It is enough to stay here for a few minutes to feel the difference between Milan and Rome. The capital of Italy shows the guests of the country its “old” look, Milan – a modern one. It seems that there is much more movement, more style. Many agree that between Milan and Italy in general the same difference as between New York and the United States as a whole. But one should not think that Milan is a faceless bustling metropolis: it is very beautiful, green and characteristic. But unlike many other Italian cities, it does not reveal all its charms to the tourist right off the bat: you need to stay here for a long time, exploring, studying, tasting.
The famous Duomo, La Scala, gallery Vittorio Emmanuele; majestic palaces and churches, excellent shops, seductive cafes and pastry shops. Even gray, rainy and foggy Milan is able to fall in love with it at a glance, with one sip of hot chocolate, with a five-minute walk under the plane trees.
A compelling (and for some, simply decisive) reason to visit Milan is the opportunity to buy clothes, shoes and accessories from legendary world brands.
According to citypopulationreview, the historical districts of Milan are not that big. The very center is limited by the inner ring (in accordance with the location of the medieval walls that have not survived to this day); the “circle” that follows it is the area that was previously surrounded by the “bastions”, the Spanish walls of the 16th century. There is a charge for entering these two areas (Area C) by car.
Almost everything a tourist needs is located in the inner ring, in the very center of which stand the Duomo and the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery. In the northern part of the circle are La Scala, the Brera quarter (art galleries and shops), Monte Napoleone (another fashionable quarter), Milan Central and Porta Garibaldi stations. In the south – the University, Torre Velasca, San Lorenzo, old canals “novilla” with numerous bars. In the west, the Science Museum at Sant’Ambrogio, Santa Maria delle Grazie with da Vinci’s Last Supper and Castello to the northwest. And just outside the inner ring – the Triennale area with the Sempione Park in the northeast, the Giardini area with gardens and Villa Reale in the northwest.
Of course, spacious Milan is not comparable in size to any medieval town with narrow cobbled streets, but almost everything within the inner ring can be seen on foot.
Milan Central Station is, architecturally speaking, an attraction in itself worth seeing – but only during the day. At night, the area around becomes by no means the most pleasant in the city, although it is here that many good budget hotels and business hotels of large international chains are located. To the south of the station is the business district (skyscrapers), busy during the day, but almost dying out by night.
Porta Nuova is the main business district of Milan. It owes its name to the well-preserved Napoleonic triumphal arch, built in 1813. This arch is the only more or less old building in Porta Nuova: otherwise, the quarter was built up in the late 2000s. and continues to expand: about 25 skyscrapers have grown here, including the Pirelli, Unicredit, Palazzo Lombardy, Bosco Vertical and others. Porta Nuova combines the districts of Isola, Varesine and Porta Garibaldi, and it is very convenient to get here because of the station of the same name located in the latter.
Fans of modern architecture and skyscrapers in particular should look into the CityLife area. The area is still under construction, but even now you can see the famous “Straight” – Il Dritto, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the country, “Twisted” – Lo Storto and “Curved” – Il Curvo. Among other things, CityLife is also the largest car-free area in Milan (and one of the largest among all European cities).
Hotels in Milan are generally more expensive than in many other Italian cities, even large ones. However, here you can find quite budget options, from hotels without a category to campsites and hostels. The only trick is to pay attention to their location. For example, in the nearest (and not so) suburbs there are quite decent and acceptable hotels, but it will be convenient to get to them only if you have your own car. But it is in such hotels that it will be most comfortable to stay if, for example, you are going to Bergamo airport or to the lakes in the morning: this way you will avoid unpredictable traffic jams in Milan.
There are plenty of mid-range hotels from 2 to 4 “stars” in Milan. Almost all of them in the room imply the presence of a bathroom and TV, and the reception is open around the clock. A relatively low price, for example, for a four-star hotel, is often due to the deterioration of the interior and furnishings.
