The travel bug strikes again! If you know me, you know I can't stay away from booking a plane ticket to somewhere new for too long. I actually knew I would most likely be going back to Europe this year before I even left Europe last summer. Priscillia, my best friend of over a decade, and her family were planning to go and I had full intention of meeting up with them. They were going to Barcelona, Milan, and Santorini, and since I had just gone to two of the three, I wanted to meet them somewhere I hadn't gone before, and that was Milan. So this past March and April I started figuring out dates and looking into flights. I managed to get one friend on board, Danica, and from there we booked our tickets and we were off!
Shortly after Danica and I got our tickets, three of our other friends, Charlotte, Giuliana, and Lacey, all decided to join. At this point we had the destinations picked out and it was a matter of finding our stays, booking transportation, making reservations, and just mapping out what we should see and do. Our first stop was Milan, second would be Lake Como, and lastly, Paris. So those are the three destinations you can expect in the coming weeks! But first off, Milano!
I was so excited to go back to Italy after my experience last summer. I loved the weather, the food, and the culture. Watching Call Me by Your Name about a thousand times also didn't help my wanderlust and wanting to be back. You can probably sense my obsession by the t-shirt I'm wearing in the photos alone (which can be purchased here). It was also a major inspiration for the photos and editing for this trip to be honest. I really didn't know what to expect from Milan, but multiple people told me how amazing it was and how much I was going to love it. I mean it is one of the world's fashion capitals and what could be more me? We also happened to go during Milan Men's Fashion Week which made the energy of the city that much more exciting. But enough chit chat, let's get to the good stuff!
WHERE TO STAY
It's nice having someone else helping you plan the trip because with everything going on, the second set of eyes reading blogs and other guides to figure out exactly where to stay and what to do makes it a lot easier. So Danica had found that staying in the city's center was best, aka near the Duomo (or Milan Cathedral). I was a little weary because if it was anything like the area near the Duomo in Florence, it wouldn't have been pleasant to be surrounded by tourists constantly. It was the complete opposite and we stayed in this beautiful building that was walking distance to the Duomo but wasn't right in the hustle and bustle. All of Milan was very walkable so that was a major plus. The only times we got cars was at the end of our nights when we were beat or when we wanted to venture out out of the city center. With that being said, I suggest just looking on a map and finding places that are as close to where "Milan" is written on a map. Anything near or around the Duomo is golden. On a side note, we ended up eating and going out a lot in the Brera and Corso Garibaldi part of town. That is where a lot of the nightlife and locals hang out so I would definitely look there as well for a place to stay since you would be close to a lot of the things below.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
We only had two full days in Milan so we had to jam-pack a lot in, which wasn't actually that hard to do. In terms of "seeing things," there isn't that much in Milan. It was nice for us because as much as we want to do touristy things, we more-so wanted to just be a part of the culture. The city is fairly small, and everyone there was so nice. The city is also so beautiful and clean, we were blown away. Below is what we ended up doing:
Duomo di Milano: Probably the biggest attraction in Milan is the Duomo. I highly recommend getting the Fast Track tickets found here because it makes entrance so easy. It's a little confusing to understand how it works at first but it so easy once you are there. Basically you pay around $30 USD to skip not only the security line, but also you get to take an elevator to the top of the Cathedral to the terraces. We saw a huge line outside the front and we thought we may have to go through that, granted it was in the middle of the afternoon and so hot. The line out front is for people who don't have the Fast Track tickets. We went around back to this shaded and secluded area where we were the only ones there and we just showed our tickets to two friendly security guards and they let us up immediately. Once up there, we got to walk to terraces and see the stunning architecture and the city from above. Then you take another elevator, or you can go down a few flights of stairs, and you get to go inside the Cathedral. It made the whole experience painless and much more enjoyable. The ticket also allows you to visit the Museum and other sites. If you plan to see it and value your time, I highly recommend buying it!
***Keep in mind there is a dress code and you should dress fairly conservative. Personally, I thought I would get in trouble wearing shorts so I wore pants, and I regret it. I believe wearing shorts for guys is completely fine so I was overheating for no reason. For girls, cover your chest, shoulders, and legs, or else you'll be forced to wear some weird parka.
Shopping on Montenapoleone: Basically the luxury shopping street in Milan. Exactly what you would expect but it's always nice to pop into the stores and see what you can find! Always great to shop for brands that are based in the country you're in since it's cheaper because you aren't paying for imported goods. So Gucci in Italy, obvi, and others like Versace, Prada, etc. Also in general as I've said before, shopping for luxury goods is cheaper in Europe primarily because you get the VAT refunded if you get the forms and submit them at the airport before you fly back home.
