Milan

People who know Italy will tell you to skip Milan. People who know Italy well will tell you that whatever you do, do not skip Milan. Granted, it can be hard to compete with the Romes, Venices, and Florences of the world, but underestimating Milan is rookie move.

This is the media, fashion, financial, and design center of Italy. In other words, it’s one of the few places in the entire country that isn’t driven by tourism. That means excellent restaurants, cutting-edge art galleries, and fashion and design boutiques that are heavy on quality, light on tourists. It’s also heavy on masterpieces. Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the Gothic Duomo cathedral, La Scala, one of the world’s greatest opera houses—they’re all here.

This being a city driven by locals, there are ample ways to get off the beaten path—quaint neighborhoods, like Brera, with its cobblestoned streets made for an evening passeggiata come to mind. Milan is an Italian anomaly, equally threaded with the hypermodern and the wonderfully old. And like the masterpieces that it lays claim to, Milan has great stories to tell and great beauty to share. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look.

Accommodation
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Language
The official language spoken in Milan and the rest of Italy is Italian. However, in the Lombard region citizens also speak Milanese, a dialect of Italian. In hotels, attractions and restaurants, you will get by in English.
Best time to visit Milan

If you can choose when to visit Milan, we would recommend visiting the capital of Lombardy during Spring or Autumn, to avoid the hot summers and the cold, overcast winters. If we had to choose, we would say that the worst month to visit Milan is August. It is the hottest month of the year and in addition, the city is practically empty, since the Milanese take their summer holidays during this month. This is the best time to visit the Italian lakes.

Information on Milan's public holidays and observances will help you plan your holiday to the capital of Lombardy. You will be able to see what top attractions and museums are closed and if the city celebrates a special festival. Best Times to Visit Milan

The best times to visit Milan are April to May or September to October. This spring and fall months straddle the city's manic peak tourism season, and they also escape the summer's sweltering temperatures. The months between November and March constitute the offseason and are characterized by high average temps in the 40s and 50s, fog and an emptied-out city.

Summer in Milan: The mix of high temperatures (sometimes above 85°F - 29°C) with high humidity levels make the summer months; June, July and August rather suffocating. Sometimes it is difficult to find refuge from the heat and stickiness.

Winter in Milan: The coldest months in Milan are December, January and February with average lows of 30.4°F -1°C and average highs of 9°C. The winter months are not especially rainy if we compare them to the months of spring and autumn, but it can snow on occasion.

Spring is a great time to visit the city before the summer crowds roll in. While April sees daytime highs in the 60s, you'll still receive remnants of winter's chill in the evening, as nighttime temps dip down to the low 40s. May sees warmer days, with highs in the 70s and lows creeping up to the low 50s.

June-August: The peak season is hot. Although average highs hover in the mid-80s, the humidity can make the city feel a lot hotter. That, mixed with the loads of tourists that visit during this time, could make for an uncomfortable visit (think crowded main streets, long lines at attractions).

September-October: Fall in Milan is another sweet time to visit. High average temperatures drop into the mid-70s in September and then the 60s by October, giving visitors a hospitable climate to tour the city. The downside to visiting during October is rain. After November, October sees the most precipitation out of the entire year, so arm yourself with an umbrella. And if you plan on visiting in September, keep in mind that women's fashion week commences, so be sure to book your hotel months in advance.

November-March: Bring a warm coat for Milan's foggy and cold wintertime. High averages slide into the 50s during the day in November and then dip down to the 40s December through February. And with nighttime lows in the low 30s and 20s, you'll need a heavy duty coat to get around. If you're traveling during November, be sure to bring an umbrella, as the month sees the most rain out of the entire year. If you plan on visiting during February, book your accommodations months in advance, as women's fashion week is scheduled to occur.

Currency
Like most of the rest of the European Union, Italy uses the Euro as its currency. You'll see the Euro represented by both the symbol - € - and the initials: EUR.

