Described as Italy’s ‘city of the future’, Milan is renowned for design. Whether its fashion, furniture, cars or bikes, it’s a city which strongly has its roots as the home of Italian design and in our view, is the perfect place for a 2-3 day stopover if you’re joining us on one of our three northern Italian cycling tours; our Giro d’Italia Tour, Dolomites & Prosecco Road Tour or our Tour of Piemonte & La Fausto Coppi Gran Fondo.
Often bypassed by tourists because it doesn’t carry the same ‘must see’ tag as Rome, Venice or Florence or perhaps isn’t as architecturally stunning or historically significant, Milan for us is a city that just oozes style; you need to get under its skin to experience and enjoy its true beauty – a beauty that lies in its stylish life or ‘la vita moda’, its creativity and its beating pulse. Aperitivo is also at its best here.
Experience, Visit, See
Once you’ve seen the major highlights of Milan’s famous Duomo, stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Italy’s oldest active shopping mall), beautiful La Scala Opera House and perhaps joined the queues to see The Last Supper, the 15th century mural painting by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, it will be time to seek out more of how the locals live and experience their city. Here’s a few tips…
Morning walk in Parco Sempione
The most loved park in Milan by locals, a morning or afternoon walk around Parco Sempione is a relaxing and beautiful way to spend an hour or two. With the Sforza Castle on its borders, an old sports stadium within its grounds and beautiful open spaces and lakes, we love our morning walks around this green heart of Milan.
A stroll and casual lunch in Quadrilatero d’Oro
A stroll around the Quadrilatero d’Oro, the centre of high fashion in Milan, is a must. With its luxury boutiques, swanky bars and cafes, and great restaurants, this pedestrian only ‘rectangle of fashion’ is worth seeing if only to ‘window shop’ its high end labels such as Gucci, Armani, Versace, Valentino, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. The windows of these stores are a gallery of art in themselves and a casual lunch amongst Milan’s ‘high fashion set’ is a great exercise in people watching.
Visit the Triennale design museum
If you’re into art and design, the Triennale di Milano, set in the beautiful Palazzo dell’Arte building, is well worth a visit. Showcasing innovation in contemporary Italian design, architecture, art and music, the museum boasts some really interesting installations and exhibitions, and is a reflection of the ‘inner fabric’ of how this city ticks.
Explore the Pinacoteca di Brera
If art history and paintings are your thing, this art gallery, often described as ‘the best art museum you’ve never heard of’’, houses a large collection of masterpieces by Italian and foreign artists dating from the 13th to the 20th century. Located in the beautiful Palazzo Brera, itself a work of art, it is also home to the Fine Arts Academy where several of Italy’s most famous artists and writers have graduated from. Artworks are displayed chronologically across 6 centuries and while some galleries may not be your style, you will find yourself sitting and pondering life in front of many others.
Visit the Bianchi Café
As an institutional Milanese bike brand with a history of over 130 years, it is fitting that the brand’s trademark celeste has its own HQ in the centre of Milan. Set on four levels and housing a bike and accessories store, a bike fit studio, memorabilia and a café set in a lovely inner courtyard, it is worth a visit as a cyclist. We were a little disappointed that there wasn’t more floor space dedicated to the brand’s old bikes and heroes such as Fausto Coppi, who made the Bianchi brand so well know in the 70’s, however the cafe was great for lunch. We enjoyed a memorable pasta, all served on plates, beautifully embossed with the iconic Bianchi logo.
Shop & Explore
Milan is great for shopping, with a few ‘hotspots’ to focus on, particularly if you have limited time.
Luxury Brands: If you’re into the luxury brands, then Montenapoleone, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vercelli are the places to zone in on.
Unique boutiques: If unique Milanese style, up and coming designers, and one-off boutiques are more your style (as they are ours), then the Brera neighbourhood, which is the old artistic neighbourhood of Milan, and more specifically Via Solferino, Via San Marco and Corso Garibaldi, is where you’ll find an array of chic and unique stores and galleries.
