With its imposing gothic cathedral, world famous opera house and superb restaurant scene, Milan offers so much more than the fashion for which it is famed.
Distinct from most other Italian cities on account of its not being fuelled by tourism, Milan is the country’s centre for business, design, media and of course fashion. Many international organisations base their Italian operations out of Milan, and as a result the city is often viewed as a business destination rather than a tourist city to be explored and enjoyed. But overlooking Lombardy’s capital means missing out on some artistic and architectural treasures as well as some of Italy’s finest contemporary restaurants and bars.
There is plenty to see here if you know where to look, starting with the impressive cathedral at the heart of the city. One of the world’s largest catholic churches, Milan’s cathedral is best viewed from Piazza del Duomo at sunrise when the square is clear of tourists and you’ll likely only have pigeons for company! Or for a different perspective, from the rooftop terrace where you can stroll amongst the spires and enjoy the stunning panoramic view over the city. Visitors to Milan may also want to watch a performance at Teatro alla Scala, shop (or window shop!) luxury fashion brands in the so called ‘golden quadrangle’, and marvel at the crumbling brilliance of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The famous artist also left a somewhat less well known mark on the city with his secret vineyard La Vigna di Leonardo which can be found just a few minutes walk from his acclaimed masterpiece.
Given its status as a corporate travel destination it’s hardly surprising that Milan’s accommodation offer is skewed towards the high end of the market, with location, service and business amenities seen as higher priority than fine furnishings and spectacular views. However, the city also boasts some of the coolest design hotels in the country such as Hotel Straf - a 19th century palazzo transformed into an ultra-modern boutique hotel and bar in a minimalist, urban style. All the big international brands are also represented here alongside numerous independent establishments, a plethora of elegant apartments and a few grand historic hotels.
Milan’s food and wine scene is one of the city’s greatest assets. It’s possible to find everything here from the region’s signature dish Risotto alla Milanese (saffron, onions, beef marrow, butter and Parmigiano) to traditional Neapolitan and Turin-style pizza, Japanese sashimi plates and Hawaiian poke bowls. But it’s the contemporary cuisine being cooked up by creative chefs across the city’s fine dining restaurants that continues to grab the headlines. Of particular note is Enrico Bartolini al Mudec - a three star Michelin restaurant on the third floor of the culture museum which serves sophisticated, highly original cuisine full of intense flavours, alongside a carefully curated wine list of premier Italian and international vintages. Nestled in the courtyard of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Seta by Antonio Guida is another of Milan’s most renowned Michelin restaurants fusing the traditional and the modern in its imaginative Italian cuisine. But these two are only a fraction of the city’s fantastic food offer, with many other restaurants securing stars and still more chasing the coveted commendation.
For wine lovers, Milan is home to some of Northern Italy’s most atmospheric bars as well as its first urban winery, Cantina Urbana. As you’d expect from a cosmopolitan city of its size, the choice of venue in which to enjoy a glass of the region’s famous sparkling Franciacorta - or an elegant red from Valtellina Superiore - is seemingly limitless, from tiny watering holes to swanky modern wine bars. Amongst the most popular and respected in the city is N’Ombra de Vin - an atmospheric wine bar and shop in a 16th century refectory. The cellar here comprises more than 3000 bottles including obscure international varieties and famous Italian labels. They also serve a delicious menu of small plates which showcase the region’s finest produce.
For visitors to Italy, Milan has always been a divisive city. Some people love it for its fast-pace and cutting edge art scene; others simply can’t stand the place! But if you’re looking for a dynamic global city with a clear sense of style and a thriving food and wine scene that remains largely under-the-radar, Milan ticks every box. Not only is it a magical city break destination, but its proximity to the Italian lakes and even to Switzerland, make it a superb base from which to explore the entire region.
Corso Venezia 52, Milan, 20122
Via Mike Bongiorno 13, Milan, 20123
Via Meda 2, Milan, 20123
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, 20121
Via Tortona 56, Milan, 20144
Via Montecuccoli 6, Milan, 20147
Viale Premuda 34, Milan, 20129
Via Andegari 9, Milan, 20121
Via Francesco Petrarca 4, Milan, 20123
Piazza XXV Aprile 10, Milan, 20121
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