DAY 0- Travel day…TSA Pre. MIA. Admirals Club . Uber Milan . Taxi . Boscolo Milano
And yet another journey has been enhanced by the fast track services of TSA-Pre. Sorry I can't get enough of going through security in under 5 mins, my best time is under 2 mins. I didn’t have to take off my shoes or unpack the laptop. (Links below, do the errand its easy!). My American Airlines flight from the Miami International Airport was delayed so I waited at the airlines club lounge. There are a couple of ways to to gain access and enjoy these lounges, use the links on the bold words for more information. Many offer free food, Wi-Fi and showers depending on your layover they could be a godsend.
TSA-Pre (Fast Lane) 2 min. Security Line On my way!
I arrived after 8h45mins ready to explore... Milan-Malpensa Airport is north west of the city right next to Switzerland, and an hour away from my destination. You can choose to get into the city by train or taxi.
TIP: If you are an Uber lover like me, before travelling visit their website and look up what services are available at your destination.
EX: Uber has only; vans, limos and food delivery. Between Uber and taxi, taxi was cheaper. The standard price to the city is 95 euros.
Milan Taxi Fare
One Hour later and I had arrived at “Boscolo Milano”, my hotel for the trip. It was edgy with wonderful service, sadly aside from its amazing location the main draw for its selection was its rooftop terrace one of the best in the city. It’s gorgeous, but unavailable for that weekend. It was privately book for the “Giro d’Italia”, a national bike race that passed right in front of the hotel on my last day, Sunday. Aside from that, the room was incredibly spacious, modern and with a waterfall shower overhead, I love those. They also had a spa somewhat futuristic for my taste but eye catching still. I didn’t intend to visit it, but it ended up being a lifesaving amenity as I used their showers after my check out, before leaving to the airport.
DAY 1- Saint Ambroeus . Ultima Cena . Castello Sforzesco. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele . Terrazza 12- Via della Moscova
Just minutes after I made it to my room the unpacking tornado was unleashed followed by a sprint to the shower. I was late to meet my good Milanese friend (Antonio) due to my 1 hour plane delay. Thankfully my friend had some time to spare and met me at my hotel lobby to accommodate my tight schedule. I had only a few mins before the “Ultima Cena” reservation (the viewing of Leonard Da Vinci’s masterpiece “the Last Supper”).
Cafe... Saint Ambroeus
The place he picked “Saint Ambroeus” (a historic restaurant and café that opened in 1936 in Milan. It’s a very successful spot visited by locals, there are 5 locations in NYC and 1 in South Florida USA). It was only a 2 min walk from my hotel to the cafe. It is charming, you enter and like any typical Italian restaurant layout, you are greeted by a beautiful bar, where you find Italians drinking their coffee standing up as it is characteristic here. To your left the hostess, behind her a restaurant illuminated by a gorgeous chandelier hung in the middle of the dining area, and to your far left the access to their outdoor seating. The space exudes old school style, details and moldings everywhere you turn, and all tide together with elegance. When I arrived, it was calm but 15 mins later the place was buzzing in all directions. I also must add, that I had my first Latte Macchiato there, happy happy happy Andrea smiling wide with my delicious drink. The only thing missing was a gluten free treat, my friend was able to enjoy our complementary biscotti and found them tasty.
From the coffee shop I took a short taxi ride (15 mins) to the Santa Maria Delle Grazie to make the “ultima Cena” -“ the last supper” appointment. They had told me, to be there at least 20 mins prior to the reserved time. To see the famous painting from Leonardo Da Vinci you must book it at least a month in advance, as a minimum. I recommend 6 weeks prior to your trip. You can reserve online, or find a tour that includes it. Be ready to be turned away at the door if you don’t have an appointment. Thankfully the taxi left me just next to the Church’s piazza.
Sight Seeing…The ultima cena -The last supper
There are 2 offices at the piazza, at the 1st you get your ticket printed, and at the 2nd you show your ticket and wait to be called in. At the second entrance, you will find a small hallway with the history of the church and information about the painting on display. Take time to see them as when you enter the isn’t much information or time to read. Only a small group of 25 enter every 15 mins. After you are called in, you go into a courtyard where they dehumidify you in a glass chamber, this is done to preserve the fresco. The painting is very delicate, it started to deteriorate just a few years after the artist had finished it. When you enter you will see how there is very little light in the room and flash photography is prohibitive -vietato!. I took a ton of pictures, how can you not, can you believe you are in its presence, such an amazing and world renowned piece, who knows how many have referenced it and in how many movies it has appeared in… unfortunately you can’t get very close to see the details of the brush strokes, but all in all, a must - ENJOY IT!. 15 mins later and you are ushered out of the room for the next group and just like that you are done.
