Only a short hop from Dublin is one of my favourite places to visit, and that’s Milan. Now you might have been following my instagram of images of food, wine, more food and the odd outfit post. Well that was all in preparation for my little travel post on all things Milan. I first visited the city in 2009 when I took a holiday in Italy starting in the city and taking the train out to Lake Garda and onto Venice. But what I love about Milan is that it is perfect for a short break. I’ve been back several times since. Aer Lingus fly to both Malpensa and Linate; I fly to Linate as it’s just a 25 minute bus journey to the central train station, from where you can get the metro to which ever part of the city you are staying. The Metro is an excellent service, as well as the buses and trams so there’s no issues getting around. But my favourite mode of transport is my feet. Staying somewhere central is important to me as I like to explore cities by foot.
We stayed at Hotel Manin, somewhere I had stayed before when I was there for fashion week. It’s a good four star hotel that’s comfortable and good value for money considering it’s location. Now you can go all out with Hotels in Milan, from the Armani and Bulgari hotels, to the exquisite Palazzo Parigi all of which are very near each other. The centre of Milan focuses on the Duomo, and my hotel was just a ten minute walk. I tend to take the early flight that gets you to Linate at about 10.40am, now it’s early but if you are on a short trip it’s worth the 5am alarm call.
First up was walking to the Duomo which I have seen many times, but it never fails to disappoint in terms of it’s beauty and sheer magnificence. It’s under extensive refurbishment at the moment, as you can expect with such an old building, but you can purchase tickets to access it, and even climb right to the top to get the most amazing view of the city. I did it once, and I’m not so good with heights. On this trip, we didn’t really go to the historic places as I had visited them on previous trips. This long weekend was for eating, drinking good wine and hitting the shops.
The main shopping street is called Corso Vittorio Emanuele where you can find all the best high street shops like the biggest Zara I’ve ever been in, Gap. & Other Stories, H&M and many more. You can also check out La Rinacente which is the primary department store full of the all the great luxury brands. But if luxury is your thing, then you simply must walk down Via Monte Napoleone, to see the fashion world’s finest. Dolce & Gabbana have several stores on the one street; but my favourite store has to be Bottega Veneta which currently has the most impressive window, as well as one of the season’s strongest collections. Dotted along the street, are Ferraris galore, which roar passed you at great speed on incredibly narrow streets. On the same street, is a great coffee sport, Café Cova, which does the best coffee in Milan in my view. The coffee society that is Italy is very interesting, especially when it comes to coffee shop etiquette. You choose to sit and have your coffee served, or drink standing at the bar. The bar is my far the cheapest with nearly €4 in the difference between the two. You order and pay for your coffee, and then hand the bar man your order. The take away coffee thing doesn’t exist in Milan, instead people take the time to stand at the bar and drink their beverage, and be on their way. Early morning time is the best, at one point I felt quite left out by not being in a navy suit, or being male. Cappuccinos are the morning drink, and towards the afternoon, you should switch to Cafe Normale or a Machiatto.
But while on vacation you can always sneak in a cheeky glass of prosecco like Franciacorta which is the local producer. Milan isn’t exactly the cheapest city to warn you. Coffee is cheap once you drink at the bar (less than €2 in most cafe bars) but pre dinner drinks like a Spritz (Aperol, Processo, Soda Water) start at about €9. One great afternoon spot, and also for dinner, is Signorvino just at the Duomo. It’s also a great wine shop!
Shopping was my priority, and I picked up some great bits in Pinko (great high waisted skinny jeans), a mock suede skirt in H&M, and some shoes in Zara. Hit the shops early as they tend to get packed especially on Saturdays. Also, starting on May 1st, Milan is home to the international Expo so it’s going to get busy and I envisage accommodation will be more expensive until the Expo ends in October. But if you plan ahead you can get a great deal.
We also took a trip out the countryside to visit a winery called ArPePe in Sondrio, north west of Milan. Taking the train to travel internally in Italy is the best way to get about. The train we took moved along the perimeter of Lake Como which was just beautiful. A tour of a vineyard is always great, and if you can find time to add one in, I highly recommend it.
Restaurants are a-plenty, but my favourites are N’Ombre de Vin on Via San Marco which has the best atmosphere during the week. Weekends are much quieter. If you plan on eating here you have to make a reservation as I’ve never seen so many people squeezed into a restaurant. I’m glad we booked! They have a huge table in the middle which small parties are seated, which is where we were. Dining on mixed antipasti is a must, and I loved the plate of San Daniele ham. Yum. Another spot, but slightly more expensive is Antica Trattoria de La Pesa; this has a typical menu of the area; veal is the big thing. You can also visit the best for shop I have ever been in, Eataly, which is a food emporium that is expanding across Europe and America too. I wanted to bring home everything but had to limit myself to a new tea spot stand and a Victorianox peeler. I’m very easily pleased really. For lunch the must visit eatery is a tiny take away place called Luini on Via Santa Radegonda, which sells panzerotti. It’s basically deep fried pastry with various fillings. It’s terribly bad for you, but tastes terribly good. When I’m in Milan it’s the first place I go. At lunchtime expect a long queue, but trust me it’s worth it.
So if you fancy a long weekend somewhere not too far, then Milan is a great option. And if you’re lucky you can pick up flights for less than €100!
And just a few links to help you plan your trip:
Hotel Manin: www.hotelmanin.it
Hotel Palazzo Parigi: www.palazzoparigi.com
Armani Hotel Milan: milan.armanihotels.com