Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, rightfully deserves its name. With multiple shopping streets such as Via Montenapoleone and Corso Venezia rivalling that of Paris’ Champs Elysses, it’s no wonder everyone dresses so elegantly and differently in Milan, despite being in a country notable for being impeccably fashionable.
But fashion isn’t the only thing that makes the city stylish; it’s the entirety of its environment. The architectural design, its presentation of food, and even Milanese mannerisms are all very classy. Yes, Milan is a stark contrast from Naples, a city that is just one hour away by plane.
I love Milan. This trip, I definitely put Milan and Capri Island as two of my favorite cities, no doubt. Despite how people tell me how dismayed they are about how “old” Milan is, I don’t really agree. Sure, it’s not Barcelona, but Milan has its own charm and beauty. It sort of reminds me of New York, but without the hectic, hustle and bustle, and much cleaner.
NYX Milan (website)
Upon arriving to the hotel entrance, a porter was already standing there ready to bring our luggages up the entrance steps. It was already brightening up my Milan experience. Upon checking in at the reception, not only was there a room available for us already even though we were early (check in time was around 2pm, we were there in the morning), the receptionists were extremely polite and spoke fluent English, a refreshing change from our experiences in Amalfi Coast and definitely Milan.
We were placed on the first floor, away from the main traffic. The room was smaller than we imagined it or as demonstrated from the photographs, but it was more modern than the ones we experienced at the other places. So, a typical hotel in a cosmopolitan city.
The location is pretty convenient. It’s located about 5 minutes away from Milano Centrale, the famous beautiful railway station, that we didn’t even go in to check out! Woops.
Most of how you’re going to travel around is going to be by metro. The metro is extremely easy and efficient to use, and it gets to most of the major areas. We got a day pass that allowed us to use it as many times as we want within 24 hours, as long as we stayed in the major area zone.
There is also a tram that takes you to many stops, perhaps sometimes even closer to where your destination is. But when we were going from Naviglio Grande back to the hotel, we realised the tram would have taken twice as long as the metro, so that’s something for you to consider.
Restaurants and Food
Latteria Maffucci (Tripadvisor)
Lots of great reviews about this place, especially when it was the first restaurant mentioned in The 38 Essential Milan Restaurants.
Situated about 15 minutes walking distance away from Maciachini station, this restaurant exemplifies Italian home made cooking. Even though it’s a bit of a walk, it’s definitely worth it. Don’t be surprised when you sit down and realise that there is no menu on the table, even after sitting there for 10 minutes, because there is no menu! The staff, which is the family that owns this place, sort of serves whatever they want and whatever is fresh during that day. That suspense is what makes the meal so enjoyable; it’s sort of like the Italian omakase.
The owner tried to speak Italian with us, and we tried to speak English with him, but unfortunately neither of us understood each other. His wife spoke very little, but it still wasn’t enough to make us comprehend them. Initially we ate one or two dishes without any clue of what they were going to serve us.
Funnily enough, in comes two young good looking gentlemen who sat next to us, and the owner introduced one of the gentleman to us and said that he will be our translator. The gentleman did not resist and seemed very friendly about doing this duty, despite it being their lunch hour and the two friends seemed wanting to have a private amicable conversation.
A lot of these Tripadvisor people say that the staff makes you feel like family, like at home, because of their warmth in attitude and the delicious, home cooking style. These reviews are very correct, and I feel the exact same way. While some of these reviews say that you will be stuffed with 10 or 15 courses, we only had about 4-5 courses, and that may be because it was during lunch. The final price for two persons was €50, which to be honest isn’t bad.
Oh, also, once we sat down, the owner cheered with us with prosecco and we all took a glass. He left the bottle on our table. Was it included in the bill? We will never know, although we would like to think that it wasn’t and that it was served complimentary.
By the way, the restaurant fits only about 15-20 persons, so I highly recommend booking this place early.
gelato FATTO CON AMORE (Website)
After visiting Sforzesco Castle, we wanted to search for a really good gelato place called Il Massimo del Gelato. Supposedly on Google Maps, there was one near the castle. Instead, we couldn’t find it and found a gelato place called Fatto Con Amore in the exact same location.
The reason why it was called Fatto Con Amore instead of Il Massimo del Gelato, we later figured out. The owner of Fatto was actually a founder of Il Massimo del Gelato, but for whatever reason, I guess he decided to start or rename his own branch and hence Fatto Con Amore. We didn’t ask for specifics, worrying that it may be a disheartening story and so we didn’t want to encourage it.
Very good gelato, great texture, soft enough but not in a “melty” way, flavorful, and cold, perfect even on a semi-cold October day. They claim they use homemade natural raw ingredients.
You will have an interesting experience in Ratana. Sort of like dining in New York soho area and eating an Italian restaurant there, the ambience is set to have sort of semi-noisy after work conversations, with a selection of carefully decided cocktails to distinguish itself from other Italian restaurants. Most of these cocktails have some sort of twist to them.