Navigli Canals: An area southwest of the city center (not far at all though) that has all these shops, cafes, dessert, etc. right along the canal. It is really pretty and we stopped for gelato while we walked around and popped into the stores.
Armani/Silos Museum: Even if you aren't a huge Giorgio Armani fan, this is an amazing museum to visit. It showcases all of his designs throughout the years on these mannequin forms. All of the dresses, suits, outerwear, etc. are displayed on wire as if it were draped on a person's body and it is so cool. There is also a space filled with jewelry and other accessories, as well as a screening room. It really made me appreciate fashion as well as Armani's work in general. The first floor also featured an exhibit that didn't have anything to do with Armani which I'm sure cycles through. They also have this amazing outdoor cafe where we got aperitivo before we left.
Things we didn't do but were recommended to:
Antonioli: A high-end retail store in Navigli
10 Corso Como
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
I had trouble finding restaurants to eat at in Milan because I only had a handful of friends who have been there before. I also had trouble finding more local spots from blogs and influencers. We ate some amazing food, but Milanese food is not your traditional Italian cuisine you may be used to. We were also there for only a short amount of time so we didn't get to explore a ton, but I will add places I found that we didn't end up going to in addition to the ones we did eat at!
One thing to keep in mind is that the normal dinner time usually starts at 8pm and ends at around 11pm. Most of our dinners were between 9 and 9:30pm, so when you are making reservations, that is the time I would aim for. Before 9pm, most people are enjoying aperitivo which is a must. If you don't know what aperitivo is, it's basically the Italian happy hour. It takes place around 6pm-8pm and you can enjoy some light bites and drinks. My personal preference was an Aperol Spritz. There are plenty of outdoor restaurants and little places that serve aperitivo so don't worry about finding or going to a specific one, but it is a must-do before dinner.
Osteria La Vecchia Lira: This was our first dinner in Milan. It was recommended by a friend of a friend who lives in Milan. I ordered the cotoletta which is a panko breaded veal. It was delicious. We also ordered their truffle risotto which was amazing. Sign us up for anything truffle!
Paper Moon: It's funny how we stumbled upon this place. I was told by a friend to go here and wasn't sure if I would make it. We were out shopping on Montenapoleone and I saw that it was nearby but it said 'Closed' on maps and Yelp. We decided to just walk back towards our place and on our way we saw this restaurant and sure enough, it was Paper Moon! It was perfect because the food was delicious. I ordered the truffle pizza here (there were two on the menu and order the one with the truffle cream) and the bolognese. We also shared a few other things and it was all delicious. I highly recommend coming here after shopping!
Don Lisander: Charlotte's dad recommended this place to us and it was spectacular. We shared a ton of dishes that were all so fresh and yummy. It's outdoor and it was really warm out so it was a nice environment on top of the great food. We also met the owner who was telling us he wants to bring the restaurant to Los Angeles, so be on the lookout! He was very nice and even sent us dessert to try, not to mention a huge country music fan and was just at Stagecoach in April. Not sure if you saw on my Instagram Story (you can watch it on my 'MILAN' highlight), but we were singing to Sam Hunt together and it was pretty hilarious. Such a fun dinner.
Dongiò: I had a reservation here but we didn't end up going. It had great reviews and the food looked amazing. If you are looking for a place I would go here!
Armani Hotel: We were told by the owner of Don Lisander to come here for a drink. Although it was pretty dead at the Bamboo Bar where we were told to go, it was still nice to check out this hotel.
N'ombra de Vin: A really fun wine bar that we went to after dinner our first night. There is a downstairs area with tables, an upstairs with smaller tables, and also an outdoor area where you can just hang out and drink wine. Seemed like a local spot and a great nighttime vibe. It gets crowded so I would go early to snag a table.
Radetzky Cafe: We came here for drinks after dinner which is in the Corso Garibaldi area. This and the place below are right near Osteria La Vecchia Lira and we met some locals here. We ended up going to 'The Club' with them, which is, you guessed it, a club, a few steps away from Radetzky.
Chinese Box: Another place for drinks in the Corso Garibaldi area. This is directly across from Radetzky where we hung out for a night.
This completes my guide for Milan. As previously mentioned, we only spent a few days there so we didn't get to do too much and I wish this guide could be more extensive like some of mine in the past! Regardless, it let like the perfect amount for our first time there, if you are there for a short amount of time yourself, I think this is perfect. Milan was so beautiful, like I said, and it is a must see, even if it's for a few days. You can get to almost anywhere from Milan, so if you want to stop before going to places like Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Portofino, and Lake Como, like we did, I would highly recommend it! It is so charming and everyone was very friendly. I wish we had more time there but like anywhere else, I can't wait to go back!