Using debit and credit cards.: You'll find cash machines (ATMs) in most places. Look out for the 'Bancomat' sign. The most popular credit card by far in Italy is Visa, with Mastercard a close second. Both credit and debit cards can be used in Italy to withdraw cash from the bancomat and to pay for goods and services in hotels and shops. Bigger cities and even small towns are full of cash machines (ATMs) these days. Look for those linked to banks ('banco' or 'banca'), like this...

ATMs In the tinier and more remote villages you won't find them, though, so make sure you carry enough cash with you if you're heading out for the day. Remember that your home bank may charge a commission fee for withdrawing cash by card. The more you withdraw at once the lower the commission will be. Also be aware that most Italian bancomats will only allow you to withdraw a maximum of €250 per day. Local 'Festas' which provide local produce, and markets, will very rarely take cards - you'll need cash for those.ATMs are widely available and credit cards are universally accepted. To change money, you’ll need to present your passport ID.

Tipping: Tipping is not generally expected nor demanded in Italy as it is in some other countries. This said, a discretionary tip for good service is appreciated in some circumstances.





Navigli DistrictNavigli District

10 Best Things to Do in Milan (Italy)
Milan is an absolute behemoth of a city and has the most populated metropolitan area in Italy with 1.3 million people, and 3.2 million in the wider area surrounding central Milan. Some form of human settlement has been present in the region of Milan for thousands of years and archaeological findings date back as far as 222 BC. Indeed, at one point, Milan served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire.Throughout antiquity, the middle ages, and later, Milan prospered greatly due to its commanding location in mainland Italy. Although the city was damaged during WW2 it has recovered and saw a huge economic boom that accounts for its large growth and expansion.Today Milan offers a sublime mix of historical architecture, modern high-rise skyscrapers, all mingled together with a dash of Italian life.

  • San Bernardino alle Ossa: This church is just a 5-minute-walk away from the Duomo, and the reason that makes it worth visiting might also be the very reason why you might not want to visit it at all. You see, in this area there used to be a cemetery, which ran out of space. So the remains of the dead (the bones) were stored in a room specifically built for this purpose. Stored refers to a very neat stacking of the bones and skulls, with some of them assembled in specific ways so they would serve as decoration. This was all done quite a while ago (we’re talking 12th and 13th century), but the room, which is called an ‘ossuary’, made it throughout the centuries and their challenges.

  • Milan shopping center: But don't skip it, because it is after all one of Milan's historic landmarks and one of the more fascinating arcades you'll ever walkthrough. There are also some renowned cafés here (like Biffi or Zucca’s Bar), which fall under the category of “You have not really been to Milan if you haven’t had a sandwich/ coffee/ pink smurf juice here”, so that’s something to consider.And if this isn’t enough tradition for you just yet, fear not, because there’s more! On the floor of the arcades, you’ll find a mosaic of the coat of arms of Turin, which has a bull on it. Now if you take a closer look you’ll notice that this bull’s testicles are not quite what they used to be. In fact you can’t see them at all because there’s a hole.

  • Navigli District: Constructed over hundreds of years, with input from da Vinci himself, Milan’s system of navigable and interconnected canals granted the landlocked city more access to the outside world. Today, the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese are some of the only canals still visible, and around them have sprung up a torrent of bars, restaurants, and cafés that thrum with activity on weekend nights. Pull up a stool at Rita & Cocktails for a Gin Zen or Rebelot for a sublime glass of wine. For astonishing views at a leisurely pace, join a boat tour and relax as you're swept around the city sights. If you are looking for something truly unique, check out Backdoor 43 at Ripa di Porta Ticinese 43. Located right on the canals, the owners of this minuscule bar claim it is the smallest in the world. There's a tiny takeout window where masked bartenders provide drinks to go or you can reserve a time slot to enjoy your cocktails in the four-square-meter indoor space that's home to few stools and a bathroom.

