Aaah, Milano. At once beautiful and grotty, stylish and raw, the city captivates with its contradictions. By Tess de Klerk
There is never a dull moment in this city that blends historical grandeur and modern vibrancy. The city’s rich past and progressive present create a dynamic tapestry that captures the hearts of travellers seeking both cultural enrichment and modern luxury.
Known as a global fashion and design capital, this city’s allure extends far beyond its haute couture reputation. With its iconic landmarks, cultural treasures, and culinary scene that tantalises the taste buds, Milan is ideal for a city break.
“When in Milano, do as the Milanese”
• Immerse yourself in fashion and design in Quadrilatero della Moda, Milan’s high-fashion district. It’s a shoppers’ paradise (especially for those with deep wallets), featuring luxury boutiques and designer flagship stores from global fashion powerhouses.
• Eat gelato in the Brera Design District; it’s a trendy neighbourhood as well as a fantastic creative hub that celebrates contemporary design, with galleries, showrooms, and events that highlight cutting-edge art and design concepts.
• Shop at the markets. I suggest the Viale Papiniano Market, the largest and most popular street market in the city. It runs each Tuesday and Saturday. Eately, a high-end culinary marketplace is fantastic too, offering a wide range of Italian products, from fresh produce to artisanal cheeses and wines, plus stalls and restaurants providing a journey through Italy’s rich gastronomic landscape.
• Milan’s aperitivo scene is a cherished tradition to take full advantage of. Dinner is only served between 8pm–11pm but fret not, aperitivo time steps in around 7pm to tide you over. Enjoy these pre-dinner drinks accompanied by free spreads of appetisers, creating a lovely social atmosphere for everyone.
• Don’t go home without trying Risotto alla Milanese; saffron-infused rice cooked to creamy perfection, often paired with osso buco, a braised veal shank dish. This signature Milanese dish captures the city’s culinary soul.
• Use bike sharing with BikeMi. The city’s flat landscape and many cycle paths make it a pleasure to explore on two wheels.
• The Duomo di Milano (of course): A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Milan Cathedral, or Duomo, is a striking symbol of the city. Its intricate façade and towering spires make it one of the most visited sites in Italy.
• Santa Maria delle Grazie: Home to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “The Last Supper” mural, this UNESCO World Heritage site showcases Milan’s artistic heritage and draws art enthusiasts from around the globe.
• Sforza Castle: Once a fortress, now a museum complex, Sforza Castle houses a diverse collection of art, from Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures to ancient Egyptian artefacts.
• Teatro alla Scala: A mecca for opera aficionados, La Scala is one of the world’s most renowned opera houses, hosting performances that showcase Milan’s deep musical traditions.
Treat yourself to a stay at these fantastic hotels
The Bulgari Hotel Milan: Known for its contemporary elegance, this luxury hotel offers stunning views, a private garden, and an upscale spa. From £1,198 per double
Mandarin Oriental, Milan: Combining Milanese design with Asian influences, this hotel offers refined luxury, Michelin-starred dining, and a tranquil courtyard. From £1,179 per double
Park Hyatt Milan: Situated steps away from the Duomo, this hotel exudes sophistication, featuring a blend of classical and modern design, along with top-notch amenities. From £1,150 per double
Armani Hotel Milan: Reflecting Giorgio Armani’s signature style, this hotel boasts minimalist aesthetics, impeccable service, and panoramic city views. From £1,000 per double
*prices for September 2023
Wine & dine
Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia: Known for its innovative approach to traditional recipes, this restaurant offers an unforgettable culinary journey through Italian flavours. ££££
Cracco: Helmed by Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco, this restaurant reinterprets Italian classics with contemporary flair, creating an avant-garde dining experience. ££££
Trattoria Toscana da Giannino: This family-owned trattoria delights diners with Tuscan specialties and warm hospitality, creating a homey and authentic Italian dining atmosphere. ££
Shabby Grill Steakhouse: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better steakhouse. Anywhere. ££
In Milan, history meets innovation, and art mingles with fashion while the city beckons visitors to make it their own. I, for one, never fail to return home infused with a buzz soaked up from this inspirational city.