go upstairs and, on the top floor, you can have a drink or aperitivo while enjoying the views of the Duomo.
Next step would be Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele. These ancient galleries are the second most iconic site of Milano. All the top fashion brands have presence there. In it, you have to do 2 things:
  1. Have a coffee in Marchesi, the cafe/bakery of Prada. If you want to save money ask your coffee to be served on the bar. They'll charge you more if you sit on one of those cool tables.
  2. Put your heel on "the balls" of the bull that is drawn with a mosaic on the floor of the gallery. It's usually easy to find because many people wants to do the 3 turns on it (to have good luck, they say).
Finally, once you've walked across the Galleria you'll see one of the theatres and Opera Houses most famous worldwide: La Scala. If you don't want to spend a lot of money in the Opera you can also visit it as a tourist, but I'd say it's not a must in a 2-day trip.

To eat:
  • Fratelli la Buffala (pizza)
  • Mozzarella e Basilico (pizza)
  • Luini (panzerotti)
  • Straff (aperitivo)
  • Marchesi (cafe)

Between the square of La Scala and Porta Garibaldi there's the district of Brera.
There, you'll find a mix between cool, fashionable and elitist lifestyle together with the ancient harmony of the particular tiny streets that bring you to the traditional Italy. I'd recommend you to go up the street of Via Mercato, following through Corso Garibaldi till Moscova. Or just getting lost in those streets with no direction at all.
At the top of Brera there's Porta Nuova and Garibaldi Station. The area that surrounds Moscova to the top of Corso Como is particularly known for its active nightlife.
Corso Como is short but has a strong fashion identity too. In it there's Corso Como 10, a concept store that is the Mecca for any fashion addict that visits the city. On the base floor there's the expensive restaurant/bar together with the store that sells the iconic fashion brands of the moment. On the second floor there's the book store and the Gallery of Carla Sozzani (Franca Sozzani's sister). And last but not least, don't miss the rooftop that very few people know... you can access it from the tiny spiral stairs inside the Art Gallery.
Following the tour, you should walk up to Gae Aulenti Square; one of the most modern spots of Milan. The UniCredit tower has become an emblematic building of the city, together with Bosco Verticale, the building covered with plants that you can easily see from there.
To finish, go on foot through the Samsung District, that will be a relaxing walk that will make you forget you're in Italy.
In case you still have strength, you can also explore the District of Isola, which hides number of stylish and cool cocktail bars.

To eat:
- Baobab Organic Burger (burgers)
- Tramé (sandwich)
- Temakinho (sushi)
- Radetzky (drinks)
- Dry (drinks and pizza)
- California Bakery (cakes)
- Rocking Horse (pizzeria)

I don't know much about the city of Como but all the times I've been there it has been a beautiful day.
You will understand why George Clooney has a house there when you'll walk by the side of the Lake and see the amazing views along the walk.
If you have enough time you should take a boat and sail across the Lake to the village of Bellagio: a colourful village that seems to be taken from a fairly tale.
To get to Como from Milan you can easily take any of the trains that depart from Cadorna, Garibaldi or Centrale Stations.

The street that goes down from Duomo's Square to almost Colonne di San Lorenzo is called Via Torino. This street is one of the most crowded streets of the city and is full of smaller and cheaper stores. Find there a more relaxed atmosphere, with number of Ice Cream shops and tasty Pizza Slides called "Trancio di Pizza" haha.
Buy a gelato in Gelateria della Musica and sit happily in Colonne di San Lorenzo. You'll feel young even if you're a granny.
After this sweet break, go on with the walk to Navigli through Via Ticinese. The downtown Milano is characterized to have some Amsterdam style canals which are completely surrounded by bars that offer aperitivo.
Note: Aperitivo is what they call to the happy hour (normally from 6pm to 9pm) in which all the bars offer a free buffet of food (finger food or cold dishes) together with the cocktail you ask. The most common drink in Milan is Spritz, an orange drink that is made of Prosseco, soda and Aperol or Campari. If you are not an enthusiast of Spritz, I'd recommend you a Moscow Mule, an alcoholic drink with a touch of ginger that you will definitely like if you are a lemon/lime lover.

To eat:
- Papagayo (aperitivo)
- Greek Fusion (pitas)
- Bond (aperitivo)
- Officina 12 (gin tonic)

When in the square of Duomo, there's a wide car-free street called Via dei Mercanti (and afterwards Via Dante) that goes to the castle of the city. Walk up to the castle and, after crossing it, enjoy the beautiful Sempione Park, always green and full of life. Doesn't matter the season, you'll find many locals hanging out, either having a picnic or doing yoga there. On the top of the park you'll find Arco della Pace, a huge arch that stands majestic in the beginning of Corso Sempione.

To eat:
- any of the bars in the beginning of Corso Sempione

Hope you enjoy your trip and, please, don't forget to tell me your favorite places once you are back!

Enjoy :)

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