  • Teatro alla Scala: Since its founding by Archduchess Maria Theresa in the late 18th century, the Teatro alla Scala has remained one of the finest opera theatres in Europe. We'd highly recommend a night out at this grand auditorium, it's truly an experience like no other. But if you don't have time to sit through an entire night of opera, visit the museum instead, where you can at least lay eyes on the glorious red and gold interior.

  • San Siro Stadium: This massive football shrine – it's one of the largest stadiums in Europe and the largest in Italy – is a testament to the popularity of both AC Milan and Inter, the city's two football teams. The stadium was consistently enlarged over the first half of the 20th century to accommodate more and more fans, eventually reaching a capacity of around 80,000 people. It's also a prime spot for concerts: contemporary musical greats that have played here include Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, One Direction, and the legendary queen of pop, Madonna.

  • QC Termemilano: Housed in a former tram depot, this spa has several saunas and an elegant tea room on the ground floor. But downstairs is where the magic happens: in this underground lair, there is a warren of stone rooms featuring warm baths, cold baths, geyser pools, a Jacuzzi waterfall, and more. Outside, in addition to the tram sauna, there are three warm pools spread out through the garden.

  • Sforza Castle: Located not far from the Duomo, Milan’s Castello Sforzesco – built in the 15th century by Duke Francesco Sforza – was once one of the largest citadels in Europe. Today, it houses various museums and numerous important artworks and relics, but it is also nice to wander through its courtyards and drink in the sense of history. After you are done exploring the castle, walk out the back gate and straight into Parco Sempione, Milan’s “green lung” and one of the most beautiful parks in the city. There are a variety of events planned this year at the castle to honor da Vinci’s contribution to the destination, from frescoes to other beautiful adornments.

  • Isola: Formerly cut off from Milan, this neighborhood has managed to retain a bit of its grit even as the nearby Porta Nuova building project has opened access to the area and paved the way for gentrification. But amidst this change, it’s still possible to explore the area on foot and look out for street art, which was mostly completed by commissioned locals.

  • Chinatown: Milan’s Chinatown may not be large, but it certainly packs a punch. There are markets to peruse and restaurants to settle into, as well as street food joints and bars that lend themselves to a proper food crawl. Begin at La RavioleriaSarpi, where you can purchase pork, beef or vegetable dumplings or a large delectable crepe, before crossing the street to Cantine Isola, a wine bar with a homey atmosphere and knowledgeable barmen. Finish off with a gelato at Chateau Dufan.

What to eat and drink:
Whether a hearty stew or a creamy risotto, almost every dish in Milan comes with a tale of its invention, making the city’s cuisine extraordinary in both taste and history. As rich in flavor as it is in culture, Milan offers a unique local cuisine replete with buttery rice dishes, braised meats, and specialty pastries. Situated in the Northern province of Lombardy, Milan diverges from the quintessential tomato and pasta combinations, inviting visitors to indulge in a different side of Italian cooking. Be sure to partake in the Milanese social gathering known as aperitivo – a before dinner custom when friends mingle over cocktails and munch on unlimited food spreads. Think of it as a chic European happy hour.

    Risotto alla Milanese
  • Risotto alla Milanese: One of the city’s most renowned dishes, risotto alla Milanese is known for its saffron-infused golden hue. The rice is cooked to perfection in bone marrow broth and then mixed with diced onions and heaps of butter for a velvety texture. Don’t miss out on trying this entrée in its birthplace.

  • Ossobuco: Directly translated as "bone with a hole", this Milanese dish is made from braised veal browned in a mixture of onions, carrots, celery, and white wine. It is served tender and usually includes a mouth-watering side of risotto or polenta.

  • Cassoeula: A go-to dinner recipe for frigid nights in Milan, cassoeula combines pork (typically the less desired pig parts – ribs, rind, trotters) and sweet verzini sausages. The meat is then stewed with soft cabbage and served with a glass of strong red wine to accentuate the savory taste.