Markets: If you’re in Milan on a Monday or Thursday, it is worth visiting the open air market in Via San Marco or if you’re here on the third Sunday of the month and into antiques and collectables, then a visit to the Mercatino di Antiquariato e Brocantage in Brera, is a must.
10 Corso Como: A combination of gallery, bookshop and design store located in the courtyard of a magnificent, traditional palazzo, this ‘destination store’ definitely reflects its founder, a former, high profile Italian fashion editor and is worth a visit, particularly at aperitivo time. The bar just oozes style.
Art Lovers: Be sure to also explore the many galleries along the canals of the very cool Navigli neighbourhood. You’ll see signs pointing into the courtyards for collections of local artist’s work, in amongst trendy bars, cafes and boutiques.
Part of the Centro Storico district, Brera is our favourite area to stay in Milan. With its cobbled alleys lined with cafes, bars, stylish restaurants, fashion boutiques and artisan workshops, you’ll be enchanted by its atmosphere, both during the day and at night, and its central location makes it all within easy reach of a few metro train stations.
Antica Locanda Solferino
For a little old school Milan in a perfect location in the Brera district, this warm and welcoming boutique hotel is perfectly located on Via Solferino, the premier shopping strip, and is surrounded by restaurants, bars and cafes.
Moscova Luxury B&B / Apartment
More an apartment than B&B, this modern and open space, very close to the Brera district in Moscova, is run by the friendliest of hosts, and is a great choice.
Milano Brera Relais B&B
This friendly, boutique B&B is in a fantastic location in a small, quiet street and boasts modern, spacious rooms.
Eat & Drink
Milan is home to one of Italy’s most diverse dining scenes, with everything from Milanese classics to innovative dining and an array of international cuisines, however our favourite way to eat in Milan is still ‘classic’. We love its veal cotoletta and risotto Milanese, not to mention sitting out in its cobbled alleys enjoying a casual pasta or pizza.
Aperitivo in Milan is amongst the very best in the country. Whether you’re in the neighbourhoods of Brera and Navigli, our two favourite destinations for aperitivo, or find yourself on a patio or palazzo terrace in the glamorous Montenapoleone, aperitivo and its associated buffet of delicious morsels, is a must.
A couple of our favourites…
God save the food, 1, Piazza del Carmine, Brera. High quality buffet and cocktails right in the centre of Milan.
Rita or Mag Cafe in Navigli; creative, unique in character (but very different), both places offer an array of amazing cocktails, nibbles and atmosphere.
Panzerotti @ Luini, Situated on an old side street off Corso Vittorio Emanuele, don’t be surprised to see queues out the front of this institution which has served Panzerotti to the Milanese for 3 generations. Actually a Puglian street-food speciality, the famous panzerotti are traditionally made of bread/pizza dough, folded in a half moon shape with a mozzarella and tomato filling inside, and make for a great ‘snack’ as you wander the streets.
An antipasto platter & glass of wine @ La Prosciutteria, Situated on one of our favourite streets in Brera, Corso Garibaldi, La Prosciutteria is the ideal place if you want to take a break, enjoy a board of prosciutto and cheeses, and sip some amazing home made wines.
Lunch & Dinner
A couple of our ‘classic favourites’…
A hidden gem of Milan that offers classic, home cooked Milanese and Italian dishes in a charming and characterful 1960’s home setting. Their specialty milk risotto and famous cotoletta alla Milanese are amongst the best you’ll find in Milan. Bread, pasta and desserts are all homemade and the authentic quality of the food, makes this a ‘must go to’ place for lunch or dinner while in Milan. You just need to make sure you book a couple of days earlier as they are always full.
Via Manfredo Camperio, 6, Milano
El Tombon de San Marc
A wonderful restaurant with a stunning dining room, beautiful ambience and traditional Milanese and Lombardian cuisine, this restaurant is a little more ‘up market’. You need to book a table here for both lunch and dinner as it’s very popular.
Via S. Marco, 20, Milano
If you’re joining us on one of our northern Italian cycling tours, we highly recommend a stopover in Milan. If you would like to find out more about these specific tours, please visit our tour pages.