What To Do & What Not To Do in Milan!
Ah Viva Italia! Thinking of heading to one of the great fashion capitals of the world? Well Milan (Milano) has a lot more to offer than just gorgeous couture. Here’s a few ideas to get the travel juices flowing:
- Do learn a few key phrases in Italian such as Good Morning, Hello, Please, Thank you and so on. You don’t need to speak fluent Italian and most Italians speak at least some English but they will love and appreciate that you’ve tried to learn a bit of their language! On this subject, downloading a translation app comes in very handy. We used Google Translate, a free app that translates text, photos and voice and can be downloaded to use offline if you're not sure you’ll have internet reception all the time. We loved it, especially for translating street signs when driving! Between Google Translate and Google Maps we could get pretty much anywhere we wanted and ask for anything we wanted online or offline.
- Do purchase Skip-the-line tickets online for any major attractions. This will save you time as you wont need to wait in the long queues at the ticket counter, you can just show your ticket and walk through. This is especially handy during peak season and when visiting attractions that have a maximum capacity. Click here for great options.
- Do take the time to Visit Sforza Castle and it’s museums. Entry to the castle is free and the museums cost 5 Euro. Here you can get up close and personal with works from Michelangelo & Leonardo and view an incredible and impressive collection of artifacts and antiquities.
- Do take a stroll from the castle down to the magnificent Duomo di Milano cathedral. Construction of this amazing cathedral started around the 13th century and encompasses different architectural styles from gothic to romantic, not to mention there’s over 4000 figures, statues, and gargoyles. You can take a tour inside or simply admire it from the Piazza outside and hang with the famed pigeons.
- Do keep an eye (and a hand) on your valuables, especially at the train stations and tourist hotspots. Unfortunately there are a few pick pockets around (not just in Milan but many major European Cities where tourists visit) so don’t be afraid, just be aware and minimise the opportunity.
- Do take a train up to Lake Como and catch the Ferry to cruise up to explore Varenna or Bellagio or any of the beautiful towns that line the lake. The train takes under an hour and it’s a short stroll down the hill to the lake. Hot tip: Once you get off the train at Como San Giovani Station walk straight down the hill to the ferry port and purchase your ferry ticket. You can only purchase a one way ticket and these cannot be purchased ahead of time so they sell out quickly. Once you get off the ferry at the Bellagio purchase your return ticket immediately for the best chance at securing the return time that suits you. Don't want to wing it on your own? There some great day tour options that will take the stress out of it for you!
- Do partake in Apperitivo, an Italian cultural ritual ‘pre-meal’ drink accompanied with appetisers meant to ‘open the stomach’ before dining. Depending on where you go, you will receive an array of complimentary appetisers with your drink order (think olives, savoury tarts, vegetable crudites, crisps to name a few).
- Do visit the famed Leonardo da Vinci's Cenacolo -The Last Supper - located in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It is one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites. Hot tip: To help preserve the air temperature they limit the number of persons allowed and put all visitors into 15 minute time slots so try to purchase skip the line tickets online as far in advance as you can as they can sell out months in advance especially over the high tourist season. We recommend visiting Leonardo's Vineyard housed in the Stunningly Beautiful Villa where he lived during his time painting the Last Supper. We booked a tour that included entry to the Last Supper and Leonardo's Vineyard and it was a great way to experience these attractions and learn about them (and Leonardo's life at the time) in a way we wouldn't have done had we gone solo. Fun Fact: The Last Supper is not a Fresco (as is widely thought) as was the traditional painting method of the time. Instead he painted it "dry" onto the wall so it is in fact a wall mural. Click here to get The Last Supper tickets at great prices!
- Do get lost. Wander the city streets and you/’ll surely discover hidden gems, stunning architecture, secret doorways hiding glimpses of the lush gardens and courtyards that lie beyond not to mention famous fashion houses (think Versace, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino).
- Do check out the oldest shopping centre in the world the beautiful Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria. Built in the 19th Century it is an enchanting structure adorned with stunning mosaics and caryatids and an ornate Iron and glass curved roof, linking the Duomo to the Scala Theatre (Teatro alla Scala). It is home to some of the world’s major fashion brands eateries and the 19th Century Bocca Art book store. Fun Fact: While you’re there you can perform this ancient city ritual: to bring good luck, spin 3 times over the bull’s testicles (yes, you read that right, the bull’s balls) in the central Octagonal mosaic that represents the Turin Coat of Arms!
