Milan cathedral duomo

A weekend in Milan, Italy

With the wedding taking ALL our annual leave days from work this year, we’ve had to be clever with our time off and maximise every long weekend that’s available. So last year, as soon as we’d set our date, we got cracking with booking both Easter and Spring Bank holidays.

For Easter we got a cracking deal for Milan (see what I did there) for the long weekend, meaning we would leave Good Friday and come back Easter Monday, that’s 4 days for no days off work. YAS!

The flight:

We flew from London Heathrow terminal 4 with Alitalia at 6:45am. That meant a 3am wake up call on Good Friday *yucky* but it did mean we were in Milan by 9:45am. The last flight home was at 7:45pm on Easter Monday. We flew into Linate airport, which is the closest airport to the city and great for transfers.

To get to the city, we caught the bus (number 73) from the arrivals exit and it takes 30 minutes to get into the centre. We jumped off after 10 mins as we needed a slightly different route for our hotel.

The stay:

We stayed at Starhotels Ritz which is just off Corso Bueanos Aires in Milan, a major shopping street. There’s a tube stop and train stop within walking distance which makes it easy to get around the city, especially from the airport.

Luckily our room had breakfast included and was great. The bed was massive as was the shower. We were lucky with the weather throughout our stay so a big shower was much needed after a hot day walking around the city.

Our itinerary:

Day 1:

After a super early start, we decided to sleep in our room for a bit and get refreshed. Stayed in until 2pm and headed out into the city to see the key sights in the town, plus have some lunch.

We walked down from the hotel along Corso Buenos Aires towards Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, a large open park that provided some much needed shade from the midday sun. There were places to hire bicycles, a mini railway train ride for the kids and plenty of open space for dogs to run around.

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Making sure we were walking in the direction of the main square in Milan, we headed down Via Alessandro Manzoni, which was in the bottom left hand corner of the park (if you look at it on Google Maps). It was your typical Italian street, with old fashioned resturants and classy hotels, and these little windows you can pop your head through to get some gelato. Yummy!

If you follow this street, you’ll eventually land at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the infamous shopping precinct that’s been instagrammed to the max! You know the one! It’s a glass covered mall from the 19th Century, full of luxury designer brands and cute ‘turn of the century’ coffee shops. This is a great place to stop if you like to people watch, and the department store next door has a lovely little cafe that looks out over the Galleria for aerial voyeurism.

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When you finally walk through the gorgeous marbled floor and guilded accents (trust me, with all the tourists and people stopping to take pictures, it’ll take you longer than you thought), you’ll find yourself in the main square, which of course homes the main Cathedral; Milan Duomo.

You can purchase tickets to visit the Duomo on the right hand side of the cathedral itself. There’s a few tickets to buy, inside or inside and the roof where you can the standard lying down on the cathedral roof pose. Alternatively, visit the cafe in the shopping centre to the left of the Cathedral. There’s a rooftop terrace where you can get a view for the price of a coffee and cake.

Milan cathedral duomo

The space around the cathedral is incredibly crowded. We’d say more so that Times Square in NYC. As such, we decided to make a quick getaway and work towards Castello Sforzesco stopping in some stores along the way for those essentials we forgot to pack.

The Castello Sforzesco is a fortress with a tower, aquarium, theater and library inside. It’s a very pretty area, is full of cobbled stones and poor instaboyfriends getting those all important shots of their GF at the pondside. You can go inside each of the facilties to look at artifacts, however it was too late for us to visit and instead decided to watch this cute stray cat play amonsgt the flowers while photobombing all those insta pics.

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Continue walking through the Castello Sforzesco to get to a massive park called Parco Sempione. It’s huge, not Central Park huge, but big. There’s plenty of open spaces here to bring a lunch and enjoy the pleasant evening weather, especially with tightrope walkers practicing makes for light entertainment.

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Feeling pekish and somewhat worn out from our long day, we grabbed the tube back to our hotel using the ATM app on our phones. We stopped by Spontini for a €5 cheesy pizza and Carrefour for some much needed snacks before hitting the hay.