Lunch... Café La Rochetta
I walked from “Santa Maria Delle Grazie” to the “Castello Sforzesco” but on the way stopped for a light lunch at Café La Rochetta. A casual meal sans gluten. I had a fresh salad, exactly what I wanted. Even though it was close to the castle, many locals ate there. The waiter was constantly being greeted by Italians passing by, I liked that, it made it feel more authentic-more Local.
Sight Seeing…Castello sforzesco
One more block and I had arrived at the Castle. The castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, (duke of Milan) over the old 14th century fortification once residence to the Visconti lords. The grounds are free to enter, but the museum has an admission fee of 5 Euros, look at their website to see what days and times they offer free admission. Also take into consideration that there are barely any shaded spaces so go prepared :).
The good news is that inside the Courtyard you will find 2 drinking fountains where you can refill your water bottles. (For location of the 417 free safe drinking fountains in Milan visit http://www.fontanelle.org/) - https://youtu.be/n12W7O9ofuA
Milan free drinking fountain
From the Castle, I went through Via Dante a pedestrian street that goes from the Fontana di Piazza Castello to the Piazza Cordusio which almost immediately leads to the Duomo di Milano. (Via Dante is a famous street that opened in the 19th century as a scenic street connecting the two plazas). Don’t miss on your walk the corner with Via Rovello where you will find the historical “Piccolo Teatro” of the city of Milano. I saw it by chance because the entry drew me to it. (Piccolo Teatro Grassi, is an intimate theater from 1947 that was restored in 2009. I love places with history, it seats 500 and hosts classic contemporary theater ballet & opera.... on the list for the next visit :) Very cute alley as well. Nice walk full of people, surely mostly tourists but I like mixing the iconic and obvious sites, with the hidden and secluded spots only locals know.
Sight Seeing…Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
I made my way to the “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele” (one of the most emblematic buildings in the city of Milan). I had to see the famous covered mall that became one of the most celebrated buildings in the country, and take part of the tradition of steeping on the bull’s testicles. Well of course there is a video of me spinning around, I love myths like these, that make you do silly things in public for the sake of good luck. (A little on the gallery, the project was organized by the city and presented as a competition for its design, which the architect Giuseppe Mengoni’s won. It took 2 years for its general completion (1865-1867) everything minus the Piazza di Duomo arched entrance which was later built. Sadly, the architect died an accidental death, just weeks before its final unveiling in 1877). The Gallery was designed with the purpose to have a building that would connect the Piazza la Scala and the Duomo.
Small video from the center of the Galleria
TIPS: While in the gallery, step on the bull and spin 3 times backwards for good luck
Look up when at the center and see the 4 frescoes that represent the continents, America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Stop and carefully observe the beautiful bolted glass iron rooftop.
Have a coffee or gelato and enjoy the beautiful store fronts.
And finally stare at the Arch entrance that leads to the Duomo, it was the culminating architectural masterpiece for the building and the one said to establish the Mall as one of the most important buildings in the city and country.
Tradition-Steeping and spinning on the bull's testicles
Today's 3 sites are definite must when visiting the city
From The galleria, it was a short walk back to the hotel, a quick shower, a wardrobe transformation and I was off again to enjoy the night life. After a day of tourist sightseeing it was time for some local recommendations. An aperitif, my first drink in Milan and my first Milanese sunset.
Aperatif… Terrazza 12
Just a couple of blocks away on the 10th floor of “The Brian & Barry Building San Babila” is the restaurant “Terrazza 12”. Just an elevator up and one flight of stairs and you are greeted by a woman guarding the door, keeping just the correct number of guest inside. “Terrazza 12” is a cool spot for the aperitif recommended by my local insider friend. It is also found in many of the top lists for terraces in the city. It is not surprising, as the view is incredible and so were the drinks. It’s not a place I would go to have proper supper, but there are some small plates on their menu. I learned that their drink list is filled with original cocktails made by very skilled mixologist with the bar in mind. The place is small but open, and with a wonderful view of the Madonnina and the Milan Skyline. The interior is design is in a 50s theme, it has good energy. I was so happy I arrived just in time to see the sunset from their balcony.
The amazing view
Enjoying the sunset
After Dinner... Via della Moscova
Another short cab ride (7) mins and I had arrived at “Via della Moscova” a cool area with many bars with outdoor seating. It felt like a block party with one bar next to the other.
An unfiltered video while walking down Via della Moscova
I was recommended the “Chinese box” a beautiful small restaurant turned bar at night with amazing energy and a great selection of gin drinks. Thanks “Antonio” another great place.... The floor level was packed with people trying to order drinks and resuming to mingle to the outdoor party, the second floor had a cool view with just a couple of tables occupied. I picked this spot to have a quiet drink and do some people watching, even though I was dying to be in the middle of everything. The fact that I had arrived today was finally hitting me, I was tired.
