Milan was the most surprising and thrilling destination during my summer in Italy. I spent two weeks running around this city with wide eyes trying to absorb as much as possible before the day finished. Creativity has been let loose in the streets and it’s impossible to not fall in love with the fashion, art, and design culture. I found myself nerding out on architectural tours and discovering new interests almost daily. This was one of the main reasons for my trip– refuel my internal energy source with inspiration and ideas. Get excited about life, embrace different art forms, and take creative risks. Milan came through and delivered. I cannot wait to return, I don’t think it will be possible to stay away.
Northern Italy has such a different pace, especially Milan. It’s very international, business forward, fashion forward, and design forward. It’s like hoping into the fast lane (Italian style) and I loved every second of it. I took several day trips and a weekend trip to surrounding towns to really get a feel for Northern Italy. Milan is a great stationing point to explore from, you can easily hop on the train and be on the shores of Lake Como in under an hour.
The people watching here is unreal, the bold colours worn by the locals are hypnotizing and desirable. I have so much to learn from this city, I can hardly wait until I’m back under it’s spell. Brace yourself for this post because the list is long. I have barely scratched the surface of what Milan has to offer but I definitely found some gems worth sharing with you. Enjoy!
The Brera District & Via Corso Vercelli – Both rich with local Italian boutiques, lots of gems and ‘made in Italy’ finds on this street. Bought my favorite pair of pants here.
Corso Como 10 – This place has a lot more to offer than I initially thought. Check out the rooftop, it’s a great little place to relax and escape. They have an incredible bookstore and a small studio space with a revolving exhibition (I got to see a Salvador Dali installation!) which was all free. Downstairs they have the boutique and restaurant, both very pricey but totally funky and worth a look.
Wait & See – Vintage gems and bold Milan fashion. I think I will retire in Milan and exclusively shop here.
La Rinascente – Best department store, lots of good sales when I was there! Don’t miss the rooftop patio with views of the Duomo. You’re welcome.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Italy’s first shopping mall. To me this was more of an architectural and historical place to experience, but some people do come to shop. Either way, a must see.
Via Montenapeleone – Europe’s most expensive street and the heart of Milan’s fashion district. High-end window shopping because you’re in Milan and you want to feel fancy.
Villa Necchi Campiglio – One of my favourite spots in all of Milan, I did a whole blog post on this villa. I consider this a must-see, especially if you enjoy architecture or films by Luca Guadagnino (as seen in ‘I Am Love‘). Designed by Piero Portaluppi, experience Milan in the 1930s. Incredible.
Bosco Verticale – Pictured above, these residential apartment buildings are known as the vertical forests! Damn Milan, you’re so cool.
Duomo di Milano – No questions asked, this is a must. (First photo at the top of the post.) Buy a ticket that’s good for both the cathedral and the rooftop terrace. This structure is exquisite, a piece of history that cannot be missed.
Teatro alla Scala – I have to return to Milan to make it inside this opera house someday. It was closed for the month when I visited in August. An architectural masterpiece housing a world of art and culture.
Via Abramo Lincoln – If you’re in the area, walk down this street. It has the cutest and most colourful houses.
Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation – One of the major European centers of research and documentation in the fields of historical, political, economic and social science. A library, a bookstore, and a super fly curb appeal.
ART + DESIGN:
Fondazione Prada & Bar Luce – Wes Anderson led me to Bar Luce and Bar Luce led me to the Fondazione Prada (Pictured above). This exhibition space is situated on the grounds of an old distillery and is dedicated to contemporary art and culture. One of my favourite afternoons in Milan was spent here. Expect anything imaginable, from solid gold buildings to walking on the ceilings with giant mushrooms. The artistic capacity inside these walls may have surpassed my understanding at times but it continued to captivate my senses nonetheless. Bar Luce is the Milanese style cafe located inside the Fondazione Prada. Designed by the man himself, Wes Anderson. If you enjoy his movies then you will enjoy Bar Luce.
Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie & La Vigna di Leonardo – This is what I love about Milan so much. You can still visit the past with works such as ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo DaVinci, in between all the contemporary institutes. Reserve your viewing of DaVinci’s famous painting in advance, this is a popular place. The vineyard of Leonardo is quite remarkable as well, located across the street from the Santa Maria delle Grazie, gifted to DaVinci in 1498. These two come hand in hand.
Dimore Gallery – Historical and contemporary interior design. This decorated home is a journey, an experience, full of objects capturing your imagination in a way only art and design are able. I would honestly go to these exhibitions monthly if I lived in Milan…*when I live in Milan.
ART + DESIGN cont…
La Triennale di Milano – Founded in 1923, this art and design museum is a cultural institution bringing together many forms of contemporary creativity (photographed above). If you get excited about trips to Ikea, the exhibit dedicated to the work of Osvaldo Borsani (Italian architect and furniture designer) was unreal. I was really impressed with the curated collection of photography, paintings, chalkboard art, and modern interpretations.
Six Gallery – Design studio and interior design gallery with pieces ranging from collectors items to anonymous finds, together telling the tale of an ever changing aesthetic.
Villa Invernizzi – This is where you’ll find a secret flamingo garden. I sat here with my jaw on the ground for a good half an hour in awe of the dancing pink flamingos. Not open to the public but you can see the garden from peeking through the gate on the street.
FOOD + DRINK:
Lu Bar – Hashtag interior goals. I was gushing over the whimsical entrance on an instagram video and the barista was like…’you should really check out our dining room, it’s even more beautiful’. So he took me through a little corridor to the dining room and I died and went to heaven. I sat and had a fresh pressed juice and a chocolate croissant for breakfast. Then I returned for espresso and pastries a couple more times before I left Milan. They have a beautifully simple lunch/dinner menu with mediterranean plates to share amongst friends. Don’t leave without trying the cannoli for dessert.
Soul Green – This plant based restaurant was so delicious. Known for their soul-bowls, I tried the Thai green curry bowl and loved it. Cool atmosphere, friendly staff, I would definitely return here again. Oh also, the water is free. Yes, in all other restaurants in Italy even the tap water comes with a price tag.
Crazy Cat Cafe – I know some of you cat lovers will die over this. There are nine cats that you get to cuddle and pet while enjoying your meal. The place is clean and cozy and the food is good. If you fancy a little midday cuddle, this will be your jam.
Arco dela Parce – Not only an architectural sight (that should be on your list!), this street is also the place to go for an aperitivo! Starting around 6:00 the streets are packed with people enjoying one of the most cherished Italian pastimes, the aperitivo. Simply purchase a cocktail or beverage and you have full access to the limitless buffet of appetizers, salads, pasta. I still haven’t figured out how these restaurants make any money doing this but I’m not going to question it. Chatting over wine and aperitivos is something I will deeply miss about Italy. It’s such a relaxed and enjoyable experience.
FOOD + DRINK cont…
Potafiori – I’ve never seen anything like this before. Designer flower boutique, chic restaurant, and live jazz all in one gorgeous venue. Is there anything more you could ask for in a single experience? This florist combined all her passions into the ultimate business plan and I salute her. I cannot wait to return again and again! (Pictured above.)
Obicà Milano – Mozzarella Bar with a gorgeous view of the Duomo. A private rooftop terrace on the top floor of the historic Rinascende department store. Mozzerella di Bufala– learn it, know it, love it. There is no better way to sample this Italian cheese while enjoying good wine and people watching over the city.
Hygge Cafe – The name says it all. Breakfast, lunch, espresso. Bring your book for some reading or plan your itinerary while grabbing a pastry. Super cozy little spot.
