Just coming off Expo 2015 and with the opening last spring of the new Fondazione Prada, Milan is buzzing with energy and excitement. The financial and fashion capital of Italy, Milan is a large, urban city, with excellent hotels, restaurants and of course shopping. Boasting one of the most spectacular cathedrals in all of Europe, and a world famous opera house, Milan offers more than just material thrills to fill your days. After a recent trip throughout Puglia, our group spent an action packed two days getting to know Milan.
You need to book tickets in advance to see Leonardo’s Last Supper at Santa Marie delle Grazie. Only 25 people are allowed into the climate-controlled room every 15 minutes.
Believe it or not, even in Milan, Eataly is packed and mostly with locals, eating and shopping the same high quality ingredients that those of us in New York and Chicago have become spoiled by. (Boston and Los Angeles are next, with stores opening in the near future.) In the space of the former Teatro Smeraldo, it pays homage to its former self with performances on the large stage in the center of the store.
Summer is deserted in Milan, it’s hot and everyone heads to the lakes, it’s best to visit in the spring or fall.
Milan is a perfect gateway to Lake Como, Venice, Lake Garda or the Dolomites, all within two hours.
Stay: We checked into the Four Seasons, with an unbeatable location, set in a former 15th century convent around a lovely courtyard, and right in the heart of the world’s most fashionable shopping district. We’ve heard good things about the new, contemporary Armani Hotel with all the design details overseen by Giorgio Armani himself. The Mandarin Oriental just opened this past September, their first hotel in Italy. Looking for something smaller, more boutique? Friends have stayed at The Gray and the Straf, both a stones throw away from the Duomo.
Coffee: Just down from the hotel, start the day at Pasticceria Cova, an elegant traditional coffee and cake shop, dating back to 1817, well loved by the Milanese on Via Montenapoleone.
Early Morning: Prepare to be blown away on top of Milan’s Duomo as you walk the terraces high up on the rooftop. The Duomo opens at 8, and the terraces at 9, so I suggest you go somewhere in between to purchase tickets. It’s well worth it to go early before the crowds arrive. Explore the incredible interior till it’s time to be one of the first on line for the lift. (You can also choose to climb the 166 steps to the top) The Duomo took six centuries to create with over 3,000 sculptures on its many spires. It is an incredible experience to be close to eye level to the spires, soaking in all the intricate details, with the city of Milan far below. This is one experience not to be missed.
Mega Mall: Look down at the beautiful mosaics as you stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, before looking up at the magnificent glass vaulted ceiling that enclose this arcade that connects the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala. Have an espresso at Zucca if you need to refuel.
Cultural Gem: You need to plan ahead to book tickets to see a performance at Milan’s revered opera house La Scala, but you can visit the museum and see the restored auditorium daily from 9-12:30 and 1:30-5:30.
Lunch: Head over to the new “it” area of Porto Nuova for lunch at Ratana, housed in a beautiful old home in a garden by the old railways. Chef Cesare Battisti brings a modern take to traditional Milanese cuisine; order the risotto alla Milanese or Ossobuco. After, walk over to Corso Como, the buzzy street is lined with chic boutiques. Allow some time at 10 Corso Como, what may be the original concept store, with everything from cutting edge fashion to art, books and home décor. The garden courtyard is a nice place for a drink, or a light lunch. Porto Nuova is home to some striking new architecture, including Cesar Pelli’s Unicredit Tower, now Europe’s tallest building, and the Boso Verticale, two high-rise residential towers filled with balconies of trees and shrubs—a urban forest.
Shop: To say shopping is a sport in Milan is not an exaggeration; Milan is one of the fashion capitals, if not the fashion capital, of the world. Its fun to window shop the high-end, big name designer stores on the streets surrounding the Via Montenapoleone, nicknamed the Golden Quadrilateral. But, wander further afield to find more local, independent boutiques. We had way too much fun at Clan and Clan Upstairs, and at Biffi over on Corso Genoa. I wish I could have filled a suitcase with the beautiful synthetic crystal at Marioluca Giusti. (If you didn’t pick it up you’d swear it was Venetian glass!) Les Amis carries Italian made shoes at a fraction of the cost you’d find back home, a pair or two just might have made it into my suitcase.
Aperitif: The Milanese love meeting up for drinks to start the evening off. Join them on the rooftop at chic Ceresio 7; it’s an ideal spot in nice weather with panoramic views on the terrace and two pools. Also serving drinks with a view, head to the Bamboo Bar at the Armani Hotel. The drinks at Dry on Via Solferino are creative and experimental from the team behind popular Pisacco restaurant and bar. Over in hip Navigli, young crowds are flocking to Mag for incredible cocktails.
Dinner: Seafood lovers will be in heaven at upscale Langosteria 10, serving the highest quality fish to a very fashionable crowd. Start with a selection of carpaccios or tartares, some oysters or perhaps a very light frito misto. Don’t think of skipping the pasta here--Id go back just for the paccheri with rock lobster or the linguine with baby clams, squid and bottarga, followed with a whole fish baked in salt.
Local List: I asked my Milanese friend, a true foodie whose word I highly respect, for her list of favorite places to eat in Milan. "Go to Filippo La Mantia, he’s a well-known Sicilian Chef, famous for his cous-cous. I like Mimmo Milano, yes it’s expensive, but it has a really nice atmosphere, it’s trendy right now with delicious, high quality food. Another favorite is Osteria la Carbonaia for Tuscan cuisine—I go for great meat, and the casual, rustic atmosphere, I just love the simple, delicious food. I’ve wanted to try Joia, a vegatarian restaurant with a Michelin star; it’s on my list. Over in Navigli, Erba Brusca serves farm to table, seasonal plates from their own garden. For the best pizza head to Eataly, Pizza AM and Fresco & Cimmino. If you’re looking for a change from Italian head to Temakihno, a trendy stop for Japanese-Brazilian sushi or to Finger's, another good Japanese fushion/sushi spot. And then there’s one of my favorites--Un Posto a Milano in Cascina Cuccagna. Though it’s basically in the center of Milan, you’ll feel transported to the country."
Art Campus: Allow a few hours to explore the new Prada Fondazione, located in Largo Isarco in a former distillery, just south of the city center, a quick 15-minute taxi ride. Transformed by the architect Rem Koolhaas and his OMA team to house the Prada contemporary art collection; it’s an intriguing mix of various structures—a mini art city, within Milan. There’s a library, café and space for performances, in fact Prada has created what they are calling a “permanent cultural complex”. And don’t miss the café, Bar Luce; designed by film director Wes Anderson, it’s his fanciful, playful take on a traditional Milanese café. Book your tickets online before you arrive to skip the line, but be sure to go get a timed ticket at the front desk for the “Haunted House”, an installation with works by Robert Gober and Louise Bourgeois. There’s a 60 meter high rise under construction which will be home to more art and a bar and restaurant on the top floor. Impressive, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable, we loved it!
- A Daytripper itinerary 10.20.15