- Do visit eateries away from the main tourist areas. You will find some beautiful restaurants serving delicious authentic food, at reasonable prices. The restaurants bordering the main tourist spots are geared towards the tourist dollar and they often charge high prices for standard fare. Wander a few streets back and your tastebuds and your wallet will love you for it!
- Do invest in a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes and break them in at least a few weeks before you travel! We were hitting up over 20kms a day walking and your precious feet will love you if they have supportive, comfy footwear to protect them!
Whether you have a few days or a few weeks you'll find some great tour ideas to get you exploring Milan here.
- Don't be complacent with your money, mobile phone, wallet, bag. Stay alert and never put anything of value in your back pockets or leave your phone on the table or bag hanging over the restaurant chair while dining.
- Don't get too stressed about what to wear to fit in and not look like a tourist. Like many cosmopolitan cities, there's a mix of looks ranging from the impossibly chic, the sporty, the casual, the trendy to classic business attire. We recommend comfortable clothing in natural fibres that will breathe (think linen, organic cotton..) that you can mix and match to create different looks without overloading your luggage (you'll want to save room for the gorgeous purchases you'll no doubt find when you're there!), a crushable/packable fedora, a gorgeous cross body bag, a glam pair of sunnies and a lightweight scarf and you are ready! Here are some of our favourites to get you inspired. Click on the links below to learn more or search our entire range here
|Linen Shirt Dress
|French Riviera Scarf
|Soho Organic Cotton Jeans
|Mason Crushable Fedora
|Vegan Crossbody Bag
|Linen Flair Shirt
|Vogue Shirt Dress
|Men's Linen Shirt
- Don't forget to check into the tipping etiquette for eating, drinking, taxis, tour guides and so on. 10% is a good rule of thumb as is rounding up the tab (eg if the bill is 55 euro rounding up to 60 euro is acceptable).
- Don't forget to activate your train ticket by inserting it into the validation machine (see pic below) before getting onto your train. After purchasing your train ticket, you then go to the validation machine, insert the ticket in the slot provided, and the ticket will be validated with a date stamp. The conductors check the tickets and get a bit unhappy if they aren’t validated, we didn’t have any issues, but we have heard of others getting fined for not having their tickets validated. Mainly for metro trains but ask at the ticket (Biglietti) counter if you’re unsure.
- Don't be afraid to find your own way around using local buses, trains, trams and your own two feet. It’s a lot of fun using your own navigating skills (or discovering your lack of!) and for the most part it’s all pretty straightforward. It can also save you a lot of money and allows you to explore places in your own time as opposed to a group tour where you’re on a tight schedule. We had originally booked a day tour for Lake Como & Bellagio and decided to cancel and make our own way there so we could have more time in each place. We saved over 300 euros to do the same thing at a more relaxed pace and had a brilliant time. That being said, if you find a day tour that ticks all your boxes or you're pressed for time and want to see as much as possible, they are a great way to see a lot without the hassle of planning transport and finding your way around.
- Don't be shy. Talk to the locals, practice your Italian language skills (or worst-case scenario, an interesting version of charades!) as most of the locals will be delighted that you tried. Also, you never quite know who you might be chatting to. We met a lovely lady who was upper management for a global sportswear company and had a fascinating conversation about what it was like in Milan during lockdowns (lots of sneaking to the neighbours for drinks after sundown!) how Portofino, Lugano and Cabo St Lucas are to have holiday homes in…..(great apparently) and while we may have been on slightly different income spectrums we still had a great laugh and a few hours conversation over a few wines, as you do.
- Don't forget to check out China Town for a surprisingly awesome vibe. This place was humming! Great food and drinks, great atmosphere and great prices, what’s not to love? Ramen & Ravioli anyone…?
- Lastly, Don’t forget to have the time of your life! It is truly a magical part of the world and if you have more time you can explore further with:
A day trip to Switzerland (it’s like, right there), you can catch a train to Lugano and in just over an hour you’ll be yodeling in Swiss Alp territory. Remember to bring your passport along for the ride also…
Lago Maggorie which is the 2nd largest lake in Italy (the biggest being Lake Garda) and the largest lake in Southern Switzerland (it share’s it’s borders with both). Be sure to visit the Palazzo Borromeo Izola Bella. This incredible island residence took almost 400 years to complete, has stunning terraced gardens that hosted Napoleon & Josephine and the ground floor grotto is remarkable with every inch covered in shells and pebbles. Simply Stunning.
Check out other nearby amazing towns and cities such as Bergamo, Turin or get your Romeo & Juliet fix in Verona. The choices are endless!
Feeling inspired to visit Milan? You can find accommodation inspo right here