For years, the beautiful city of Milan has been the center of the fashion industry. Not only that, but it has also been growing—becoming the biggest industrial city in Italy.
Milan’s history dates back to 400 BC—much of which you can still feel today as you walk through the city’s streets. Aside from being known as the fashion capital of the world, it’s also called “The Drinkable City” due to the fact that there are more than 500 drinking fountains throughout the city, offering fresh water to people on the streets. (Don’t worry, they regulate each one to make sure the water is of standard quality.)
Milan is both thrilling and fun, and home to some of the most amazing sites such as the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria Delle Grazie convent, where you can see the famous mural “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. Aside from its rich history, the city is booming with high-end restaurants and shops that are loved by locals and tourists alike. But for those of you who are wanting to experience a slightly different Milan, here’s where we recommend you go.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Some of you may already know that the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is considered to be one of the oldest shopping centers in the world. It first opened in 1877 and since then has been home to some of the most luxurious brands such as Prada and Versace, as well as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, Borsalino, Luisa Spagnoli, Swarovski, and the list goes on. Alongside the gorgeous shops that look like museums, are restaurants and cafés. You can sip on a deliciously strong yet smooth coffee at one of Milan’s oldest restaurant called Biffi Caffè, which opened around the same time the Galleria did.
Once you’ve shopped your heart out, make sure to go to the center of the mall and look above at the arching glass and roof made from cast iron, where representations of Africa, America, Asia, and Europe have been painted. Look down below your feet and gaze at the coat of arms paintings of the three capitals of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin, Florence and Rome). They say if you spin on your heel on the bull’s private area from the Turin coat of arms, you will have good luck.
If you’re one for sweets and delicacies, make your way to the famous Pasticceria Marchesi, a Milan favorite since 1824. This small cafe offers its visitors some of the most delicious baked goods like cookies, cakes and pastries. They even serve cocktails—a perfect place to go for a quick round right after work. The beautiful thing about this place is how much of its history it has preserved since it first opened, which you can feel from the moment you step inside.
They recently opened two more locations that were designed to be a bit more modern while still honoring the old tradition. If you’re looking to bring back some deliciously elegant sweets back home, Pasticceria Marchesi is the place to go.
If there’s one thing we love about going to new places, it’s to discover a flea market full of nicknacks to take back home as gifts and souvenirs. Milan’s Mercatone dell’Antiquariato is a destination for all who love to come across interesting, unique and out-of-the-ordinary items. Open on the last Sunday of each month from 9am to 6pm, you can graze through endless stalls where you can buy pieces for your kitchen, paintings, jewelry and so much more. There are over 200 vendors here, so don’t worry if you end up spending three to four hours lost searching through every one of them.
Colonne di San Lorenzo
Not sure what to do at night? Walk over to Colonne di San Lorenzo. During the summer (and even the winter months), locals come together to have fun—be it drink, play bocce, listen to music, dance and even sing—until the sun comes up. Since it’s so central, you can hit up one of many aperitivo bars surrounding Colonne di San Lorenzo before heading for a night out in town.
Aside from it being a local hangout, there’s a lot of history at Colonne di San Lorenzo. Not only can you take in the centuries-old Roman ruins that were moved to this location in the fourth century, but you can also head over to the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore. This is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Milan, dating back to the late fourth and early fifth centuries.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
Although the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore is a popular site, we recommend you make your way to Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, dedicated to the patron saint of Milan. It is an ancient church built around 379–386 AD and has one of the most intriguing architectural buildings in Italy. In the eleventh century, the basilica was rebuilt in a Romanesque way, which is what you see today.
Interestingly enough, Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio wasn’t what the church was always called. It was originally named Basilica Martyrum because many martyrs who were persecuted by the Romans were buried where the church was built.
If you’re not too squeamish, you can visit St. Ambrose himself, who is displayed in the crypt alongside Saint Gervasius and Protasius. His skeleton has been protected by a special coating of glaze and is dressed in full bishop’s gear, including a miter and slippers.
Regardless of how long you plan your stay in Milan, know that this metropolis has something new and exciting around every street corner. If you have no plans then wander around, and you will surely discover something new. It’s a city that has great history mixed in with a high-tech and modern world. If this or any other destinations speak to you, we’d love to help you get there in comfort and put some savings in your pocket. Submit a flight request or contact your agent and we’ll find the best dates to travel there!