FOOD + DRINK cont…
Bar Luce – As mentioned before, designed by movie director Wes Anderson and located in the Fondazione Prada. If you’ve ever dreamed of being in one of Anderson’s symmetrical tableaus, then your dream can be fulfilled as was mine. The waiters are charming, the food is good, and everyone who’s there is just as excited as you are. So fun!
La Latteria – Lunch like a local, this place is crazy busy and full of working Italians. The menu changes daily and always offers homemade traditional Milanese dishes that are heavily vegetable-focused. A very authentic experience, reasonably priced.
Dry Milano – Cocktail bar and Napoleon style pizzeria. Super chic place in the Brera District, love the atmosphere and dim lighting. Video art is projected on the walls, it’s a vibe. Also, the drinks and pizza are top notch.
Bar Basso – One of the oldest cocktail bars in Milan, the perfect spot to people watch fashionable Milanese. Sip on sophisticated cocktails and enjoy the atmosphere of this Italian bar. I love places like this where you really get to see a glimpse into the life of people living in the city.
Eataly Milano – Some people roll their eyes but I still love it. Eataly is the Wholefoods of Italy. It’s familiar, it’s expensive, and you are guaranteed to find something delicious. Check the wine section, don’t miss the chocolate section (amazing bars from Sicily), there is a whole floor dedicated to olive oil basically. You can also get lunch here, the pizza and gelato are surprisingly good.
NaturaSi – Health food market. I stocked up on some supplements here, and kefir. They also sell Pukka tea which is my favourite. A good place to pick up a few Lara Bars and snacks for busy days or train travel.
SPA + FITNESS:
Chicchi Nails – Multiple locations, good quality services for cheap prices. I got a quick mani/pedi here and was super happy.
Violette – To feel like a true Milanese, head here for all your nail, waxing, and eyebrows services. Book in advance, this is a popular spot.
Waterbeat Society – Hydrospinning is the new soul cycle in Milan! I did a blog post about my fabulous experience at Waterbeat Society, highly recommend.
Yogamilan – A yoga and pilates studio for all levels. Drop-in options, classes available in english!
Coffice – Sometimes you just want to plug in and cool down. This co-working space is pay by the hour and has A/C. They also provide coffee and snacks. If you need a really quiet space to catch up on some work in between sightseeing, this is it.
WEEKEND + DAY TRIPS:
Lake Como – This was my favourite unexpected gem in Italy (photo above). I did not think a trip to Lake Como would be on the agenda this trip but I met someone also looking to adventure there for the weekend so we made it happen. We rented a place in Brunate, the hilltop town overlooking Como. We could see the sunsets over the Swiss Alps at night and we took the ferry boat to other towns such as Bellagio during the day. Sightseeing George Clooney’s villa and the Liberty style architecture of Como, devouring the local dishes of polenta and pasta, it was a total dream.
Parma – Although this precious town is known mostly for parmesan cheese, I went to tour the Davines/Comfort Zone Village. I was blown away by the hospitality of this company, known as the leading natural skincare and haircare producer in Italy. More on this experience and my tour of the village to come!
Crema – I cannot say enough about Crema. If you’re a fan of the movie Call My By Your Name then rent a bike and lavish in all the movie locations from the film. A place where time stands still, bring your swimsuit and make sure to take a dip in Laghetto dei Riflessi. You’ll feel like a kid again in Crema, it’s like a portal to youth.
Venice – Treat yourself to a weekend in Venice. I didn’t make Venice a priority this trip as I had previously been in 2011 but it’s a must-see at least once. Not my favourite Italian city but I would love to return during the masquerade carnival sometime.
Verona – Oh, Romeo! The town of Shakespeare’s star crossed lovers and the annual Opera festival. Verona is so darling and a perfect day trip from Milan.
Everything listed on this post can be found on my personalized Google Map of Milan. This made it so easy for me to walk around the city and know what’s around me, where to stop for lunch, and how to plan my days. Let me know your favourite spots in Milan so I can add them to my list for the future!