I love Rome for sightseeing, but for shopping, enjoying wine, savoring risotto and touring the world’s most famous opera house, Milan is my decided favorite.
It doesn’t get any better than shopping all day, strolling through the Galleria and then enjoying a superb meal with some Lombardy wine.
I visited Milan this summer and there are so many things I love about this northern Italian metropolis.
1. Milano Centrale Train Station
Years ago when I visited Milan, the main train station was dark, dank and dreary with an assortment of vagrants and pick-pocket types loitering around waiting to fleece some clueless American tourist. Opened in 1931, the magnificent structure had plunged into despair and was a sad shell of its once opulent appearance. About ten years ago, they pumped $100 million into a makeover and the results are amazing. Today, it’s one of Europe’s most beautiful train stations. It has designer shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, a McDonald’s, a supermarket, and free WiFi to name a few of the amenities.
2. Phenomenal Risotto
If you visit Milan, I plead with you to have this amazing delicacy. The classic risotto of Milan is Risotto alla Milanese, a creamy saffron infused dish. I love it when it’s served with osso buco and at some restaurants you can order a serving of half risotto milanese and half osso buco. Uh, can you say fabuloso? A couple of others I’ve enjoyed include a risotto with mushrooms, potato and pesto, mixed seafood (see photo above) and a one cooked in a bold Lombardy red wine. For a list of great places to get risotto in Milan, click HERE.
3. The Teatro La Scala Tour
This is perhaps the best 9 Euros I’ve ever spent in my life. Though I’m not an opera aficionado, this tour is absolutely fascinating. The basic, self-guided tour takes you through the La Scala Museum (paintings, sculptures, furniture and videos) and rewards you with a peek at the performance hall through the third-level boxes. If you want a full tour of La Scala, you must visit with an official tour guide.
4. Strolling the Galleria and Duomo Area
Yes, it can get really crowded, especially on summer weekend days. So, if you can visit on a weekday, it’s a much more enjoyable experience. I’ve been to Milan several times and I never miss this, albeit touristy, area. Staring in amazement at the gargantuan Duomo church and strolling on the magnificent tile floors at the Galleria are two of Milan’s most wonderful simple pleasures. Hey, the cafes and gelato shops are overpriced (almost to the point of price gouging), but I don’t let those inconveniences keep me away.
5. The Shopping on Corso Buenos Aires
One of the longest shopping streets in the world, this boulevard is packed on both sides with all types of stores. You’ve got everything from great Italian brands like Boggi, Furla and Benetton to big name athletic brands like Adidas and Nike. It starts at Porta Venezia and ends in piazzale Loreto.
6. Amazing Summer and Winter Sales
Shopping at sales time is pure joy in Italy. These are legitimate sales, too, with real markdowns.(Not like some of the phony U.S. sales where they jack up the price before they put it on sale). The summer sales in Italy begin in July, usually near the start of the month, and last through about mid-August or until inventory is gone. The winter sales period starts in January, usually near the beginning of the month, and lasts through mid-February or until inventory is gone.
7. Great Place To Buy a Suit
One of my main goals on my recent visit was to buy a suit in Milan. While there are many options for custom-made suits such as Boggi and Lanieri, you’ll pay handsomely for a hand tailored Italian suit. I opted for a more economical approach. I was visiting during the early July summer sale season and bought a fabulous off-the-rack suit on Corso Buenos Aires at Fusaro Antonio, an Italian men’s clothier that’s been around since 1893. I purchased a Tasmanian wool suit (very lightweight, which I can wear in Florida most of the year) for around $300. I saved about $100 by shopping during the sales season. Another good option is shopping the outlet malls. There are several, but you’ll have to travel between 30 to 60 minutes outside the city to reach them. For a list, click HERE
8. A Fab 3-Star Hotel
In decades of travel to Europe I’ve stayed in everything from grimy hostels in Amsterdam to 5-star hotels on the French Riviera. On my last visit to Milan this summer, I discovered one of the best 3-star hotels in the city. Better still, it’s near the train station, great shopping and the main sights. Opened in 2017, 43 Station Hotel has a new, fresh feel to it with beautiful decor, excellent air-conditioning and great WiFi. The comfortable guest rooms (smallish by American standards) are appointed in soft, earth tones and they put you in a great mood to take on each day you’re in Milan.
9. Easy Access to Lago di Como
It’s too convenient for you to miss. Take the train from Milano Centrale to Como S. Giovanni and you’ll be strolling the streets of the lakeside town of Como in about 40 minutes. The train tickets range in price from 4.80 Euro to 11.90 Euro.
10. The Lombardy Wine Region
Milan is the main center of commerce in Lombardy and its restaurants benefit greatly from the exceptional wine produced nearby. Wine has been made in Lombardy since the ancient Romans. Today, many of the wineries are located in converted monasteries. Make sure you drink some Lombardian red wines from Valtellina. Superb! The closest wine region to Milan is Oltrepo Pavese near Pavia (about 20 miles from Milano).