How about a weekend with a couple of good friends in Milan, capital of Lombardy and where the heart of the Italian fashion beats? Did you know that Milan is widely regarded as a global capital in industrial design, fashion and architecture?
Some weeks ago, Kristof and I spent a long weekend together with close friends in Milan. It was the first time for us to visit this elegant fashionable city. We had a marvellous time over there and discovered some pretty cool spots, which you should try out on your next stop over!
Advice: due to the Expo 2015 and as the Italian do have a sense for business, a lot of prizes have been doubled, even threefold like for example the prices for the hotel rooms… If you are not planning to visit the Expo 2015, maybe it’s better to wait after October for your trip to the Lombardian capital!
Where to sleep?
Hotel Manin is 4-star hotel situated in an excellent location within 5 minutes walk from the main shopping area and next to the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli (perfect for a morning run for all the sporty guys amongst you). The superior rooms are quite small but one does not necessarily need a bigger one, as you won’t necessarily spend a lot of time in it… The outdoor hotel bar is really trendy, but quite expensive prices (i.e. a glass of tonic water costs 12,- €). What I did not appreciate was the light in the bathroom, which was quite dark for make-up.
Where to eat?
Milan has developed its own local culinary tradition, which uses rice rather than pasta, butter than vegetable oil and features almost no tomato or fish! Among traditional dishes are the cotoletta alla Milanese, the cassoeula (stewed pork rib chops and sausage with cabbage), the ossobuco, the risotto alla Milanese (with saffron and beef marrow) or the brasato (stewed beef or pork with wine and potatoes).
Even if the city has 157 Michelin-selected places, we did not have the pleasure to really taste the culinary excellence. A reason for this might have been that our group of friends did count around 40 people, which might have been a lot… However, I can recommend two restaurants with a perfect service and excellent food:
Ratanà (Via Castilla 28, Milano), situated in the business district of Milan. It was our first encounter with Italian food for the weekend. We were placed on a romantic covered terrace surrounded by trees, flowers and hedges. Even though we were a bigger group, the service was perfect and each dish tasted excellent.
Another restaurant I can advise is the Don Lisander restaurant situated on the Via Manzoni, perfect after a long shopping day! Once again we had the chance to sit outside on an idyllic terrace surrounded by trees and flowers. The service was not that perfect this time, but the different dishes on the menu tasted great!
What to see?
Il Duomo, situated on the Piazza del Duomo, next to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is one of the landmarks of Milan. It is a symbol of antique culture and its history lives in the marble and through the work of the Veneranda Fabbrica (the historic organization which since 1387 has been taking care of all operational aspects of the cathedral). This imposing construction is at least worth a look from the outside. If you have the time, then check out the interior and take a walk to the roof from where you will have an unusual view of the city (open until 11 pm!).
Next to the Duamo, you will find the world famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with its magnificent roof made out of glass and iron, symbol of the modern Milan. The galleries are attracting visitors with cafés (i.e. the old-fashioned Campari bar or the Aperol terrace), fashion boutiques (i.e. Borsalino shop for a traditional hat or the cellar shop by Prada) and bookstores.
If you are lucky enough go and buy some tickets for a representation at the Teatro alla Scala (the shows do sell out quite quickly), the famous opera house, or at least take a look inside during the day. It’s really worth it! Most of Italy’s greatest operatic artists and many of the finest singers from around the world have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years. Today the theater is still one of the leading opera and ballet theaters in the world.
If you are looking forward to visit a museum, I recommend you to take a tour of the Pinacoteca di Brera, the main public gallery for paintings in Milan, situated in the Palazzo Brera and which contains one of Italy’s most important art collections (i.e. “The Kiss” by Francesco Hayez, “Christ at the Column” by Donato Bramante, “Last Supper” by Rubens…).
Other attractions worth taking a look at are amongst other the piazza Mercanti, the piazza della Scala, the Sforzesco castle, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie…
Where to shop?
And now, all the information needed by the shopping queens and kings! You do not have to miss the most famous shopping streets for some window-shopping like the Via Monte Napoleone, Via Sant’Andrea, Via della Spiga… where you will find all the well-known designers. For more affordable purchases, I do recommend you the pedestrian areas and shopping streets Via Dante, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Via Torino, Corso Magenta, Corso Buenos Aires, Corso di Porta Ticinese. And do not forget to check the window of the shops at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Strolling around the city of Milan, you will for sure also pass some smaller streets with nice boutiques like for example the Via Brera. Just keep your eyes open during your visit and you will discover some beautiful windows full of temptations…
Where to go out?
For the night birds amongst you, here some spots to party in Milan: to finish your shopping tour or to begin your night tour, go and savor a glass of good Italian wine at the fancy Charleston Enoteca on the Piazza Liberty. They do also propose cocktails and finger food on their menu.
If you are looking for a trendy place to have dinner with party options afterwards, why not try the Restaurant & Club Just Cavalli situated under the Torre Branca (an iron panoramic tower) in Parco Sempione, the main city park of Milan. As the name says it, the whole restaurant is designed in the Cavalli look, mostly tiger and safari patterns. But be aware, if you are looking for really good food in a nice, romantic atmosphere, well that’s definitely not the right place to go to!
If you want to dance through the night you can either head to the Cavalli Club on the roof of the restaurant or go next door to the Old Fashion Club. Both clubs have in common that they are partly outdoors, which gives you really the impression that you’re on holidays!!
On your way home after the clubs, make a stop over at the Bibite Caffe for a last beer and a last snack!
If you are planning to stay more than a weekend in the area, here some hints what you can do around Milan:
Visit Expo 2015
If you are planning your trip to Milan until 31 October, take one or two days to visit the Expo Milano 2015, with pavilions of 140 participating countries, on the “Feeding the planet” theme. Best moment to experience the expo: either from 5 pm til 7 pm (it’s between the day and evening tickets, so there won’t be so many visitors which makes the access to the pavilions faster) or take an evening ticket to enjoy fun and delicious food at night to a special price of 5,- €! Famous Cirque du Soleil has created a special show for this occasion, Allavita!, which is on stage at the open air theater in the evenings until August 30.
For all the plastic and design lovers amongst you, take a guided tour of the Kartell Museum in Noviglio, portraying the history and identity of the Kartell company founded in 1949 with the aim of producing objects of design in plastic. You will discover some well-known objects that our parents used to have at home in the 70’s!
Guido Berlucchi winery
For wine and champagne lovers, take a guided tour of the Guido Berlucchi winery in Borgonato di Corte Franca and discover the franciacorta (the local « crémant » or champagne) which has been named official sparkling wine of the actual Expo 2015!
Wishing you a nice trip to Milan!