Day 2:

After a lie in and an awesome breakfast by the hotel, we decided to head to the Leonardo Da Vinci Muesum. Being a huge science and technology museum, there’s loads to see and if in Milan with kiddos, plenty to do. There’s 4 floors as well as a Boat and Plane hall and a Rail yard to look around. It’s wonderfully housed in an old monastery with courtyards everywhere. There’s some great models of Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying machine designs as well as some logical bridge designs too.  The railyard was a personal favourite however, you can’t go on all of the trains.

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From the museum, you’re about a 5 minute walk from Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio and Santa Maria delle Grazie which are lovely to go see, however be aware, there’s a no shorts and no exposed shoulders policy so you might want to wear appropriate attire when visiting these places. Especially in Santa Maria delle Grazie as this one houses the painting ‘The Last Supper’.

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Not far from here is a main Street where you can grab some awesome gelato or crepes before heading down to the canal.

Milan’s canal district is mainly known for its bars and restaurants, but we did find some quiet courtyards full for vintage stores and art galleries to look around. You can also pick up canal boat rides that’ll give you a different view of the city. It was quite a pleasant place to stop for a lunch or an early dinner. We brought our packed lunch here before heading back into the main city area.

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We weren’t on the tram for long until I spotted a site that I’d struggled to find on Google Maps. Colonne di San Lorenzo is the location of an archeological site. It’s made up of 16 Roman marble columns, next to remains of an amphitheater and baths, which is slap bang in the city centre. There’s not much left and there’s not much protecting it, but it’s nice to know it’s been stood there so long. We jumped back onto the street car to go back to the Duomo, where even though it was the golden hour, wasn’t as busy as the previous day. It was pleasant to walk around for a change.

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We took the tube back to our hotel and stopped at the supermarket to prepare for our next few day trips. I booked tickets online to go to Lake Como and Monza so decided to turn in ready for an early start.

Day 3:

Went to Lake Como and it was amazing. Honestly, definitely worth the trip so make sure you go. We didn’t get back to our hotel until late but luckily had our goodies from the night before.

Day 4:

Went to Monza. Yes, the town made famous for its Formula 1 track. We headed there with an early start to ensure we had plenty of time to get around and get back to the airport on time. Definitely worth a visit, especially for petrol heads. Check ahead of time as you may need tickets to attend if there’s any racing on, otherwise just show up.

After a hectic day, we made our flight home without any stress. What a great little break.

Kellee’s Verdict:

Milan was amazing, however I will be honest, after visiting Turin, I would say I preferred Turin. Milan is very crowded in comparison, however there are plenty of open spaces to stretch your legs or simply get away from too much hustle and bustle. Especially with cats to entertain you while catching the butterflies between the flowers.

The hotel was amazing and I’d definitely recommend people to use this as a base. It’s a simple 5 minute tube ride away from the centre city which is great if you want to avoid nightlife noise.

Adam’s Verdict:

Milan was bigger than I realised – there’s a lot of city to get around, so sussing out the tram system was useful to see as much of it as possible. I really enjoyed people watching in the park while eating ice cream. Someone had set up a slack line and was making it look effortless, but a few other tourists had a go and of course failed miserably at staying on the line. The Lake Como day trip was awesome, the views were incredible and I’d love to spend more time there.

My highlight though was visiting the Monza race track. Getting the chance to wander around the grounds was a really nice experience and getting the chance to ride bikes around the circuit itself was a definate high point of any of my recent trips. Standing on the grid where so many famous drivers have raced was really memorable for me.

Tips:

Get a ATM ticket from the machines at subway stations and at the airport. These tickets give you access to transport around Milan, that goes for subways, buses, trams and in city trains. You can get a single ticket for 1.50EUR that lasts 90 mins or you can get a day ticket for 4.50EUR. You can aso download an app to use and purchase tickets in advance.

To get to the Autodromo (the F1 circuit), you can take the bus from the main street outside Monza train station. It takes 20 mins and accepts ATM transport tickets.

Even though they’re cute, don’t touch the cats. They are stray after all.

No ifs and no buts, take the train to Lake Como. Do it.

Milan is bigger than you think so plan your routes around. We missed out on the Wes Anderson Cafe because it was the other side of town.

If you’re into make-up, NYX have flagship stores here that sell a wider selection of goodies compared to the UK.

Your diet is out of the window here. Yes there’s salads but if you’re not eating pizza, you have to eat pasta or gelato. That’s the rules.

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