There are many ways to explore the multifaceted city of Milan. You can be captivated by its history and trace Leonardo Da Vinci’s whereabouts more than 500 years ago. If you love fashion, delight in the origins of Armani, Versace, and Prada. Design and innovation are your thing? People around the world flock to Milan for the annual furnishing and design fair Salone del Mobile. If you’re like me, however, you’d come to Milan and embrace it for all it has to offer—with a lot of food on the side.
Where to stay
Duomo Hotel & Apartments
Like many Catholic cities, Milan is built around Duomo di Milano. So staying near the cathedral means being a stone’s throw away to almost everything you would want to see and visit in the city. Duomo Hotels & Apartments is on a side street behind the Duomo and has the amenities of a serviced apartment. The interiors and service are much warmer than a business hotel, which can go a long way if you’re staying for several days.
Milano Verticale Una Esperienze
If you’re looking for something a bit more sleek and modern, stay at Milano Verticale UNA Esperienze. The hotel opened in 2021 with 173 rooms and is located between Porta Nuova and Corso Como among skyscrapers.
Guest House, Un Posto a Milano
This would have been my first choice if I wasn’t traveling with a big group. Located in Cascina Cuccagna, a beautifully restored 17th century farmhouse in the Porta Romana district, Un Posto a Milano has four rustic rooms equipped with modern appliances. They even have special beds with the Pedano system that uses mattresses made of natural materials like peat and rye straw to make you sleep better. There’s also a wonderful restaurant and outdoor spaces on the grounds you can enjoy.
What to do
See the Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and Vineyard
Many go to Milan for a glimpse of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” a fresco secco he painted on one wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie. But you don’t need to be religious to admire the extraordinary amount of work he put into it. Tickets go fast so book in advance. Visitors will have 15 minutes to see the painting and will be allowed to take photos but not video.
After seeing the painting, cross the street to walk along the site of Leonardo’s vineyard. This was gifted to him by the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza for painting the “Last Supper”; Da Vinci cared for it until his dying day. The original vineyards have long been ruined, but experts have rebuilt them to their original state, even going as far as conducting DNA tests to replant the exact same species of grape that Da Vinci grew.
Soak in some fashion art at Armani/Silos
The structure was built in 1950 to store cereal, but now stands to commemorate the breadth of work of fashion designer Giorgio Armani. With the help of architect Tadao Ando, the monumental space is mainly in gray concrete, giving center stage to Armani’s exhibits. “I decided to call it Silos because this building used to store food, which is, of course, essential for life. For me, just as much as food, clothes are also a part of life,” Armani once stated. Speaking of food, there’s also a cafe where they serve light meals if you get a bit peckish.
Choose a scent at Perfume Laboratory
Magna Pars L’Hotel used to be a perfume factory (the suites are actually built around a unique scent). The Martone family that owns it—three generations into the art of making fragrances and scents—has created a perfume laboratory as part of the hotel. The heritage brand was behind the scents of big names such as Gianni Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Bulgari, and Tiffany. Here you’ll see beakers and glass funnels like a laboratory. Take your time and smell each scent and take one home with you.
Find art and Wes Anderson at Fondazione Prada
Fondazione Prada is a wonderful example of adaptive reuse. Turning a former gin distillery into an art museum, Rem Koolhaas’ OMA architectural firm leaves much to discover beyond the exhibits. One exhibit has you fumbling through a pitch-black winding path with only a handrail to guide you to a brightly lit room with giant rotating mushrooms from the ceiling. After seeing the exhibits, sit down for an aperitif at the Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce. It is decorated with wallpaper that’s inspired by Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, pink terrazzo floors, pastel upholstery, and vintage pinball machines as you would expect from an Anderson production.
Go to Villa Necchi Campiglio for ’30s deco inspiration
This preserved home of the Necchi sisters is a must visit for a glimpse of bougie living in the ’30s. Designed by architect Piero Portaluppi, the house features a lush garden of magnolia trees, a swimming pool, and antique furnishing and artwork. The most popular room is the veranda encased in double-paned windows. Movie buffs will recognize the home from Luca Guadagnino’s “I Am Love” starring Tilda Swinton.