The best hotels in the center can be found on the square. Republic or st. Manzoni, although there are “fives” in other places of the city – including near the main stations. True, the local “five stars” are not the best choice: the area is not very successful in many respects, and it makes sense to stay here only if you want to save money.
Everyone knows that Milan is the capital of shopping. But this is by no means the place where you can buy cheap clothes – oh no. The city has showrooms and boutiques of, perhaps, all the trendsetters of modern world fashion, so the meaning of Milanese shopping is in the richest choice and authenticity of goods.
High-style temples are the quarters of Quadrilatero della Moda (“fashionable square”), which begins right behind the Duomo; streets of Spiga, Montenapole, Vittorio Emmanuele, Sant’Andrea, Manzoni, Porta Venezia. The most prestigious boutiques and showrooms of the world (D&G, Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Versace, Cavalli) are located here, and people come here more often for prayer than for shopping.
Simpler and more reasonably priced shops can be found on Corso Buenos Aires: it may not be the main fashion mecca of the city, but it is the most popular and longest (one of the longest in the world) shopping area with a wide variety of outlets, from designer boutiques to second hand shops, from antique shops to trendy funky designer shops.
Many have heard of Milan outlets. So: the first “outlets” begin already a stone’s throw from the boutiques, in shopping galleries and arcades (often on the basement floor). Here you can really find real branded items at an amazing price: for example, a Kenzo scarf, which costs only as much as a Benetton. True, it is very likely that designer Kenzo is still ashamed of this scarf.
The real Milanese battlefields for shopaholics are not in Milan at all, but rather far from the city. These are, for example, Fidenza Village and Serravalle Outlet), where clothes of famous European brands are sold according to the stock scheme.
What to try
Despite its modern rhythm, Milan remains one of the most enduring bastions of traditional Italian cuisine, where homemade products and dishes are still highly valued. Typical dishes of the city are stewed veal shank “osso buco” and risotto alla milanese (with chicken breast and saffron). Another famous Milanese dish is cotoletta alla milanese, that is, a cutlet made from tender veal tenderloin. Just like in all of northern Italy, in Milan they love polenta made from corn grits – however, this is rather a seasonal, winter dish. And in early January, it is the turn of casuela – pork stewed with Savoy cabbage. And, of course, one cannot ignore the famous Italian dessert: like everywhere else in the country, Milan has amazing ice cream.
Cafes and restaurants in Milan
It’s hard not to find the right place to eat in Milan. However, try to avoid the restaurants around the Duomo: the quality of the food there is poor, the prices are high, and most of them have a “service charge” that is added to the bill. The latter also applies to restaurants near the Central Station.
Milan is not the most “pizza” place in the country, but there are enough pizzerias here, and some very good ones. The best pizzerias are the areas of Marghera Street, Vercelli Avenue, Navigli, Brera. In the northeastern part of the city, there are good little pizzerias on Fulvio Testi Street in the Greco district. The prices here are quite reasonable: a pizza with beer can cost around 10 EUR per person.
In Milan, pizza is often eaten with a fork and knife, although no one forbids you from using your hands, and many do both at the same time.
In recent years, “happy hours” have become more common in Milan, which are held in bars from about 19:00 to 21:00. Despite the fact that the Milanese in general are rather low drinkers, these hours are an opportunity not only to get drunk economically, but to sit and chat with pleasure in a big company. “Happy hours” means a fixed price for all drinks and a free buffet appetizer for them: olives, salami, green salad, rice, bread. As an aperitif in Milan, they usually drink prosecco or campari with soda.
At the end of autumn it gets rather rainy and foggy in Milan, and even worse in winter, although Milan becomes very beautiful in the weeks before Christmas. Spring is similar to autumn both in terms of weather and in terms of general mood: the city is quieter, there are fewer people on the streets, the atmosphere is more serious and calm. In summer, the city is extremely hot and humid, periodically here and there there are short powerful downpours. Moreover, in August, many shops and offices are closed, and for a short period the streets are filled exclusively with tourists. Thus, the best months to visit Milan are March-June and September-October.