Tourists far too often skip over Milan. As Italy’s most industrial city, it doesn’t seem to have the history of Rome, the art of Florence or the allure of Venice. Non ha l’atmosfera.
And I get it.
I too once thought that Milan, though fun, doesn’t have much of a tourist factor. Perhaps it’s true. It’s landmarks and sights aren’t so in your face like Rome, it’s beauty not natural like Sicily – you have to search for it. For a tourist, that is borderline unacceptable.
But for a traveler, well, the city has a lot to offer.
Traveling in Milan is all about soaking in the culture, seeing what the typical Milanese is like and how they live – to find the atmosfera.
Between the massive Duomo, the Last Supper, The Scala and the many other great places a tourist and traveler should definitely see, there’s the life of Milan, one that in my opinion is just as exciting as the life of NYC or London – it’s worth experiencing.
When I have visitors, I usually like to take them on a walk. While it might be quicker to get a subway day pass and pop up like gophers near the landmark we’re trying to see, it’s so much more rewarding, and interesting, to go slow. Recently I found a new route that has fast become my favorite. Both convenient and gorgeous, I can bring a new visitor through the city to each sight. Letting them experience the daily life, the buildings and the people, all while ultimately heading to some great landmarks.
Living outside of the city, I often take the train in to Stazione Garibaldi rather than Stazione Centrale. This isn’t necessarily a preference, they just run trains more often. Luckily for us, this walk starts there.
As you exit from Garibaldi you’ll see immediately in front of you three glass and mirror skyscrapers in a semi-circle. A part of district 9, the area was once a bit sketchy, but has since been revamped and rejuvenated. Cross the street and take the escalator up to the piazza where people congregate to take a break, get some lunch or listen to whatever entertainment there might be at the time. Then, turn right to head down a long stone ramp. This will lead you to Corso Como.
Corso Como is one of the top locations to experience the city’s nightlife. A beautiful pedestrian street, it’s filled with restaurants, bars and clubs. During the day you’ll find the Milanese shopping in the designer shops and at night young and attractive people fill the streets and bars for happy hour and dancing. The area is home to some of the most famous clubs both nationally and some even internationally: Hollywood Milano, Loolapaloosa, Executive Lounge Milano and Shocking Club, among others. It’s great for a stroll and even better when it’s around fashion week!
Continue down the street until it ends at Piazza XXV Aprile, where the famous Teatro Smeraldo, Milan’s historic theater, once sat. Today it’s been transformed into the newest Eataly, a high-end Italian food market that specifically promotes Slow Food. With a market containing specific, unique Italian ingredients and various restaurants serving strict Italian food, Eataly has fast become a household name and its international locations have become flagships of the “Made in Italy” label when it comes to food. It’s definitely worth a walk through.
Cross the street and head straight on to continue your walk. This will bring you into the ever-popular Brera district. Located in Zone 1, a part of the historic center of the city, Brera houses the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and the Brera Art Gallery, as well as the famous Pinocoteca di Brera museum. Because of this it was developed as an artists’ neighborhood and was once an artsy, bohemian district.
Though it is still filled with art and design galleries, the district has since evolved into a fashionable, high-end neighborhood, great for an aperitivo or dinner out. Brera is beautiful and one of my favorite areas of the city. Filled with small boutiques and galleries, you can easily spend the day strolling through the area simply looking at all the beautiful things. The nearby Pinocoteca di Brera is a museum, but you can enter into the building for free, taking a break in a courtyard older than the United States or visiting the 17th Century Botanical Gardens out back.
For this walk, we’ll pass the Moscova subway exit and head onto Corso Garibaldi. Starting from Piazza XXV Aprile, Corso Garibaldi is a long road that, though actually only at the start of the Brera district, serves a bit as the heart of Brera. Packed with some of Milan’s top restaurants, Corso Garibaldi has something for everyone and is one of my favorite places to eat while in Milan. After your long walk, continue down the street to choose a stop for lunch or dinner (depending on the hour) or simply take a break at one of the outdoor tables with a nice glass of wine.
Brera is the perfect place to end an evening walk, but if it’s day I’ll continue on, passing over to the Castello Sforzesco and then straight to the Duomo. It will take at least an hour, more if you want to pause and really explore, but it’s a great starting point of Milan and the best walk I have for friends visiting the city – one that shows them many highlights at once. No matter what time of day, walking up to the massive Duomo is always impressive, and a perfect way for a tourist, or traveler, to see the city.