It never hurts to know a thing or two about Milan before you visit and this blog post is here to help you out. While many tourists seem to forgo Milan in favor of Italian cities like Florence, Rome, and Venice, this city has a charm that you won’t want to miss if you’re planning a trip to Italy! Prior to visiting Milan we had never been to Italy before, but ever since we got a taste of the buona vita, we’re definitely keen to plan a trip back ASAP.
If you’re debating where to go in Italy and Milan has made it on your list of potentials, here’s a run-down of what to expect if you’re a first-time visitor.
The ease with which you can get around Milan is a definite bonus for any traveler and takes away the hassle (and expense) of trying to haggle with taxi drivers.
When traveling to and from the airport consider either taking the Malpensa Express (train fare to the city center is €13) or a bus (€8), both of which are much more affordable than the typical €100 it might cost to take a taxi. Once you reach Milano Centrale, it’s very easy (and much more cost friendly) to either grab a taxi or hop on public transportation to your final destination. And yes, you can use Uber in Milan!
When moving around the city for sightseeing there’s also plenty of transportation options to choose from. For €1.50 you can buy a single-use ticket that offers unlimited trips on buses and trams for 90 minutes. You can buy these tickets at the automated machines located at the metro stations, or ask at a local newsstand as they sometimes sell tickets as well. If you’re going to be in town for a few days, you might consider investing in a 48-hour ticket which costs €8.25.
That being said, Milan is also a very walk-able city and, depending on where you’re staying, you might not need to use public transport at all as long as you’ve got a decent pair of walking shoes. It all depends on how active you want to be!
Italy is probably the place to be if you’re seeking amazing food. Milan is home to some truly amazing restaurants if you take the time to find them. Steer clear of restaurants near big tourist haunts (like near the Cathedral) as the food is usually overpriced and not anything out of the ordinary. Don’t be shy about venturing down side lanes and finding small restaurants off the beaten path. We had some of our best meals in these types of places!
But, if you’re looking for some concrete suggestions, here’s a few that are more mainstream and easy to find:
Frida (in the Isola district) – Good vegetarian fare and local ales in a relaxed, quirky atmosphere.
Cinder Mount Pizzeria – This is at the top of the list as our favorite place in Milan! The pizza is out of this world and very reasonably priced. Even better, only locals tend to go here so you’ll be hanging out where Italians actually eat (which has to mean it’s good, right?)!
Fabbrica Pizzeria – This one is definitely pretty mainstream, but the wide selection of delicious pizzas makes it worth a try. The Fabbrica also produces their own line of wines, so you can stay on brand when eating and drinking here.
Of course don’t forget that when in Italy you must partake in the time-old tradition of aperitivo. This is basically a pre-dinner drink and snack and takes place around 5 or 6 in the evening (people eat dinner late in Italy). We recommend heading to the Navigli neighborhood for all your aperitivo needs.
A series of canals run through Navigli and during the day local vendors set up shops along the canal. In the evenings they clear out and the restaurants take over setting out chairs and tables. There is nothing more pleasant than passing a Milan evening sitting along the canal sipping on an aperol spritz. An added bonus is that when you order a drink you get a free snack, usually in the form of crisps or a cold meat platter.
Culture and Language
While locals in Milan do have some of that laid-back Italian approach to life, it’s also a fast-paced city so it’s good to go prepared for that. One of the great things about local culture is that people (for the most part) are really warm and welcoming. We never felt weird about being tourists, and any time we stopped to ask for directions or interacted with local people they were always kind and friendly to us. We came away having made friends for life!
When it comes to language it’s pretty difficult to find anywhere in the world where there’s a true language barrier. As long as you speak English, you can usually get by just fine in Milan, but there can be times where you’ll be interacting with locals who don’t speak much English or prefer you speak in Italian. This means learning a few basic phrases! Knowing how to order food, ask for the bathroom, or even inquire if someone speaks English are all good language phrases to have in your arsenal and will be more than enough to allow you to explore Milan with ease.
Hopefully this is useful in helping you plan your trip to Milan! We’re planning on doing a day-by-day itinerary very soon, so stay tuned!