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Milan City Guide
Mix of modern and traditional, packed with art, fashion, history and mouthwatering food, it’s no surprise that Milano is one of most visited cities in Italy. Duomo cathedral, the Castello Sforzesco, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, San Siro are just some of things that will take your breath away while visiting Milano.
With so much on offer, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices when putting together a travel plan, so we’ve done the legwork for you and created a handy guide to the city.
Getting to Milano
Plane: Milano has two airports. Milan–Malpensa Airport is international airport located 49 kilometers from city centre and it will take you around 50 minutes to get there. While Linate Airport is located just outside of city centre, it takes you about 20 minutes to get there, and it is mostly used for domestic flights and by low-budget airlines.
Train: Main railway station of Milano is Milano Centrale, which is located near city centre and connected with various parts of Italy and Europe. On the website of Italian rail you can find routes to and from Milano.
Bus: There are three central bus stations located on various parts of Milano so make sure to check if you need to get to Lampugnano Bus terminal, Farmagosta Bus terminal or San Donato Bus terminal.
The public transportation network (metro, tram and bus) is managed by the Azienda Trasporti Milanesi (ATM). Public transportation offers 4 metro lines, 18 tram lines and 67 urban bus lines. For more information about the network maps, schedules, frequencies or ticket prices check their website.
If you choose to drive in Milano, you will need to park somewhere. Finding a parking space requires a certain amount of patience, as parking spaces for non-residents are limited and expensive. Parking lots in Milano are divided into 5 zones (zone 0 to 5; zone 0 being the most expensive one and the closest to the city center). See here for more information about zones and pricing.
Piazza del Duomo – The first place anyone who lives in Milan will take a first-time visitor is of course Piazza del Duomo, the geographical and historical center of Milan.
The existing piazza is the result of a series of changes and expansions over the centuries; at one time it was very small, surrounded by medieval houses and palaces. The most recognisable building on the square is Duomo, Milano’s extravagant Gothic cathedral.
Its pearly white facade, adorned with 135 spires and 3400 statues, rises like the filigree of a fairy-tale tiara, wowing the crowds with its extravagant detail.
The interior is no less impressive, punctuated by the largest stained-glass windows in Christendom, while in the crypt saintly Carlo Borromeo is interred in a rock-crystal casket. Crowning it all is a gilded copper statue of the Madonnina (Little Madonna), the city’s traditional protector.
The Last Supper – Milan’s most famous mural, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, is hidden away on a wall of the refectory adjoining the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie. Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, to paint this scene on the refractory wall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. He started work in 1495, but did not finish until 1498.
This time taken meant that the usual technique for painting frescos would not work, and so Leonardo developed a new technique using tempera on the stone wall. This technique was not a success, and the painting started to decay within a few years of its completion. Further damage was caused over the years by early restoration attempts, atmospheric conditions and bombings during World War II.
Very little of the original painting remains today despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999.
To see it you must book in advance or sign up for a guided city tour.
Cimitero Monumentale di Milano – Milan Monumentale cemetery is an extraordinary “concrete” evidence of 144 years of the city’s history. Since its opening, in 1866, it has gradually been enriched with a growing number of Italian sculptures varying from classical style, Art Nouveau, up to contemporary style.
These sculptures were made by famous sculptors and architects, such as Luca Beltrami, Giò Ponti, Pietro Cascella, Giò Pomodoro, Giacomo Manzù, Arturo Martini, Lucio Fontana, Medardo Rosso, Vincenzo Vela and Adolfo Wildt. Greek temples, elaborate obelisks, stylized crucifixes, imposing angels, agonizingly sensual maids and other unique works are set among paths and gardens.
Castello Sforzesco – The famous Castello Sforzesco is one of the most frequented Milan attractions and it’s only 10 minute walk from the Piazza del Duomo. Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan had the majestic structure erected in the 15th century upon the ruins of an older fort. Today, it houses exhibitions, art collections and museums within its walls. Museums like
The Museum of Ancient Art, The Museum of Musical Instruments, The Egyptian museum, Archaeological Museum of Milan, The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco and The Museum of Rondanini Pietà which includes Michelangelo’s last sculpture are must see when you visit Castello Sforzesco. Also don’t forget about The Trivulziana Library which holds Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Codex Trivulzianus’ manuscript.