Watch a string quartet play in candlelight
What better way to take in Milan’s energy by sitting inside a historic structure illuminated only by candlelight and listening to a string quartet. Our location was at Teatro Gerolamo, a compact theater made of wood built in 1868 originally used for marionette shows. You may choose from a wide variety of music that the string quartet plays—from Ennio Morricone and Nirvana to Ed Sheeran. But we chose to watch and listen to theme songs from Warner Brothers movies and popular tracks such as “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from Wizard of Oz and even the theme song from “Friends.” You may check here for their full schedule.
Go for a spa day
In Porta Romana, a beautiful Liberty style building is surrounded by historic Spanish walls built in the 16th century. Today it houses QC Termemilano, a spa with thermal pools and saunas. You can decide to get a massage, but that’s optional. The ticket inside QC Termemilano gives you access to all of their pools, including the TikTok-famous storm room, for five hours. You will also have access to an aperitif buffet in the afternoon.
Where to eat
A short taxi ride from Milan’s city center, south of Navigli, is a homey, creek-side restaurant by French-American chef Alice Delcourt called Erba Brusca (wild sorrel in Italian). The restaurant has a vegetable garden at the back where many of the ingredients of their modern Italian dishes come from. Flavors were clean and the service was friendly. Expect their menu to change often depending on seasonality of ingredients.
Un Posto a Milano
A rustic eatery set in the historic Cascina Cuccagna that will make you feel like you discovered a wonderful secret in Milan. Once you walk inside the old farm doors and enter the premises, you will see walls left in their patinated states, a garden where they are growing hops, and a large al fresco area. If you didn’t make a reservation, you can purchase food from the deli and enjoy it at a table outside.
This rooftop restaurant on Rinascente Milano lets you dine alongside the spires of the Duomo. The Italian menu with a contemporary twist was created by chef Luca Seveso. You can’t leave Milan without trying Risotto Milano, a creamy and flavorful risotto with saffron and bone marrow. Another must-try is the Uovo Pochè, a delicately poached egg topped with burrata cheese cream with pink Mediterranean shrimp and a pea purée.
Tartufotto by Savini Tartufi
If you love truffles, this restaurant can fulfill your truffle dreams. By Savini Tartufi, a family of truffle hunters for four generations now, Tartufotto has an outpost in the Brera district of Milan. Their menu is organized in a way that you can order anything topped with white or black truffle. The fried egg starter in a pan topped with parmesan cream and white truffle was simple but surprisingly full of flavor. Even their tiramisù has the option of being topped with white or black truffle.
A panzerotti is like a small calzone. The family that started Panzerotti Luini has been selling this stuffed pastry since 1888. Since items sell at an average of two euros each, long lines may form. Don’t be discouraged though as the lines move quickly. I bought a spinach ricotta, prosciutto and mozzarella, and a sweet one filled with chestnut and almond. The fried pastry is pillowy and satisfying. No wonder it’s a crowd favorite for generations.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
There are only six Starbucks Roastery Reserves around the world, and Milano’s outpost is arguably the most beautiful one because it resides in the historic postal building in Piazza Cordusio. The offerings are unique to the location: Il Piemontese (an iced drink with two shots of espresso poured over aerated hazelnut milk), a refreshing Citrus Lavender Sage Spritzer, and freshly baked focaccia. There’s even an Arriviamo Bar that serves a mean Negroni Sbagliato. You can spend the day just watching roasters roast beans or order a flight of coffee to compare their tastes.
Located in front of Milan’s largest city park Giardini Indro Montanelli, LùBar positions itself as a fantastic setting for brunch. Diners surround a marble work of art signed by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. A domed ceiling and large windows inside Villa Reale built back in the 1790s bring so much natural light that allow all the plants here to thrive. After ordering, our server politely greeted us in Filipino (which happened several times during our trip). The LùBar Spritz was a welcome refreshment after walking so many steps in the city.