I know Milan for so long as I was there for work and one time for a New Year’s Eve party. It is first of all an industrial city even ahead of the fashion scene that is obvious in the streets. The Milanese are fashionistas, no doubt about it. There is something floating in the air, kind of “The devil wears Prada”. The best to see is in front of La Scala opera. I even recommend you to look for tickets but well in advance as they are expensive and sells out so quickly. I think it is also a kind of show off to be seen at La Scala.
Other wise you will not be surprised by amazing architecture or landmarks. Please keep in mind that this was a warrior republic always at the crossroads of kings, emperors, barbarians and other republics in their way to conquer Rome and Vatican, the eternal city.
Why a 3 stars destination, knowing that one star is for deceptive and over rated, and 5 stars for exceeding expectations. It is an industrial city not made for touristic purposes, quite expensive. A big plus for the nightlife, surroundings, shopping for those interested although I find it over rated if not full of money to go to fashion district.
So what not to expect or do:
- don’t expect a version of Rome, neither in architecture or inhabitants. First time I had the impression I was not in Italy, but more in a German town. Very clean and cold. There is no Mediterranean feeling like in Rome, not even in the street food or traditional food. We’re talking more about risotto than pasta here. Pizza is for Napoli.
- The weather is not quite Mediterranean so don’t expect winter to be warm-there are seasons there. Check the weather apps and pack accordingly.
- This is a destination where you need to pay attention on what you wear especially if you’re into fashion and you intend to shop on fashion district.
- don’t underestimate the cost of living in Milan so bring everything you need with you. Shopping can be quite expensive, even in supermarkets, like allover Italy in fact. This is not Spain or Greece.
- don’t go without knowing a bit of history. This is not a destination to return to, except for working or for the surroundings, so prepare your top attractions to see. Have an internet plan for the Wikipedia as you walk through the city.
- don’t over plan on seeing everything as there are a lot, most of them just marketing, so it can be an expensive disappointment. Choose 3 museums maximum – I would personally recommend the Duomo, the Last Supper with booking ahead, and the Castello Sforzesco.
- Most of the top attractions are churches. If you are into that go with it as they are free entry and stacked with a lot of artworks. Don’t go to museums in a short city break. Once you have seen the top 5 museums of the world the others are just a smaller copies. Artists were very international at the age of empires and renaissance. So I usually look for the museums of contemporary art as they reflect the actual spirit of the cities I visit.
- don’t rent a car just for arriving from airport to the city as parking is a nightmare to find and to pay. There are few medium hotels with parking in the city center. Arriving from any of the three airports is easy and inexpensive by public transportation.
- don’t book accommodation out of the city center as it is a big town and walking is not a revelation in things to see or do or admire except for the city center.
- book well in advance as it is expensive either for hotels on http://www.booking.com or rooms on http://www.airbnb.com. Honestly I rather pay a bit more to stay at a low stars hotels that on airbnb. I had a bad experience and usually it’s not great.
- don’t underestimate the surroundings; rent a car and check for Lake Como, Bergamo, Bardolino, Monza and so many more small ancient towns. It is better than Milan, way better.
- don’t pay to see the Milan Duomo’s interior. It is better from outside and on the roof. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele al II-lea is beautiful but it cannot qualify itself as a touristic spot.
- don’t eat the menus for the tourist in the city center. Look for the local taverns where blue collars and white collars eat alongside. Try the risotto Milanese. It’s a MUST. Try the Isola neighborhood for this taverns.
- don’t miss the 5 o clock aperitif in Milan as you might get free food with one drink. This is a real big plus for Milan, especially that it is local traditional cuisine.
- don’t eat in the Naviglio area if short budget. Go instead to Genoa market or have some local pastries on the way.
- don’t go without travel insurance, copies of your papers, some money to avoid exchange at the airport. Well this are basic things you should know when you travel. Keep your valuables with you in the cabin bag.
- don’t be afraid about communication as they speak English and they are opened to help you. Do check for the opening hours as siesta is still a habit in Mediterranean countries.
- taxis are expensive so use public transport as it is a fun way to see the locals and cheaper. From airport try to share a cab – don’t be embarrassed, others might want to save some money too. Especially if you arrive late at night.
- souvenirs are ugly and expensive.….try something else instead, but honestly no idea about.
You shall find Milan to be an interesting city at the end, sometimes boring but sometimes so surprising, very clean and safe so be polite and respectful to the locals as they are not so friendly but opened to help you. Just go out of the city center and walk in the Isola neighborhood for interesting graffiti or one of the best surprises for me was the Monumental Cemetery.