  • Michetta: This puffy, hollowed-out treat is Milan’s staple bread. Originating from the Latin word “mica”, meaning crumb, michetta is light and best eaten alongside hearty meals – crumbs and all.

  • Cotolettaalla Milanese: This delectable breaded veal chop is cooked on the bone and drenched with butter. Typically, from the first six cutlets, cotoletta’s juicy sirloin comes thick or thin – but offers a bold flavor either way.

  • Mondeghili: This inventive dish is Milan’s version of the conventional meatball. First designed by peasants to avoid wasting any leftover food, mondeghili consists of beef, sausage, salami and eggs covered in breadcrumbs and cheese – all before being fried in butter.

  • Gelato: Like many Italian cities, Milan provides a surplus of gelaterias to satisfy those with a sweet tooth. Made with more milk and less eggs, gelato is much denser than ice cream and boasts a silkier texture.

  • Panettone: This traditional Italian delicacy is a brioche bread baked with candied fruits, raisins, and oranges. A beloved Milanese Christmas dessert, panettone symbolizes the holiday season and pairs best with sweet wine or hot coffee.

  • Barbajada: This Milanese drink was created in the 19th century when local waiter Domenico Barbaja combined cream, coffee, and chocolate to make a warm beverage. It usually accompanies panettone or flaky pastries in cozy café settings.

  • Negroni Sbagliato: Created by a fluke, this famous cocktail came about when a bartender in Milan accidentally blended prosecco (instead of the usual gin) with red vermouth and Campari. Today, it’s simply known as the “wrong negroni” and sipped by locals and tourists alike.

Public holidays
New Year’s: 1st January
Epiphany: 6th January. On this day, the witch Befana brings gifts and sweets to the good children and coal to those who have been bad.
Maundy Thursday: (date varies).
Easter Monday: First Monday after Easter.
Liberation Day: 25th April. Celebrates the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy and the fall of Mussolini's Social Republic.
Labour Day: 1st May.
Republic Day: 2nd June. Commemorates the day in which the Italians voted to abolish the Monarchy and the country became a republic in 1946.
Ferragosto (Assumption of Mary): 15th August.
All Saints’ Day: 1st November.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception: 8th December.
Christmas Day: 25th December.
Giorno di Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day): 26th December.
Top 10 places to visit
Milan offers all the advantages of a large city, but it is relatively small, thus making it perfect to visit, as tourists can get to most of the city’s attractions and museums by foot. Some of the city’s most beautiful attractions include the Duomo di Milano, an impressive Opera House, a striking castle, ancient churches and a great variety of museums and art galleries. For those that also want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, you can hire a car or take the train to one of the prettiest landscapes of northern Italy, the Italian lakes. Its green hills and crystal clear lakes make it a perfect summer destination.

    Milan Cathedral
  • Il Duomo (Milan Cathedral): The massive Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, which the Milanese call just "Il Duomo" is among the world's largest (it holds up to 40,000 people) and most magnificent churches, the ultimate example of the Flamboyant Gothic style. It was begun in the 14th century, but its façade was not completed until the early 1800s, under Napoleon. The roof is topped by 135 delicately carved stone pinnacles and the exterior is decorated with 2,245 marble statues. The dim interior, in striking contrast to the brilliant and richly patterned exterior, makes a powerful impression with its 52 gigantic pillars. The stained-glass windows in the nave (mostly 15th-16th centuries) are the largest in the world; the earliest of them are in the south aisle. Highlights include the seven-branched bronze candelabrum by Nicholas of Verdun (c. 1200) in the north transept, the 16th-century tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici, and the jeweled gold reliquary of San Carlo Borromeo in the octagonal Borromeo Chapel leading off the crypt. Behind the high altar, the choir has deeply carved panels, and misericords under the seats.

  • Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper: The Gothic brick church of Santa Maria delleGrazie, in the Corso Magenta, was begun about 1465, and its massive six-sided dome in the finest Early Renaissance style was designed by Bramante, one of Italy's most influential Renaissance architects. The church - and adjoining refectory, which holds Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper - were badly damaged in World War II, and during the repair work, old sgraffito paintings in the dome were brought to light. At the end of the north aisle is the Baroque chapel of the Madonna delleGrazie, with an altarpiece of the Madonna. But the reason most tourists visit Santa Maria delleGrazie is to see da Vinci's most famous work, painted on the refectory wall of the former Dominican monastery. The CenacoloVinciano, as it is called here, was painted on the wall in tempera between 1495 and 1497. Instead of earlier static representations of Christ's last meal with his disciples, Da Vinci presents a dramatic depiction of the scene, which was quite novel and marked an important new stage in the development of art.

  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Luxury Shops and Elegant Cafés: Forming one side of Piazza del Duomo and opening on the other side to Piazza della Scala, the grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and built between 1865 and 1877. It was then the largest shopping arcade in Europe, with a dome soaring 48 meters above its mosaic floor. Marking the beginning of modern architecture in Italy, today it stands as a splendid example of 19th-century industrial iron and glass construction. And it's still a beautiful, vibrant place where locals meet for lunch or coffee in its elegant cafés and browse in its luxury shops. It is so much a part of local life that the inhabitants of Milan refer to it as "ilsalotto" (the salon).

  • Castello Sforzesco: The Castello Sforzesco, held by the Visconti and the Sforza families who ruled Milan from 1277 to 1447 and from 1450 to 1535 respectively, was built in 1368 and rebuilt in 1450. The 70-meter Torre de Filarete is a 1905 reproduction of the original gate-tower. The Castello houses the Musei del Castello Sforzesco, a series of museums, one of which features sculpture. The collection includes the Pietà Rondanini, Michelangelo's last masterpiece, brought here in 1953 from the Palazzo Rondanini in Rome. Other museums feature a collection of decorative art, prehistoric and Egyptian antiquities, a collection of musical history, and an armory of weapons and medieval armor. The picture gallery includes paintings by Bellini, Correggio, Mantegna, Bergognone, Foppa, Lotto, Tintoretto, and Antonello da Messina. Between the two rear courtyards of the Castello, a passage leads into the park, originally the garden of the dukes of Milan and later a military training ground.

  • San Maurizio and the Archaeology Museum: To many, the interior of the church of San Maurizio is the most beautiful in Milan. Built in the early 1500s as the church for a convent of Benedictine nuns, the entire interior is covered in frescoes of biblical scenes. Not only are these by some of the best Lombard artists of the 16th century - principally Bernardino Luini and his sons - but the colors of the paintings are as vivid as if they'd been painted yesterday. The long nave is divided into two sections, the rear one reserved as the nuns' choir. The extensive monastery was built over the ruins of the Roman circus and portions of the Roman walls, all now part of the Civico Museo Archeologico (Archaeology Museum), where you can see these excavated remains of Roman Milan. Along with the ancient history of Milan, you'll find Greek, Etruscan, and Roman finds from elsewhere in Italy, including sculptures in stone and bronze. Particularly good are the third-century sculpture of Maximilian, a bronze head, and a female statue with folded drapes.

  • Pinacoteca di Brera: The Renaissance Palazzo di Brera, built between 1651 and 1773, was originally a Jesuit college, but since 1776 has been the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts). Along with a library and observatory, it contains the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of Italy's finest art museums. Much of the art was acquired as churches closed or were demolished, and the museum is especially strong in paintings by northern Italian masters. As you enter through the courtyard, you'll see an 1809 monument to Napoleon I by the sculptor Canova.

  • Opera at Teatro alla Scala: Considered the most prestigious opera house in the world, La Scala has rung with the music of all the great operatic composers and singers, and its audiences - the theater seats 2,800 people - are known (and feared) as the most demanding in Italy. The season begins in early December and runs through May, but tickets are often difficult to come by. The best way of getting tickets is through your hotel concierge, but it's worth checking at the box office. In the same building is the Museo Teatralealla Scala, where you'll find a collection of costumes from landmark performances and historical and personal mementos of the greats who performed and whose works were performed at La Scala, including Verdi, Rossini, and the great conductor Arturo Toscanini. If there is not a rehearsal in progress, the museum offers access to see the inside of the opera house itself, one of the world's grandest.

