Milan has a bit of a mixed reputation, some say it is ugly, dull and industrialised while others say it’s beautiful, artistic and chic. So, arriving in Milan I had basically nil expectations, except for the otherworldly street style I idolise on Scott Schuman’s Instagram page, The Sartorialist.
I arrived by train to Milano Centrale in the late evening and caught a taxi to my B&B. The taxi trip was wonderful, as Milan’s elegant museums, galleries and buildings were lit up. I was excited to explore Milan – its food, coffee & art.
I fell in love with Milan from day one. Its streets and shops are beautiful and pristine, the coffee is excellent, the availability of quick, inexpensive lunches is extensive and there are many wonderful art galleries. And, of course, the Duomo di Milano. If it wasn’t for the flocks of pigeons (and tourists) I could sit and admire the Duomo all day over macchiato’s and gelato.
Via Monte Napoleone, 9
One of the reasons I was so excited to visit Milan was to have coffee at Marchesi, a Milan institution with it’s beginnings dating back to 1824. Famous not just for its pastel pink cakes and crispy pastries, but its charming waiters in white vests and black bow ties, style and exceptional service. It certainly did not disappoint. I had a perfect macchiato served in a beautiful little gold-rimmed cup and saucer, enjoyed alongside the stylish Milanese locals dressed in the most exquisite fabrics and colours, accessorised with big sunglasses, beguiling jewellery, amazing vintage finds and Louis Vuitton or Gucci handbags. I couldn’t recommend Marchesi enough, and suggest standing at the bar to save money.
Via S. Radegonda 16, Milan
Fried pizza. Okay, hear me out! It sounds sickly and bizzare but trust me, when you’ve been sightseeing all day and just want to eat something cheap and easy, it is actually the perfect meal. The Italian’s fry things completely differently to the Australian’s or American’s, theirs is somehow so much lighter and more flavoursome. I had the classic mozzarella and tomato and it blew my mind. For a moment I wanted to come back to Sydney and open a fried pizza shop.
Via Speronari, 6
Princi is a great bakery/pizzeria serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner, varying from pastries, cakes, salads, lasagna, pasta and pizza. The service is incredibly fast as you jump in the queue, pick your food, have it popped on a tray with your choice of drink (prosecco for me) and then go to one of the benches to eat. It’s very popular and busy, as it’s convenient for locals on their lunch break and tourists alike. I went twice while in Milan, trying the Panzanella Salad and ricotta canoli. Both were divine and I’d happily go back again. The prosecco was also very nice.
Duomo di Milano
In Milan you can walk everywhere, and no matter where I was going I would be adamant the Duomo was on the way just so that I could walk past it. Although the first plans for Milan’s Duomo date back to 1386, most of its construction was completed in the late 20th century with many significant restorations taking place in the 21st century and still being continued today. Therefore, it is a rather modern cathedral. Its completely unique facade is not only beautiful, but a bold presence, for it is the biggest church in Italy and the fifth largest in the world. I recommend going to mass on a Sunday to experience the beautiful interior in a peaceful surrounding, and they doing the audio guide tour of the church and the rooftop. I did these on separate days as it was quite a lot to do in one day. My ticket also got me into the Duomo Museum which has some spectacular artworks and sculptures.
Pinacoteca di Brera
Via Brera, 28
My first time hearing about the Brera was in an article in The Australian last year, discussing how the drab, mismanaged gallery was having new life breathed into it thanks to the Renzi government taking steps to revitalise Milan’s galleries, museums and archaeological sites. The Brera’s new art director is a Canadian, James Bradburne, one of 20 art directors selected by the government to begin this crusade of art and culture revitalisation in Italy. It is a work in progress, as there is construction and renovations currently being done to improve the space. Despite this, most of the exhibition spaces are open and they are beautiful. The collection of artworks by Caravaggio, Titian, Botticelli and Mantegna, to name just a few, are exquisite and so much more enjoyable in the quiet, Baroque complex.
The Marriage of the Virgin, Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael), 1504