Pinacoteca di Brera – The Pinacoteca di Brera houses one of the main art collections of Renaissance art in Italy with over 500 works dating from the 14th- 20th century. Opened to the public in 1809, it is situated in a beautiful 17th century building alongside the Accademia di Belli Arti in the Palazzo di Brera.
Amongst the collection are masterpieces by Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Mantegna, Bellini, Caravaggio, Tintoretto and Veronese.
There is a small section on modern art which includes paintings by Modigliani, De Chirico and Carrà. While walking through pinacoteca don’t miss the glass-walled restoration laboratory, where you can see conservators at work.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio – Bishop Ambrose, the charismatic patron saint of Milan, consecrated this Basilica Martyrum in 386. Local martyrs Gervasius and Protasius lie in the crypt, and Saint Ambrose himself was buried next to them in 397. The basilica was rebuilt in the Romanesque style in the 11th century, which is how it appears today. Notably, the exterior boasts an exceptionally large atrium, the monks’ bell tower from the 10th century, and the more beautiful Canon’s Tower completed in 1181.
The interior features biblical scenes and reliefs of the Adoration of the Magi and the Labor of Adam and Eve. The church was constructed outside the Roman city walls, but became surrounded by the city in the following centuries.
Chiesa di San Maurizio – This 16th-century royal chapel and one-time Benedictine convent is Milan’s hidden crown jewel, every inch of it covered in breathtaking frescoes, most of them executed by Bernardino Luini, who worked with Leonardo da Vinci. Many of the frescoes immortalise Ippolita Sforza, Milanese literary maven, and other members of the powerful Sforza and Bentivoglio clans who paid for the chapel’s decoration.
Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia – First opened to the public in 1953 with the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, whom the museum was named after and inspired by, the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia is the largest museum of science and technology in Italy and one of the most important in the world.
The 16th-century monastery where it is housed features a collection of more than 10,000 items, including models based on da Vinci’s sketches, and outdoor hangars housing steam trains, planes and Italy’s first submarine, Enrico Toti.
Parco Sempione – If you’re looking for some green space head to Parco Sempione. Located in northwest Milan, this large park (116 acres) is the perfect place to enjoy a walk or run among flowers and greenery, far from the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle. Park is also full of attractions including an aquarium, sports stadium, Napoleonic arch and even a medieval castle.
Discover Milan by boat – The people of Milan have used the canals for transportation and irrigation for hundreds of years. It’s a little-known fact that most of the blocks of marble used to construct the Duomo cathedral were transported along the canals that once crossed the entire city. Travelling by boat along the canals is not only the best way to explore Milan and Lombardy in general, but also the best way to discover the region’s landscapes, traditions and flavors.
Catch a game at San Siro Stadium – If you are football or sports fan, San Siro Stadium is go to spot in Milano. This massive football shrine, it’s one of the largest stadiums in Europe and the largest in Italy.
It’s home field for both AC Milan and Inter. The stadium was consistently enlarged over the first half of the 20th century to accommodate more and more fans, eventually reaching a capacity of around 80,000 people. Now imagine the roar of 80,000 people when a winning goal is scored, extraordinary experience even for people who aren’t sports fans.
Ride a bike along the Navigli – Riding a bike along Navigli is one of most popular outdoor activities for locals. So if you fancy bike ride there are two options. One is the popular bike path along the Naviglio Grande, from the Porta Genova area in the city center through some open countryside to the pretty villages of Gaggiano and Abbiategrasso.
The trip is about 30 km in total, and it is possible to return by train. The second is the Naviglio Martesana cycle path, from the Gioia area in the city to the Adda river, 40 km later. You’ll travel through some great urban nature and locks designed by Leonardo himself.
Dine on the rails – Train travel is romanticized, but rightly so. There’s something about watching the world go by from a train window. The transportation authority in Milan has capitalized on this idea, turning two of the city’s historic trams into restaurants on wheels that offer lunch and dinner runs. It’s pure joy to eat your way through a five-course menu as the tram rumbles around Milan.
By day, Milan is a sunny city full of people heading to work, drinking their cappuccinos, and touring the city’s iconic landmarks, but by night, it transforms into a lively scene of conversation, appetizers, and dancing. Popular destinations such as Brera, Navigli, Corso Como, and the Duomo area are home to Italy’s trendiest clubs, restaurants, pubs, and dance clubs.
