Julie Goffredo lived in Milan while on a year abroad from university. She shares her favourite and secret spots from all around Milan. Read more from Julie on her blog.
Italy’s trendiest, cosmopolitan city might not be the obvious choice when chasing “La Dolce Vita” but look closer and you’ll find that Milan offers far more than just fashion houses and designer handbags.
However, if you are expecting to see ancient ruins and majestic Roman architecture, then I should warn you, you are going to be disappointed. Milan just isn’t that kind of city. But what it lacks in ancient history it makes up for in art, Gothic architecture and quirky little spots hidden away from the tourist trail.
This has to be the first on your list, Milan’s spectacular answer to a cathedral. Head inside to the darkness and gloom (it’s unlike any other cathedral) to get a better idea of its imposing presence. Top tip: look out for the creepy dead priests.
You can also take a trip up on the roof if you want to see the intricate architecture up close. Time this one for when the sun goes down, trust me.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Now, this is where Milan lives up to its reputation of fashion capital under the stunning golden archways where Prada has its flagship store. Even if fashion isn’t your thing, walking through you’ll get a taste of the Milanese way of life as you rub shoulders with glamorous old ladies dressed in fur.
The Last Supper
Yes, I didn’t realise Milan had this Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece either. Fan or not of the Da Vinci books it’s worth a visit and don’t worry it’s much bigger than the Mona Lisa. Pre-book for this one.
Pinoteca di Brera
For more art head to the beautiful Brera district to the Pinoteca that houses a very impressive, if slightly overwhelming collection of religious artworks.
Had enough of culture for one day? If it’s sunny head towards Parco Sempione a short walk away and a well needed oasis away from the busy, sweltering streets. Grab a Granita, Italy’s version of a Slush Puppie and join the rest of city chilling on the grass.
Before you reach the cobbled streets of Corso Como, make sure you pass by Eataly on the way. A food store so spectacular it deserves its place under sights to see. Spanning five floors this is the very embodiment of the Italian love and obsession in all its glory. And the best thing? They have free tasters.
Number 10 Corso Como
When you finally make it out, carry on and find Number 10 hiding on Corso Como. A cross between a high-end fashion store, bookshop and exhibition space (think candid shots of Andy Warhol), it’s an interesting place to explore or escape the occasional downpour. Yes, it does rain in Italy. They even have a leafy roof terrace (free I should add) that makes another perfect little oasis in the middle of the city.
Wandering + Villa Invernizzi
And then of course you can just wander, I always find it’s the best way to explore a city and Milan is perfect for this. Full of beautiful buildings and the most amazing little deserted spots where you feel like the only one in the world. Try Brera or the “Quadrilatero del Silenzio (the silent quarter) where you’ll also find an unusual bird outside Villa Invernizzi.
All that sight-seeing is bound to make you hungry and in a land so famed for its food, there’s no excuses for ending up McDonalds. Especially since Milan has plenty of options for travellers on a budget.
Princi & Spontini
For a quick bite, pick something up at Princi, Milan’s most famous bakery chain or head to Spontini the Milanese institution serving up thick, indulgent pizza for only €3.50 a slice. Handily there’s one just around the corner from the Duomo, perfect for a no-fuss (standing room only at this one) but delicious lunch.
I Cioccolati Italiani
Conveniently, pudding is only a few steps away in the form of Gelato at I Cioccolati Italiani! Sure it’s in the centre so slightly pricier than the equally yummy Grom (various locations) but you need to try it at least once for the melted chocolate they put in the bottom of your cone!
Now you’ve saved on lunch you can afford to splash out on dinner at Obica – the fancy mozzarella bar overlooking the Duomo. Even so, if you opt for the Pizza like I always did (the Mozzarella di Bufala is amazing) being classy only costs around €12-14. Or, you can enjoy the view just with a fancy cocktail instead.
Navigli & The Aperitivo
But there is a way to do both and for less than a tenner. I introduce you to… the amazing Aperitivo!! Quite possibly the greatest thing ever invented by the Milanese, what started out as a few snacks before dinner has become a full blown buffet with a cocktail thrown in. Usually less than £10 one of the best places to experience this is by The Navigli (Milan’s canals). Grab a spritz from one of the many bars overlooking the canal and watch as the sun sets over the water.
For an edgier vibe you could explore Isola, the once run down area behind Porta Garibaldi that is now alive and kicking with cool bars. Try Deus or Frida for your hipster fix.
Colonne di San Lorenzo
Or, for the traditional Italian experience of sitting outside in the street, sipping a beer or dirt cheap cocktail on a hot summer’s night, there is the Colonne di San Lorenzo. Don’t expect anything fancy – this place isn’t even a bar. It’s just some old roman columns that becomes a local nightlife hotspot with a special kind of atmosphere.