DAY 2-Duomo di Milano - Giacomo Caffè -Keith Haring expo - Brera Pinacoteca - Palazzo Parigi hotel- Via Montenapoleone - Quadrilatero della moda – Caffe Cova - Bamboo Bar
Sight Seeing… Duomo di Milano
I woke up refreshed and ready to explore. I walked from the hotel to the “Piazza del Duomo”. (The Duomo di Milano is the 4th largest cathedral in the world. It was initiated by the Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo, and took 6 centuries to finish 1386-1965. In Milan when they want to refer to something taking a long time they compare it to the construction of this Cathedral. During its built, many architectural styles came and went, it is remarkable that the design and execution stayed true to the French Gothic style.)
For my visit, I couldn’t buy the ticket online and the concierge insisted that it would be easy to acquire on site. Easy yes long and time consuming yes as well. I had to make the 1 hour line. Other blogs didn’t mention this, I found an online website that worked after the fact. They charge you a fee of 5 euros but now I think it’s worth it (link below). Thankfully I was told to purchase the elevator access to the terrace as opposed to the stair access, I recommend it. Finally, after the short line for the elevator I was on my way. The moment you have reached the rooftop the view and details are already all around you. The floor, sculptures and everything in sight was made from marble. You move around the perimeter of the building where you will find people posing for pics everywhere, it’s inevitable. To avoid this, I always recommend being the first one at the big tourist sites. Purchase the ticket online and get there bright and early. I reached the rooftop just before 11am, I can’t imagine being there at noon with no shade it was hot. Still just amazing, look north towards Switzerland and on a clear day you can see the Swiss Alps. This was a unique experience, being able to walk around freely, it felt like an elevated plaza. I did my first jump picture there, I felt like a teenager for a moment, I then went back down. Don’t lose your ticket as they will check it at the exit.
You are not done yet, now go and explore the inside of the Cathedral, I personally went around quite quickly just stopping at the sculptures pointed out in my guide. I mainly read, and walked around. Visited the crypt and sat on the mass benches, I always do this at churches. I try to envision what it would have been like to have been there back when it was new.
TIP: Remember to dress appropriately, or you will be turned away at the cathedral door. The military check everybody, and at that point there is nor merchandise you can acquire to hide your knees and shoulders, both must be concealed. (No dresses or shorts that go above the knee or expose the shoulders). This could be the day you wear pants and sleeves or buy their recommended cover-up where you purchase your visit tickets.
Example of the cover-up sold
Tip: buy your tickets for the Duomo visit online. If that isn’t possible there are 2 lines one next to the Duomo and one to enter the Duomo museum, buy your ticket at the Duomo museum they offer there the same options for ticketing with a shorter line. There are 2 options to visit the rooftop, stair and elevator, a 4 euro difference. Its worth the extra money. There are 2 entrances to access the cathedral, the front and back entrance, I took the back entrance which is where the elevator line was. This line was short , after the security checks you are in the building and just waiting for the elevator.
At this point I was starving… Its time for some food...
Lunch… Giacomo Caffè
I had a simple salad at “Giacomo Caffè” the cafeteria inside the “Palazzo Reale”. It felt like a blast from the past, an old style bistro with a wooden bar, thin chairs and cozy atmosphere. Just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral, it was perfect for a small stop in between sightseeing. The staff was immensely helpful, doing their best to accommodate my lack of Italian and answering any questions I had about the food and city. (The menu is only in Italian)
Art…Palazzo Reale-Keith Haring expo
Immediately after lunch I entered the current temporary expo at the Palazzo, "Keith Haring". The gallery was very well installed, clear easy to follow and I must say the audio guides were amazing. They were iPod touch. Before arriving in Milan check out the current expos, they consistently have amazing artist exhibitions. There were a couple of interesting ones but this trip was only a long weekend.
TIP: Bring an extra picture ID if you don’t want to leave your passport hostage in exchange for an audio guide. Also bring your compact headphones, almost all audio guides have the options to plug some in, this way you can avoid going around with the device on your cheek like a phone.
I left the busy Piazza to see more of the city on foot on my way to the "Brera district". The streets on my way to "Palazzo Brera" were charming and with a couple of interesting boutiques. I later returned to a couple of them and purchased some family gifts.
TIP: Always bring either a backpack or a travel canvas bag, this way you can store your gifts and carry them with ease. Not all stores have convenient shopping bags and you tend to be out of the hotel for hours when exploring.
Museum… Brera Pinacoteca
The "Brera Pinacoteca" is the most important art gallery in the city. It acquired its art in a “unique” way, different from many museums founded by the riches of churches and noble families. The Brera collection has its beginning in Napoleon time. His police would raid churches in the region taking their precious art to galleries and academies. In the following centuries, the gallery compiled some of the best renaissance art of northern Italy and central Italy. The Pinacoteca opened to the public in 1809 inside the Palazzo Brera, it's now the main art collection of Renaissance paintings in Italy.