The General Stores is one of the the most famous nightclubs in Milan. The club not only exhibits the greatest Italian and world DJs, but also hosts concerts with thousands of people attending. Hollywood is most popular destination for tourists in Milano because it’s working every night all year round.
Gattopardo Cafè is housed in an old converted Church, with marble columns and floors, amid which stands a huge chandelier. Gattopardo Cafè opens door at 18:00h and offers you dinner with appetizers and after you finish eating you can dance until early morning hours.
The Tocqueville is another very popular nightclub in the area of Corso Como, which offers mainly commercial and house music. One of the oldest clubs in Milano is The Club which offers every night different events with different music genres, including hip hop, House, techno and commercial music.
Set in a futuristic-looking industrial structure with over 2000 square meters of space, the Fabrique offers DJ sets and live concerts. Although Alcatraz is a bit of a further from the centre of the city, it is known for its heavy techno music vibes and open floor spaces. And if you are looking for some rock or indie then Club Haus 80 is for you.
Lake Como – Boasting mountain views, crisp air and blue waters, it is easy to see why Lake Como is the epitome of Italian scenic beauty.
Lugano – Thanks to the convenient location of Milan, day-trippers can even head over the border into Switzerland.
The Swiss city of Lugano is a mere hour’s drive north of Milan, and it is the only Italian-speaking canton in the country. The lakeside destination is beautiful, and the abundance of palm trees and blue sparkling water gives it an almost tropical atmosphere right at the base of the Alps.
Bergamo – Bergamo is a scenic town, as well as a must-see spot for lovers of architecture. Bergamo is essentially two distinct cities: the Città Alta, or upper city, is encircled by walls from the 16th century, and the Città Bassa, or lower city, is decidedly modern. Most visitors will want to spend time in the Città Alta, home to the Piazza Vecchia, or the heart of the city where architecture dates back to the medieval and renaissance periods.
Genoa – Head south of and you’ll reach Genoa, a port city with a rich history and a splendid historic center. Don’t miss world-renowned museums like the Museum of Fine Arts in the White Palace, the historical picture gallery housed in the Palazzo Reale, the Museum at the Prince’s Palace or the Ligurian Archeological Museum.
You can also see the former home of famed explorer Christopher Columbus, and you won’t want to miss a stroll along the Corso Italia, or the main pedestrian promenade of Genoa.
Cinque Terre – Cinque Terre translates to Five Lands, and it is made up of five smaller coastal villages on the Ligurian Sea. If you want to explore stunning scenery and hike on amazing trails overlooking the water, then there is no better day trip from Milan.
The paths are often steep, but the rewards are the often-secluded beaches, the traditional fishing villages and the amazing restaurants waiting for you in the towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Indulge post-hike with a refreshing swim in the sea or a meal of baked mussels in fresh herbs.
Turin – Head east of Milan and you’ll wind up in the city of Turin, in the region of Piedmont. Home to the Italian royal family, Turin is perhaps not as famous as many other Italian cities but the setting is pleasant with the Italian Alps visible in the distance.
You should visit the former royal residence called the Palazzo Madama, and tour the opulent rooms filled with Baroque furniture, gold details and lush tapestries.
Being huge fashion capital as Milan, shopping will attract a lot of people to the city. One of the main attractions when it comes to shopping is fashion district Quadrilatero della moda. But Milan’s shopping is much more than Quadrilatero della moda, the city offer variety in budgets and styles.
Navigli area is location of funky avant-garde shops, while Brera district is home of unique little shops which can be found in unexpected places in various beautiful buildings.
For more high fashion shopping head down to Corso Buenos Aires or Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. But if you are not a fan of fancy clothing and you wish to bring home a souvenir, luckily for you there are a lot of souvenir shops around city center.
If you go just little bit further from city center you will find various malls like Il Centro, Scalo Milano, Piazza Portello or City Life Shopping District.
Outlets like Corso Como 10 Outlet, D Magazine and Il Salvagente are great for finding popular designer or branded clothes without the hefty price tag. And if you are into vintage and “old school” shops check out Mercatino Michela, Memory Lanc or Lipstick Vintage.
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