The Grand Summer Tour continued from Budapest to Milan and though I love Italy and have seen many of its most well-known regions and cities, in Milan I had been only once before, and only for one day. So now it was finally time to discover what it has to offer.
The main reason why I had never been there for real has been the Milan’s reputation of being an industrial, urban place which has nothing to offer – except the overly priced restaurants and unfriendly people. Well, I’m starting to have my own opinion on those people who claim these things, but that’s a whole another story so lets move straight to my own experience instead… And that, my friends, was very much the opposite from what I’ve heard!
Milan is well-known from its dome, Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II , and the main shopping streets next to the gallery with their overly priced restaurants and aperitif bar. But this is not the whole Milan. Actually, this is not Milan at all. Sure I wanted to see the Duomo which architecture is just amazing, and I also took a walk on those pedestrian streets and went to see the gallery – also these places are very beautiful if you just ignore the masses. But the fact is that each of these places are packed and the atmosphere gets very stressful and loud. So after a while at least I got tired to it… and at this point it was time to go and see the real Milan – the Milan which I fell in love with, and most likely you will, too.
Of course during these few days I wasn’t able to see the whole city and I’m sure there are many gems still to discover (which is also a good reason to return ;) ) but I saw enough to be able to give you at least some tips outside the main tourist zone. Good news is that Milan is very compact so it’s much easier to navigate there by foot compared to Rome, for instance. And if you don’t want to walk, the metropolitana is very fast, easy to use, and it will take you from one place to another very easily (10-time ticket 13eur in summer 2015). But where should you go then? The areas that I was able to cover during my stay were the Cittá Studi, Quadrilatero d’Oro, Brera, Centro Storico, and Navigli. All of these zones have their own vibe and atmosphere, and I liked each of them very much – but if I had to choose I’d say Brera and Navigli were my absolute favorites… so if you only have time for 2, check out at least these.
First, Navigli is full of these aperitif bars with buffets which Milan is famous of. So especially for budget travellers this is a great option for having a dinner, drinks and the view all at once. And, even though you’d be traveling with a bit higher budget I strongly recommend you to check out these places at least once, since this is something which you can’t experience anywhere else – not in this scale at least. The prices are very decent here in Navigli, and with 8-10 eur you can have a drink and enjoy all the possible delicacies they have to offer… From cheese to pasta, from veggies to prosciutto… and everything in between. From Navigli you’ll find also many nice restaurants if you want to have a proper dinner, and don’t skip the “obligatory” gelato and passeggiata after dinner. One of the best places in Navigli for the gelato is Rinomata Gelateria, so get your sweet treat first and then take a walk towards the Duomo by walking through the Corso di Porta Ticinese and then continue to Via San Giorgio and Via Torino – and at the end you’ll see the beautiful illuminated Duomo and the piazza. Che bella <3
Brera is another area which is extremely beautiful in Milan, and has some pedestrian streets full of nice shops and restaurants. From Brera you can also find beautiful art galleries (e.g. on Via Brera) to enjoy some contemporary art for free while strolling around the streets doing the window shopping (or the actual shopping, depending on your budget ;) ). A great place for lunch or dinner you can find from Via Fiori Oscuri/Chiari or from Via Madonnina – just be careful, there are many tourist places too so search for a restaurant where you can hear people speaking Italian, where the prices are decent, and the dishes people are having look… well, great (though you hardly ever get bad food in these “tourist traps” either, you just might end up paying a bit too much) :)
Then the Quadrilatero d’Oro – the fashion area of the city. Here you’ll find all the exclusive brands and beautiful people strolling on the streets with their Vuitton bags and Louboutin shoes. And Milan being the fashion capital of Italy, the locals look very good here (and basically wherever you go in Milan). They also put lots of energy to keep themselves in form every way – women have their nails done perfectly, men’s suites look (and most likely are) taylor made, and you can just see and feel the style everywhere. And now here is one important note. Never consider Milan as a trendy city, not in a sense of London or New York -trendy. Milan is chic. And chic is so much more than trendy, and it’s tightly attached to the overall Italian culture of bella figura (…from this I’ll tell you more in a separate post later). Trendy you can buy, chic is way beyond. And, obviously, black is the new black ;)
And last but not least, in Centro Storico you can find some nice streets to walk around, e.g. Via Meravigliosa and Via San Giovanni sul Muro are very beautiful. And when you walk along Corso Magenta, you’ll find your way to Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie with the famous and much argued painting from Leonardo Da Vinci: The Last Supper. And to one of the local gems – just read further ;)
When I arrived in Centro Storico I was starving and needed something good to eat. The first decent looking place that I found was Fizz Bar and tabaccheria in Corso Magenta. This place didn’t look fancy at all (already this is usually a good hint for a good place to eat in Italy), and you easily skip it if you don’t take a better look inside. When I entered the place it was full of locals having their lunch, and in that moment I knew I’d found a gem that needs a further study! In Fizz they have only a hand-written menu hanging on the bar counter since the lunch list changes each day depending on what’s available, fresh and in season – without the need of compromising in quality. And the prices were very decent. When I arrived the lunch hour was in its end, though, and there was nothing left anymore from the lunch menu, so I “had” to order the piadina… and may I say I couldn’t have been more happy with that choice! The cost was less then 4eur and the piadina filled with some prosciutto, melting, fresh stracchino cheese and rucola… mamma mia, the BEST piadina I’ve ever had, and I’ve had quite a few of those during my travels! In that moment I felt particularly happy because I had found one of those rare, truly-local places… and there I was, sitting at my table, surrounded by the Italians and their beautiful language and eating my heavenly piadina… and just enjoying the perfect late lunch break in the middle of this amazing city <3
So if you’ve ever had some hesitations why you should go to Milan, I hope that after reading this true story you’ll have the courage to book the tickets to this beautiful city of fashion, art and architecture… and great food. I’m sure you’ll enjoy :)
Elämää Italiassa ja italialaisessa Suomessa: ruokaa, juomaa, ostoksia ja maisemareittien koluamista patikoiden.