Little video after visiting the museum
The museum has over 500 works of art and yet it's easy to navigate. You can buy your tickets there or online they are booth good options as there wasn’t a long line to worry about. I really enjoyed it and recommend it. You can also see a restoration process, in the middle of one of the rooms, there was a glass encased space where a painting was hung in the middle and tools and mechanical devices where placed around it. Also take the time to visit the "Orto Botanico di Brera", just behind the gallery it’s a nice refreshing scene, a hidden little oasis.
The Brera neighborhood, described to be slightly bohemian by every blog and book that referenced it, my personal experience is it indeed is full of art and small charming restaurants. It has lots of character and much to appreciate in close corners.
Walking… Palazzo Parigi Hotel
After some nice art, I strolled back towards the hotel through the streets with the famous Milan store fronts. I decided to take the long way there to see more of the city, I walked north to “Via Fatebenefratelli” where I ran into the “Palazzo
Parigi Hotel”. A stunning 5star luxury hotel that had been highly recommended by friends and media sources. The spot the “Caffe Parigi”, is their bistro-bar suggested for a private meeting and aperitif or for Sunday brunch. From the inside, you can enjoy their beautiful view of their private garden through their two story glass windows. There I saw some patrons already enjoying some tea and coffee in the garden. I was a bit jealous but I didn’t have time for that, I wanted to keep exploring. It’s on my list for the next trip, the scene is quiet, private and just gorgeous. I had to agree with my friends the hotel is beautiful, elegant and regal.
TIP- you must make a reservation if you want to attend their Sunday brunch
From the "Palazzo Parigi Hotel" the walk continued towards the "Armani Hotel" ,to make reservations for dinner that day, and from the Hotel to the famous “Via Montenapoleone”.
Armani Hotel Restaurant View
Walking…Via Montenapoleone - Quadrilatero della moda – Caffe Cova
This is the most famous fashion street in Milan. (In 1786 the street got its first name after a financial institution that settled here, called “Monte Camerale di Santa Teresa”, naming the street “Via Monte”. The bank later closed and reopened when Napoleon in 1804 made Milan the Napoleonic capital of the Italian republic. The street was renamed to “Via Monte Napoleone”.) This famous street is also known as “Quadrilatero della moda” its where you will find all the great fashion boutiques of Milan. While strolling and enjoying the store fronts walk into the “Caffe Cova” for some coffee and some treats (it’s one of the oldest cafes in Milan, founded in 1817. Originally next to “la Scala” but it moved to Via Monte Napoleone in 1950) Cova, just this month celebrated its 100-year anniversary. I am limited with pastry recommendations as gluten is my kryptonite, but my friend had the tiramisu and said it was the best he had ever had. The place was very charming, and their display of sweets and boxes looked just perfect. They have an indoor and outdoor seating; the outdoor courtyard was my favorite. It looked like the perfect spot to relax and hide from the congested streets.
Dinner… Bamboo Bar
I was so excited to return to the Armani Hotel, its VIP service is felt from the moment they open your taxi door. Across the lobby and up the elevator, take a picture in it, its cool I felt I was in an Armani cover. After you step out of the elevator and onto the restaurant floor you are greeted by the hostess, and from there you have the option of seating next to her stand or the area right outside of the “Armani/ Ristorante”. I wasn’t able to make a last-minute reservation for the main restaurant, so I ate at their second option the “Bamboo Bar” it has a great menu. I recommend to seat in the area closer to the restaurant, even though both are wrapped by class with beautiful views of the city, the second has a 2 story high ceiling making the space look grander and much more inviting. The interior scene was beautifully designed, very stylish and clean, true to the Armani/Casa design lines. The food and drinks were amazing, best risotto of my life and the gin cocktail delicious, but I must say Milan has not disappointed me in that regards, all the cocktails have been superb. Everything was beautifully presented, a great experience overall.
DAY 3- Brera District - 10 corso como - Hosteria della musica – Obica – La Scala – Savini - Terrazza Aperol
Today’s outing is to repeat the quartier where the Pinacoteca Brera is located. Walking towards it, it’s hard not to feel embraced by its warm and charm. You know when you go by a street and start pointing out the cafes you would visit if you had the chance, well that is what I did-back to Brera.
It’s located in the center of Milan, it’s characterized for its small streets, boutiques, restaurants and artistic presence. Many years ago, this area was located outside of the city walls, now it’s considered part of its center. In Brera, you will find the “Brera Academy of fine Arts” and the “Brera Art Gallery", these are considered to have influenced its presently bohemian and artistic identity. This area represents, what I and believe many to think, envision Italy to be throughout the country, old crooked streets, old small restaurants and authentic stores to discover.
Now, so happy to be on my way and go see the “10 corso como” I heard so much about it. How the department store is a new formatting to fashion.