As the second largest city in Italy and capital of the Lombardy region, Milan is also the most cosmopolitan and wealthy. This obviously has a lot to do with its status as one of the fashion capitals of Europe, a fact reinforced by the city’s chic inhabitants. Situated in the Po valley, Milan is a thriving business and commercial centre with a historical heart boasting the spectacular Il Duomo and world famous Opera House, balanced by a contemporary, buzzing nightclub scene.
PLACES OF INTEREST
No trip to Milan is complete without a visit to the magnificent Gothic cathedral, Il Duomo, set in the heart of the city. The third largest in Italy, the cathedral was started in 1386 and wasn’t completed for several centuries. The interior, with its intricate stained glass windows and magnificent columns, is impressive enough, but once outside again use the entrance at the back of the cathedral to take you to the roof. It costs up to €5, and is worth every cent – the view from the roof is breathtaking and you can take a closer look at the famous gilt statue of the Madonnina, the highest point on the roof. On a clear day the French Alps are clearly visible.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle
Leading directly from Duomo Square is the glass roofed plaza of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle. Here you’ll find a handful of designer shops and cafes, but it’s the amazing roof, beautiful mosaic floor and relaxed atmosphere that makes this a must-do experience. It’s also a great place to sit and people-watch at one of the excellent, though often pricey, cafes.
Teatro alla Scala and Museo Teatrale alla Scala
Milan is home to Italy’s famous Opera House – Teatro alla Scala – and its adjoining museum. Guided tours take you through the museum’s large collection of costumes, scenery and instruments and you can also see the Opera House’s spectacular auditorium that is well-known for its amazing acoustics. Entry to the museum is €5.
Museo Civico di Storia Naturale
The Natural History Museum, situated in one of Milan’s central parks – Giardinni Pubblici – houses an excellent and well-preserved collection of butterflies, moths and other insect specimens in addition to many rocks, minerals, fossils and other fascinating exhibits. Entry is free, but it’s worth going along with a native speaker as all information sheets about the exhibits are in Italian only.
Planetario Ulrico Hoepli
Next door to the Natural history museum is Milan’s Planetarium. It’s worth going to one of the shows here that follow the trajectory of the planets in the solar system, but there are only four per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
A stone’s throw from Il Duomo is Milan’s fashion district (take Metro line 3 to Monte Napleone). The golden square is so named because of the four roads that border the area (namely via Monte Napoleone, via della Spiga, via Sant’Andrea and via Borgospesso). All the big Italian designers keep shops here – everything from Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Valentino and Dior to name but a few. It’s chic and pricey, a fact that’s reflected by the shoppers who spend their money here, but if you love designerwear you’ll feel right at home.
Corso Buenos Aires
For more middle-of-the-road, high street prices your best bet is to head for Corso Buenos Aires, a long main road lined with shops selling clothes, shoes, electrical goods, toys, jewelry and much more. A number of metro stations (on Metro line 1) place you at different points along the road – namely Palestro, Lima or Loreto – and shops stay open until 7pm on most days.
Open air market
Take metro line 2 to San Augostino to find the cheap and cheerful open air market that runs along Viale Papiniano. Here you’ll find a wide selection of goods ranging from denimwear, shoes and handbags to fruit, vegetables and Italian foods such as cheeses, capers and the largest selection of olives you’re likely to see anywhere! Open on Saturdays.
PLACES TO EAT
Milan is full to bursting with restaurants, bars and eateries that reflect a wide range of international cuisines. It’s certainly not hard to find somewhere to eat, but here are a few restaurants worth trying.
Via Scarlatti, 7, Tel: 02 3881 0287
Good food, and cheap, in a venue that’s perfect for lunch. It’s small but the green, white and brick décor gives the restaurant a fresh feel. Very tasty Italian food – pizza, pasta, salads – with amazingly quick service.
Via Petrella, 19, Tel: 02 2940 5870
Modern and intimate setting that’s lit predominantly by candlelight. Tucked away on a backstreet, but a stylish restaurant serving traditional Italian dishes made entirely with organic ingredients at very reasonable prices. Book in advance.
Via Panfilo Castaldi, 18, Tel: 02 2952 2124
A vegetarian restaurant serving inventive and tasty food that’s been described as the best in Italy. Its soft lighting and modern wood surround sets off the restaurant’s intimate feel. Very large selection of wines, but although food is delicious portions are small and quite pricey. Booking is recommended.
Via Schiaparelli, 5, Tel: 02 6707 1790
If you fancy a change and like Chinese then this is the place to try. It’s just a short walk from Stazione Centrale – Milan’s central train station – and boasts a décor more Victorian than Chinese. However, the Canton and Sichuan dishes are superb and at prices that won’t break the bank.
After dark Milan buzzes with a vast array of bars and clubs. The world-famous Opera House draws visitors from around the globe and thus tickets need to be bought in advance. But for those keen to try out the club scene, Milan doesn’t fail to deliver.
Via Tocqueville, 13: Open 11.30pm-5.30am
Nightclub with modern décor geared towards a predominantly 20-something crowd. It’s a lively and popular haunt for young Milanese.
Corso Como, 15: Open 10.30pm-4am
Not as atmospheric as Toque Villa, Hollywood is the club where many of the city’s fashion models hang out. It’s trendy – with its modern, metal décor – and more than a little too chic. Drinks are pricey, though.
Corso Como, 15: Open: 10pm-4am
This is a very small, but very lively nightclub playing a good selection of RnB, right next door to Club Hollywood. The dancefloor is small – hence the patrons tend to dance on the tables instead! – but the atmosphere is lively. Get there early to ensure entry.
Via Lodovico il Moro, 119
One of Milan’s premiere jazz clubs. Set opposite the canal – the Naviglio Grande – some of the jazz world’s greatest have played here. Worth a visit if only to witness one of the spontaneous jazz sessions and enjoy some of the very good homemade food.
The easiest and quickest way to get around is on public transport. The Metro – underground railway – has three lines (Line 1 is red, Line 2 is green and Line 3 is yellow) and all major attractions are within easy reach of a metro station. The metro runs from 6am to midnight. Trams, buses and trolleybuses are run by the Milan Transport Authority and run from between 4 and 6am until between midnight and 1am. For unlimited travel on all public transport you can buy a one day travelcard from newsagents, which is valid for 24hrs from the first time you use it.
Important telephone numbers:
- Ambulance: 118
- Doctor: 02 34567
- Fire Brigade: 115
- Police: 112
- Pharmacist (Stazione Centrale): 02 6690 735
- Radiotaxi: 02 6767 or 02 8585 or 02 8388