  • Cimitero Monumentale
  • Sant'Ambrogio: The church of Sant'Ambrogio was founded in 386 by St. Ambrose, who was born in Milan and is the city's patron saint. The present church is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, built in the 12th century around the choir from an earlier ninth-century church. There's a lot to see here, beginning with the large portico, also from the ninth century, and the atrium, whose carved stone capitals and portal rank it high among Europe's best examples of the Romanesque period. Inside, be sure to see the pulpit with late Romanesque carving, and the richly carved 4th-century Stilicone sarcophagus underneath it. The casing (paliotto) of the high altar is a masterpiece of Carolingian art made in 835 at either Milan or Rheims. It's easy to miss the mosaic dome of the original 4th-century Sacello di San Vittore, accessed through the last chapel on the right.

  • Cimitero Monumentale: With all of Italy's magnificent architecture and art from Ancient Greek and Roman, medieval, and Renaissance eras, it's easy to forget that Italy also has some outstanding examples from the Art Nouveau period, known here as Stile Liberty. CimiteroMonumentale, near Stazione Porta Garibaldi rail station, is an outdoor gallery of Art Nouveau sculptures, many by noted Italian sculptors. Behind a monumental and flamboyant striped marble portico, these monuments mark the tombs of Milan's rich and famous from the late 1800s through the mid-20th century. A map in English helps you find the most outstanding examples.

  • Santa Maria Presso San Satiro: From the outside, this church on a shopping street not far from Piazza del Duomo seems relatively small and unimpressive. Step inside to see that it is quite grand, its majestic, deep, vaulted sanctuary stretching into an apse that's nearly the length of the main part of the church.
Getting around
    Car sharing
  • Bicycle sharing: Between the aggressive drivers, tram tracks, and cobblestone streets, biking in Milan is not for the faint of heart. However, with the introduction of cyclist paths and increased bike-sharing service locations, cycling is getting a little easier.

  • Car rental: To rent a car in Italy you must be over 21 and have held a driver's license for at least a year. You will also be asked to present a passport or valid ID at the time of hire. If renting a car with children, you must also rent the appropriate seat or cushion for their safety.

  • Car sharing: Car sharing is the ideal solution for city dwellers reluctant to invest in a vehicle when public transportation is often more convenient. But there is always an occasion that requires a car, and when they arrive, both locals and tourists turn to the following stand-bys.

  • Public transport: The AziendaTrasportiMilanesi (ATM) and the services they operate are the core of Milan's public transport system. It is fairly safe, even at night, and reliably on time. The urban network is made up of four underground metro lines, Line 1 (red), Line 2 (green), Line 3 (yellow) and Line 5 (violet). Stations are marked with a red 'M,' and an additional service connecting the city with outlying suburban areas, the passanteferroviario urban railway, is indicated in blue on maps and shown with the letter 'R' above ground.

  • Taxis: Licensed taxis are white and meter-operated. Most of Milan's taxi drivers are honest and friendly; however, if you suspect you are being ripped off, take note of the driver's name and number, displayed on the metal plaque inside the car's rear door. The more conspicuously you do so, the more likely you are to have the fare drop to its proper level. Report misdemeanors to the driver's company or co-operative, on the outside of each door.Many taxi drivers do not speak English, so it's a good idea to write down the address of the destination or phone someone who can explain it to the driver.

  • Uber: Since coming to Milan, the ever-popular Uber service has been shrouded in controversy amid protests and claims from local taxi drivers that its policy violates the rules of competition. In fact, at press time, UberPop has been suspended in Milan following a court sentence. Although the government has yet to make a clear statement about the legislation, UberBlack and UberVan are fully effective in the city.