Updated: Feb 2, 2019
I first visited Milan for a high school trip, and returned this past year to study Italian. It's a big city that I didn't expect to fall in love with, but I find myself thinking about it constantly. Milan is located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, and is a destination worth seeing if you're looking to explore the north. Many tourists love Milan because it reminds them of their cities back home, but better. Unlike other major cities in the world, Milan has history, charm, and a more laid-back mentality. If Milan is the next stop on your bucket list, here's what you need to know:
You'll get absolutely spoiled with getting around in Milan, compared to other places in Italy. There's a bus, or tram (streetcar) at least every two minutes, and the subway map is a dream. The city is very big, but overall it's pretty easy to navigate thanks to Milan's NEXT LEVEL local transit. You can purchase bus and tram tickets at the tabacchi (tobacco) shops, and newspaper stands for 1.50 euro.
Things to Do
Milan has just about something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you're a historian, foodie, sports fan, or professional shopper, you'll have no problem enjoying yourself in this amazing city. Here's what you need to do in Milan:
Visit the Duomo. The Duomo (cathedral) is one of the most jaw-dropping sites in Milan, and Italy. The building is made entirely of marble, and is absolutely stunning. You'll be wowed by the inside of the Duomo, and the views and architecture of the roof-top terraces. Be sure to visit on a nice, sunny day so that you're able to see both. Two things you need to know about the Duomo: expect to wait in line for at least two hours to see the Duomo, and cover up! Italian's take this very seriously, and ask that you cover your knees, and shoulders for all churches and cathedrals.
Go to an AC Milan game. If you've ever been a fan of AC Milan, seeing a game is an absolute MUST. There is no feeling like the energy in San Siro Stadio. Seeing your favourite players, and watching the crowd go nuts with every score is truly amazing. You can buy tickets online, or inside the Mondadori bookstore. When buying tickets, make sure to find seats that are in the middle, and AWAY from the Curva's (sections behind the nets). My friend and I sat in the Rosso section, and had a great view of the field, and the Milan fanbase. WARNING: Italians take soccer as seriously as their religion. If you're planning on going to a game to cheer on the opposing team, you'll need to think twice. Fights can certainly arise at these games if certain remarks are made in line, or sitting inside of the stadium. The Milanese are very passionate about their team.
Shop. Shopping in Milan is an awesome experience. There are stores all over the city, and there are two stops you need to make while shopping in Milan: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. * Be sure to check out my post "Where to Shop in Italy" for some of my favourite stores in Milan.
The food in Northern Italy is a lot different than what a lot of us are used to. You're not going to find a lot of spicy sausage, and thin crust pizza in Milan. You'll notice that many dishes have key ingredients such as butter and rice. This is common in Northern Italy, having influences from Austria and Switzerland. Here, you're going to want to look out for Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron), a very popular dish in Milan. Here are some of my favourite food spots in Milan:
Luini. Luini has been around since 1888, and has a reputation of serving the best Panzerotti in Milan, and to some, Italy. The founder moved to Milan from Puglia, and has blown the Milanese away with her grandfather's recipe. Luini is located just steps away from the Duomo, and it's sure to be your go-to lunch spot. This place has lines that fill the streets, but I can assure you, its worth the wait. The panzerotti are massive, and they're not even three euros. You can get them fried or baked with several different fillings, or indulge in some other fantastic items. My advice, make sure you get at least two when you get to the front of the line.
Bonomi Bistrot. This place is a serious hidden gem in Milan. It's one of those places that you just happen to stumble upon, but find yourself revisiting every chance you get. Bonomi is located close to Navigli (the main canal), and was my friends and I's go-to spot after class. It's a small restaurant, with amazing food. I still have dreams about their lasagna and risotto.
Artico Gelateria Tradizionale. I don't play around with my gelato. I always make sure to find the best gelato, for the best price. Artico is located within walking distance of the Duomo, and quickly became one of my favourite spots. You'll never pay more than 2.50 euro for an amazing gelato.
Esselunga. This grocery store is everywhere in Northern Italy. If you're planning on going to Milan to study or vacation, Esselunga is a great place to shop. The store has just about everything, and more importantly, a pretty awesome wine selection. You can find both high and low priced wines that'll be great for a drink in the piazza or a nice dinner in your airbnb. Also, nothing says a picnic like some amazing bocconcini and focaccia.
A night out Milan can go different ways, but everyone ends up in the same place. The Navigli District is known for nightlife in Milan. It's a strip filled with bars, nightclubs and restaurants surrounding one of Milan's canals. You'll find a lot of Milanese visiting navigli for aperitivo, and I think that's probably the best kind of night out you can have in Milan. Here's my favourite aperitivo spot in Milan:
La Prosciutteria Milano. My friends and I stumbled upon this spot to celebrate a birthday, and it was truly my favourite night in Milan. The place had a patio filled with old desks and stools that you'd find in your grandparent's garage, and walk inside to find a cozy vibe. It's a very tight spot, filled with crates and small tables, and allows the perfect amount of room for friends to get together and catch up. You choose from different sized platters and wine, and they take care of the rest. What's great about La Prosciutteria is the character, and the portion size. Every board is a work of art, and every bite is fresh, and to die for.
I hope you think of me on your next visit to Milan, and be sure to enjoy a panzerotto for me as well! Stay tuned for my next post on another amazing Italian destination.
Fa la brava,