“Milan is a polluted, ugly city with tough, rude people”. Never is often heard said, but such words tend to come from those people who never paid a visit to the city. Book your flights from Malta to Milan to discover Italy’s most cosmopolitan city for yourself and find out how to get one hotel night for free!
Milan is attractive and charming, with a vibe that balances old-world romance and history with urban grit and cosmopolitanism. And the natives are very friendly.
Packed with art, fashion, history, and mouth-watering food, it’s no
surprise that it is increasing in popularity and challenging Rome and Florence as Italy’s top tourist destination.
And of course, there’s shopping. This is the fashion capital of the world! From luxury high-end brands to high street favorites and local designers, the city is every fashionista’s dream as it caters to a whole host of budgets.
Lying at the foot of the Alps, Milan is indeed Italy’s financial hub and economic driver, home to the country’s Stock Exchange and for football fanatics – two of Italy’s top teams: AC Milan and FC Internazionale. When these fierce rivals face each other, in the San Siro stadium they share, it’s well worth the price of admission!
Milan is also Italy’s most cosmopolitan city, with a modern central district dominated by skyscrapers and a pretty historical quarter lined with palazzi (palaces) – each harboring wonderful hidden courtyards.
Its dining and nightlife scenes rank among the country’s most vibrant. Bars line the city’s famous Navigli canals – said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci, who called the city his home for several years. The workday over, Milanese congregate for Aperitivo – drinks, and snacks – before heading home for their evening meal.
This is a large, sprawling city, home to 1.3 million residents so it is important to get your bearings.
Milan is built in concentric rings starting from the Duomo, the city’s Gothic cathedral and focal point. North-east of its 135 spires and gold-plated “Madonnina” statue is the fashion district, close to the cobbled streets of Brera, with its cafés and restaurants.
The steel and glass skyline of the new business district, Porta Nuova, rises further north, before the Art Deco-style Milano Centrale. To the south lies the bohemian neighbourhood of the Navigli with its network of canals.
On arrival after getting settled in, one of the nicest things to do is relax and plan your stay over a refreshing cup of coffee. Nobody does it better than the Italians!
While your tour options are many and varied, they must include a visit to a true icon of Milan – the spectacular square and cathedral at the very heart of the city, the Duomo. This piazza, which dates back as far as the 14th century, is home to some of the city’s most important sites and buildings of architectural significance – so little wonder then that it is not only a must-see but something of a tourist hot-spot.
This jaw-dropping cathedral itself took nearly six centuries to complete, and the results are simply breathtaking. Towering over the city skyline the Duomo, built with pink-hued white marble from the quarries of Lake Maggiore, is not only the largest church in Italy, but it’s also the third-largest in the world!
Depending on how early you started your day, find time to also visit the Parco Sempione, the biggest park in the whole of Milan. Dating back to the late 19th century, its picture-postcard grounds extend to almost 100 acres and border upon two other true landmarks of the city in the form of the Sforza Castle and the Arch of Peace. The 15th-century citadel is home to a number of the city’s art collections and museums including an unfinished masterpiece by Michelangelo and the perfect spot for soaking up Milan’s rich history and culture.
In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that Milan is renowned for being jam-packed with art. The city was at the center of some of Europe’s most historically significant art movements – from 14th-century Gothic art under the Visconti family, to Futurism at the beginning of the 20th century – and this is reflected in the quality and breadth of its museums and art galleries.
If you want to experience just a taste of how much is on offer, then the Pinacoteca di Brera a public art gallery, is a great starting point. Home to pieces from icons including Raphael and Titian, artists are sure to find inspiration as they wander through the halls filled with some of the world’s most breathtaking artwork.
Continuing your stroll through the city, make sure to stop by Piazza Mercanti, the central city square which houses ‘palaces’, offices, and statues, as well as the old town hall dating back to 1233. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into Medieval Milan as you take in the architecture!
And after enjoying its cultural and artistic delights, why not keep the theme going -also indulging in a little retail therapy – by making a beeline for the famed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. One of the oldest shopping malls in history, its two glass-ceilinged arcades date back to the 1860s and boast impressive architecture to bootmaking it a true cathedral to commerce that proved so iconic that the term ‘galleria’ has since become synonymous with many a latter-day mall.
Everyone wants to be a tourist, but no one likes to be a tourist and Milan can be very busy (attracting around nine million visitors in 2018). Whatever time of year you visit you can expect crowds at the most popular spots.
If, however, you’d like to avoid these crowded areas and get to know where Milanese actually hang out, here are a few hidden corners of the city!
It’s hard to believe it today, but Milan was a port until the second half of the 20th century. Its major arteries were once waterways and important trade routes connecting the city with nearby Lake Maggiore and the River Po.
The Navigli district, a central point of vibrant nightlife for young people in Milan, is a great place for photographs while walking around the two main canals in Milan – the Naviglio Pavese and the Naviglio Grande. These feature long lines of colourful Milanese houses and old bridges.
Another place to escape the typical crowd in Milan’s shopping malls is at the Parco Papa Giovanni Paolo II, commonly known as the Basilicas Park. This is the city park of Milan that connects the two major Basilicas: The Basilica di San Lorenzo and the Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio. Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore lies in Corso di Porta Ticinese, and is fronted by 16 Corinthian columns from a 3rd century Roman Temple.
Check out too, San Vittore al Corpo, a church and monastery built in the early 16th century. This simple white church’s roof is stunning, and you will be able to experience the spiritual atmosphere here without bumping into another tourist.
If you wish to learn more about religions in Milan, go visit the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. This is one of the most historical medieval buildings in Lombardy. Behind the church, you will find the War Memorial.
Another ‘religion’ to Milanese is shopping and the ‘place of worship’ for the most serious of retail therapy is the Via Monte Napoleone, the most expensive street in the whole of Europe and which dates back to Roman time. It was once home to some of the wealthiest aristocracies of the city – a fact reflected in its many neoclassical architectural masterpieces.
For the majority of visitors here, window shopping is the best that can be afforded! But having saved your money, why not use it for a big splash in the evening, to enjoy an aperitif and some traditional Milanese cuisine.
You can enjoy Aperitivo all over Italy, but in Milan it as a ritual and they do it best – between the hours of 6pm and 8pm, the whole city seems to be enjoying a drink and light snack before heading home or out to dinner.
The food in Milan draws on the bounty of the surrounding mountains, coastline, lakes and verdant farmland. It is rich and hearty with meat and rice taking centre stage. Signature Milanese dishes include saffron risotto (Risotto alla Milanese), breaded veal cutlet (Cotoletta alla Milanese) and the traditional Christmas loaf, panettone.
Head back to any of the numerous artsy restaurants in the Navigli neighborhood for some great dining choices. Early evening may be one of the best times to enjoy the beauty of this location – the street lighting and the still waters creating a majestic sight.
If you confine yourself to an Aperitivo only, you could make time to head off and watch an opera at the stunning La Scala. This provides an evening of entertainment unlike any other, in one of the world’s most famous opera houses.
The best seats in the house can be quite pricey, but there are plenty of budget-friendlier seats which offer brilliant views – and you can bag some for as little as €13 depending on the show and night you pick!
From spellbinding historic and architectural delights to its reputation as a fashion and cultural powerhouse, there is plenty to enchant a visitor to the city of Milan.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your direct flights from Malta to Milan today and explore the fascinating city.