Milan was the last stop on my whirlwind Italian adventure, and I’m pleased to announce that it held its weight with the likes of Rome, Florence, and Venice. Milan has a distinct New York City feel to it, what with all the fashion houses based in the city and the more modern facade of some of the buildings (it still looks like a historic city, but compared to the ruins that were scattered around Rome, Milan looked practically new). To help you out, I’ve compiled some of my favorite spots in Milan and compared them to some spots I thought you could skip.
Wow, Claire! I can’t believe you’re telling us to visit the Duomo. You never visit cathedrals! Yes, Yes, I know. I’ve visited a lot of churches while in Italy. But you can’t visit Milan without visiting the Duomo; it’s just too beautiful to pass up. Now, it’s time for me to be honest: I didn’t actually go inside the Duomo. I was blessed with hot weather my first day in Milan and I wore shorts. Apparently, that’s a huge no no when trying to enter the cathedral. My friend got to go inside though and said it was beautiful, so I’m taking her recommendation on this one. However, I did get to climb to the roof of the Duomo, which was gorgeous! Seeing the architecture of the building was almost better than the view of the city, as crazy as that sounds.
Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II
Nope, not an art gallery. It’s actually one of the oldest shopping centers in Europe and is located right by the Duomo. If you’re a hard core window shopper like I am than you have to walk through this! It has the biggest Prada store I’ve ever seen, and I probably annoyed the sales ladies from picking up so many purses. I like to play make-believe with expensive bags, okay?
Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore
A bit of a hike from the main drag, the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore is worth a visit. The front of the church is actually quite deceiving as it’s rather flat and unassuming. When you walk around the back though, you see the various sections of the building that jut out at different levels. What I loved most about this basilica is the feel of the area surrounding it. It has a large grassy area out back, and there were people lounging around and eating gelato. In general, the people of Milan seem to make any green space into a public gathering area, which gives the city a more lived-in vibe.
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
I quite literally stumbled into this building. There was construction being done on the front, so I had no clue I was even entering a church. San Maurizio is a two for one attraction in that it’s not only a beautifully preserved convent, but it’s also attached to an archaeology museum. I was a bit hesitant about the museum at first because it was free (I think it’s normally 2 euros to visit, but I came at a special hour without realizing it) and a bit small. I’m so glad I walked through it though! The displays were very well put together and showcased a range of artifacts from the ancient Greeks to pieces from Egypt. I was also given a free tour while I was there by high school students needing to practice their English. They were so sweet and gave me some great background history on San Maurizio.
Eating Like a Local
You know you’ve found good places to eat when there are Italian businessmen there on their lunch break. If possible, try and find spots were the locals eat; these are usually away from the tourist centers, which the exception of the two following restaurants:
Luini’s is absolutely amazing. It’s apparently been in Milan since the dawn of time, or at least since it created the oh-so-tasty panzerotti, a mini fried calzone type of food. I’m still not exactly sure what it is, but the panzerotti I had was SO GOOD. They’re rather small though, so I’d say go ahead and get two, especially since they’re around the two euro mark. Oh, and did I mention that they have dessert panzerottis too? Yep. I ate one of those as well.
Ironically enough, Spontini’s is on the street across from Luini’s. Spontini’s is a grab and go establishment like Luini’s as well, and it sells the fluffiest slices of pizza I’ve ever eaten. They sell only three types of pizza by the slice, but one slice will fill you up. If you’re not full afterwards, I’d suggest walking back over to Luini’s and getting one of their dessert panzerottis. Be warned: This place is packed with locals at lunch time, but the line moves quickly.
If you want to find great places to eat in any city you visit, check out Spotted by Locals for great tips on where to eat and sights to see.
Poldi Pezzoli Museum
If you find yourself stuck in the middle of a rainy day, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is worth a visit. Although on the smaller side (maybe a 2-3 hour visit in total), the museum has such an interesting array of jewelry, artwork, porcelain, and other artifacts. What I loved most about its rooms was how older art pieces were interspersed with modern works. The museum is also inexpensive to visit, which is always a plus.
I’m a bit torn on my time at the Castello Sforzesco. On the one hand, the public park surrounding it is amazing. There’s so much green space for lounging and playing, and a huge fountain for you to stick your feet in at the end of the day. On the other hand, the museum, while absolutely mammoth in size, doesn’t have the greatest display set-up and had many exhibits that didn’t interest me. It was one of those museums where I could appreciate the work done there, but I wouldn’t necessarily revisit it.
I was so bummed when I finally made it over to Milan’s Chinatown. In my head, I was imagining something like New York City’s Chinatown, which I love. However, Milan’s Chinatown is pretty much just a single street with a few paper lanterns here and there. So save yourself the long trek across Milan and skip this particular spot.
Okay, yeah. This happened. As some of you might have seen on Facebook, my very first experience in Milan involved being set upon by a flock of pigeons. I had literally just walked out of the subway when a man came up to me, grabbed my hand and shoved a handful of corn in it. He then held my hand up until the pigeons were done eating. I can look back on this now and laugh (I look fairly ridiculous in the photos), but at the time I was so grossed out. So, pigeons were definitely a “miss” for me in Milan, and the street hawkers that generally swarmed the Duomo area are now on my “Never Again” list.
Have you guys visited Milan before? If so, what are some hits and misses on your list? Also, I’ve officially booked my flight to Brussels! I’ll also be making a day trip to Bruges, so if you have any suggestions for visiting Belgium I’d love to hear your thoughts.