Ryanair flies from both Bristol and London (although flights from the former are seasonal) and you can expect to pay anything from £20 to £100+ each way. Book at least a couple of weeks in advance and try to fly midweek if you can (although I recently flew out on a Saturday for £20). EasyJet offers a similarly cheap service from London but have a stricter hand luggage allowance.
Where to Stay
I normally stay with friends but have heard excellent things about Ostello Bello from other travellers. There are two well-situated locations to choose from in the city, Ostello Bello Grande and OB Medici, and beds start from around £30 per night.
Once you’re in the city centre you can walk everywhere (bring comfy shoes and plenty of contingency plasters). Otherwise, the city is well served by a network of trains, buses, trams and the Metro. Individual journeys within the city limits cost €1.50 or you can buy a ticket for 10 journeys for €13.80.
Day 1 – The Essential Sights
Start with an al fresco breakfast at Princi in Moscova, watching the city workers dash towards the skyscrapers in the sunshine. Then, make your way along to Via Solferino and work your way down towards the centre from there, weaving through the picturesque Brera district. Here, the impressive art collection of the Pinacoteca di Brera can be found which houses iconic works such as Hayez’s The Kiss.
From here, the road continues further into the heart of the historic centre. Within a matter of minutes, some of Milan’s most famous sights can be seen; the famous opera house Teatro della Scala, the impressively ornate Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and, of course, the giant wedding cake that is the Duomo. Once you’ve had your fill of admiring the architecture from the ground, climb to the top of the cathedral (around €7) to see the city stretch all the way to the alpine horizon.
Lunch on street food from Luini panzerotti (mini deep-fried calzoni) and ice cream from Cioccolati Italiani directly opposite, where your cone will be filled with melted chocolate upon request. Next, make your way down towards Castello Sforzesco and the verdant Parco Sempione where you can stroll or snooze your lunch away. Afterwards, head back to the Duomo and through to San Babila, for a spot of high-street shopping along the way. Finish off with some window shopping through the beautiful Via della Spiga and high-end Via Montenapoleone, where all the design houses come out to play. Loop back round to Via Moscova and finish where you ended up with an aperitivo in the square.
Dinner spots in the area include the bustling pizzeria-meets-cocktail-bar Dry, the classic Tombon de San Marc and, my favourite, La Libera who serve an unmissable gelato al forno smothered in rich chocolate sauce…
Day 2 – Exploring Milan
Have a bite to eat at Biancolatte (where they have some very naughty coffees with ice cream and chocolate sauce) before joining the dog walkers and the joggers in the Giardini Pubblici. The Natural History Museum is located in the park and is unmissable for all taxidermy enthusiasts. Next, head to Villa Necchi Campiglio (National Trust members get in for free!) and spend the morning experiencing this sumptuous milanese villa from times gone by.
Wander through the glossy, tree-lined streets until you reach La Brisa for an indulgent lunch in their sun-dappled courtyard. It’s an incredibly beautiful spot and luckily the food matches the location. Afterwards, amble down to the Navigli canals which were engineered by Da Vinci to bring the Carrera marble into the city to construct the Duomo. Here the pavements are flocked with cafes and bars (including La Vineria where you can have a tumbler of wine for as little as €1 and MAG which occupies an old pharmacy with all the fittings to match). If you’re as mad about ice cream as I am, walk along the naviglio until you get to Gelateria della Musica on Via Pestalozzi – it’s a little out of the way but the lengthy (yet fast-moving) queue proves just how excellent this place is!
It’s time to return to the city centre, passing the Colonne di San Lorenzo as you go. By night, this piazza is packed with people having a drink in the balmy air, fuelled by the seriously cheap bars nearby. Along Via Torino, keep an eye out for the inconspicuous church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro and see if you can spot the tromp l’oeil inside.
By evening, go to one of the city’s most famous bars – Bar Basso (home of the Negroni Sbagliato), Nottingham Forest (one of the world’s top 100 bars) or Terrazza 12 at the top of the Brian & Barry building for excellent mixology on top of the world. Dinner should be equally glorious – use public transport to get to 28 Posti (creative, high-end cuisine at very decent prices), Trattoria Arlati (classic Milanese dishes in an artistic and atmospheric setting) or Obika (a mozzarella bar/restaurant on the roof of La Rinascente next to the Duomo). If you can manage it, end the evening with more drinks in Piazza Gae Aulenti at the foot of the skyscrapers.
Buon viaggio e buon appetito!