Trendy and hip Milano is one of the most underrated metropolises in Italy. Better known for fashion and banking, Milan often plays second fiddle to many of the better known tourist destinations (read: Venice & Rome) and is often used a “stop over” city by tourists traveling from other major destinations. Milan is clean, safe and very walkable. My husband and I spent a few days in the city last summer and quickly fell in love with the atmosphere. We left wishing we would have allotted Milan a few more days on our itinerary!
As with most ancient Italian cities, the city of Milan is centered on its iconic Duomo. From the Duomo the city spreads in a circular radius, making navigation simple. Public transportation is cheap and easily accessible. is cheap and easily accessible. Buy a day pass, hop on and off as you please. Be sure to validate your pass upon boarding, transit officers will check for validated tickets at some of the more popular stops.
Our favorite area for an evening stroll was near the Arco della Pace. From the center of the Arch there are several bustling streets that jettison out like spokes of a bicycle tire. We loved wandering these lively streets, stopping for aperitivos and watching the trendy Milanese walk by, how posh!
Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II & Scala Opera House
During one of our evening walks we stopped at the Galleria Vittorio Emanele II. This galleria was built in the 19th century and is one of Italy’s oldest active shopping malls. The architecture of this structure is absolutely mind blowing! The stores are mostly high end retail stores, but this destination warrants a stop and perhaps a cocktail at one of the swanky tourist priced bars.
The galleria is constructed in a cross formation. The north end of the cross empties out into the Leonardo da Vinci Monument and the Scala Opera House. This lavish opera house was built in 1778. If you don’t have time to take in a performance, visit the auditorium during the day, it still glitters with pageantry with the sun still up. The south end of the Galleria’s cross empties into the Piazza del Duomo, with the east and west ends dumping you into more pedestrian shopping.
Duomo of Milan
Unfamiliar with the city lay out, my husband and I haphazardly stumbled across the Piazza del Duomo after we left the Galleria. We turned the corner from the south end and landed in the Duomo’s buzzing piazza. This square houses the enormous gothic style Duomo of Milan.
This was my first experience laying eyes on the grandeur of European churches and piazzas. The sun was just beginning to set which caused the Duomo to be washed in a golden hue. The view was intoxicating, I wanted to capture that moment in time and bottle it for a rainy day.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Milan for an evening dinner, check out Murale’s Ristorante. This little gem is just outside of all of the tourist traps and is 100% authentic and affordable. Brush up on your Italian, you won’t find and English menu or an English speaking waiter here, but the squid ink pasta and homemade lemoncello is well worth it!
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Pinocotta Ambrosiana & The Last Supper
If you are a fellow lover of the humanities, carve out a few hours to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, visit the inside of the Duomo and stop at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.
The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is the oldest museum in Milan and holds some fantastic masterpieces from Raphael, Botticelli, Titian and of course, da Vinci. It is rarely crowed and is well worth €15 admission fee.
The easiest and most efficient way to visit The Last Supper is to book a private tour or a group tour in advance. This will secure you skip-the-line access to Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church that houses the fresco. Many of these tours couple The Last Supper with admission to see the inside of the Duomo, which also enables you to skip-the-line. As with most European churches, the Duomo of Milan requires covered knees and shoulders to gain access to the inside of the structure.
After you have your fill of culture, have your fill refreshments and a proper espresso at Pasticceria Marchesi at Via Santa Maria alla Porta, about a 10 minute walk from the Pinacoteca. This pastry shop was opened in 1824 by the Prada family, that’s right the fashion brand Prada. Head to the back of the shop to find a table in the nook and savor their delicacies.
If you are arriving or departing from Milano Centrale train station, you are in luck. Built by Musollini in the early 1900’s train station is an art deco and art nouveau powerhouse. Arrive early, the station is roughly twice the size of the city’s Duomo and it’s easy to get side tracked here. Afar Magazine recently listed Milano Centrale as one of Europe’s most Magnificent Train Stations.
(Please note: I make $0 money off of my recommendations, I am just simply a fan!)
“I tramp a perpetual journey.” -Walt Whitman