And that is what Ratana is known for… having some twist not only in their cocktails, but also for their foods as well. It’s sort of like Italian food but fusion in a modern way. It’s interesting and pretty good to eat… I wouldn’t say it’s the best, and I think making a return trip would be optional, but it was a good experience nevertheless.
Ratana is difficult to find the entrance. It’s like in this building where it looks like it’s surrounded by fence everywhere, only until after you circle around it enough then you’ll notice part of the fence is actually open and that you go through there to enter the building.
Things to do
Obviously shop till you drop! Milan is known for being one of the fashion capitals of the world, so a ton of high end luxury brands are located in this city. Fortunately, most of them are clustered nearby each other, so you won’t have to keep travelling back and forth to check out the latest designers.
Brian&Barry (website), an Italian department store chain
Sforzesco Castle (Website)
Being built in 15th century and then later renovated and enlarged in the 16th and 17th century to become one of the largest citadels in Europe. It now houses some museums and art collections. It’s a fabulous castle that’s free to enter and I think it has an imposing presence when within the castle borders.
This canal is a beautiful area to watch sunsets and has many restaurants and bars around it.
Milan Cathedral (website)
A world recognised cathedral church, Milan’s Cathedral took over six centuries to complete and is the largest church in Italy. It is most notable for its beauty and grace. It looks like straight out of a Final Fantasy video game.
There are a TON of pigeons. I’ve never seen this many pigeons congregate together. Also, this guy offered me bread and the pigeons flew on my hand. That said, afterwards this guy will ask you for money. I really didn’t have any money on me so I said no money no money and I just left. But it’s great for Instagramming!
Walking around Milan
I know most people say Milan is old or the architecture is meh, but I actually enjoyed walking around Milan, especially with cool weather.
Also one more thing I’d like to note – when in Italy, I noticed that I didn’t even see a single Starbucks in a country famous for having coffee. I was guessing that they saw Italian coffee as more authentic, where Starbucks is too mass produced. Just when I made that remark and we were on our way to airport, we realised that the first Starbucks in Italy was actually opened in September 2018… in Milan! The photos showed it was super extravagant and large too!!! We would have definitely made it a stop had we known it sooner, so don’t miss it.
So there you have it! Do you love Milan as much as I do? What sort of recommended activities would you want to do in Milan? If you have been to Milan and other parts of Italy before, would you say that the culture in Milan tends to be more classy and polite? Let me know with the comments below.
Rest of my Itinerary:
- Piazza del Duomo
- Piazza della Scala
- (Eats) Luini (panzerotti – small fried calzone), Spontini (pizza), Fresco & Cimmino (sit
- Night out at Navigli District
- The Last Supper @ Santa Maria delle Grazie
- QC Termemilano $$$$ spa
- Street art in Isola
- Bar Luce
- Dine on the rails
- (Night) Tunnel Club (Electronic music)*
- Golden Triangle (Window shop)*
- Rossana Orlandi (shop)
- Pinacoteca di Brera*
- Piazza dei Mercanti – true hub of activity for merchants before
- Via Monte Napoleone (Shopping)
- Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Da Vinci’s drawings)
- Triennale (exhibits on themes from architecture to furniture)
- Piazza Mercanti (outdoor exhibitions, markets and concerts in public square)
- Via della Spiga (One of Milan’s top shopping streets)
- Quadrilatero della moda (upscale shopping area)
- Corso Buenos Aires (largest concentration of clothing stores)
- Museo Poldi Pezzoli
- Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan
- Museo d’Arte Antica (large collection of sculpture from the late antiquity)
- Mudec Museum of Culture
- Archaeological Museum* / Milan Archaeology Museum
An excerpt from Sibling Rivalry, Italian Style by Elizabeth Roper Marcus which I think exemplifies the difference between Northern and Southern Italy:
“What looks at first like one unified country, is, in fact, two loosely connected cultures: the prosperous, industrial North and the depressed, backward South. In fact, the two subdivisions of the country have had distinctly different histories since their fortunes diverged at the end of the first millennium. The North saw the development of powerful, striving city-states while the South continued to be dominated and pillaged by a succession of foreign invaders, with banditry the local form of control, precursor to today’s all-powerful Mafia.
…While the country as a whole has become one of the leading industrial nations of Europe – with, incidentally, the most successful businesses largely family-owned and run – the average income in Southern Italy is barely half and unemployment almost double that of the North. Despite the fact that billions of dollars in the form of new roads, utilities, and industries have been poured into the South, prosperity has not resulted. North and South Italy are like the two branches – one prosperous, one not – of a large, divisive family. The rich cousins view their poor relations, for whom no hand-out or helping hand is ever enough, as having earned their apparent bad luck through laziness and lack of initiative. The disadvantaged cousins, for their part, resent their well-off and smug relatives to whom, they feel, dumb good luck has brought an unearned birthright of wealth and opportunity.”