Here is a super ambitious one-day itinerary for Milan, Italy. So if you are a road-warrior, this day is for you.
When planning a visit to a place like Milan, of course you have to see the classics, but there are some off the beaten path stops as well, otherwise this guide would be just like all the others out there…right? It will NOT include “The Last Supper.” I know….gasp….but I will save that for a two or three-day visit.
Make sure to scroll all the way down for the timetable of your day and a map of how to get to these places. Enjoy!
Camparino in Galleria
First stop: a coffee at Camparino in Galleria (aka Zucca). Who would turn down having a coffee at the same place Verdi used to frequent over 100 years ago? What romance to say the least.
Walking into this café is like taking a step back in time – all the way back to 1867 to be exact. Little has changed over the years – it was super elegant then and still is. How elegant? Think: high ceilings, detailed mosaics, a mahogany bar and elegantly dressed wait staff that have nothing in common with your local Starbucks barista.
Have your coffee as Italians do by standing at the bar and it will cost you around €1.50. If you choose to linger a bit outside, expect to pay three times more for table service. But the view of the Galleria and Duomo is well worth the price.
Piazza del Duomo, Milan. www.camparino.it
Now that you are fueled up and ready to go, cross the square to the iconic symbol of Milan – the super striking Duomo.
This massive cathedral combines both Gothic and Baroque styles and took almost six centuries to complete! Massive is the perfect word to describe this gorgeous marble cathedral – it takes up an entire city block. Not only is its size immense, but its adorning features are also over the top. It has over 3000 statues, gargoyles and spires – more than any other building in the world. The tallest of these is the gilded Madonnina which stands 354 feet (108 meters) high.
The interior definitely has a Gothic feel with huge columns, colorful stained glass and vaulted ceilings. Check out the sundial on the floor near the entrance. Sunlight the peeps through a hole from the opposite wall and will strike the clock at noon on the summer solstice as well as the winter solstice.
Don’t forget this is a place of worship, which means a dress code is enforced – no bare shoulders or knees.
These days, you have to buy tickets. Save some time by doing it online at the site below.
Tickets: As of this writing, tickets to enter the church cost €3.50.
Piazza del Duomo, Milan. www.duomomilano.it
The Duomo Terrace
If you want to get up close and personal with some of the statues on the roof, then head on up the 250 steps to the terrace of the Duomo – or you can take the elevator, but saying “250 steps” sounds so impressive.
Either way, once you get there, you will have sweeping views of Milan.
Tickets: As of this writing, the stairs cost €10.50 (yes, you have to pay to work) and the elevator costs €14.50. There are various combinations of tickets that you can find on the main website.
Piazza del Duomo, Milan. www.duomomilano.it
San Bernardino alle Ossa
As mentioned above, seeing the iconic sights is a must, but I always like to throw in some off the beaten path places as well. It makes you feel a bit more like a local and not only that, but anyone can pull up a list of “top ten places to see in Milan” from Trip Advisor….right???
Anyway, this place is super cool and even a little creepy. For sure it is something to see.
The church itself is a little boring even though it has a history dating back to the 13th century, but there is a small chapel here in which the doors, walls and pillars are adorned with human skulls and bones – that’s a lot of bones.
The bones came from the nearby hospital as well as those from executed inmates. It is an eerie place, to say the least.
Free to enter. No website. Hours: Mon – Fri: 8:00 – 18:00, Sat: 9:30 – 18:00, Sun: 9:30 – 12:00
Via Verziere 2, Milan.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Backtracking a bit, our next stop is The Galleria. The Galleria opened in 1877 and is one of the oldest shopping “malls” in the world, but there is no comparing this jewel to a modern-day mall. This opulent arcade connects the Duomo with La Scala and features intricate mosaic floors and a dramatic vaulted glass roof that houses high-end boutiques such as Armani, Versace and Gucci – just to name a few.
If you are not a fashionista – no worries – there are a variety of other shops selling books, jewelry, paintings and gifts. Get in on some good luck too, just seek out the bull at the midway point of the mall and do three turns with your right heel on privates of the bull. Afterwards, expect good luck to come your way.
Free to enter. No website. Hours: Open 24-7
Piazza del Duomo, Milan.
If you are a food lover, make sure to check out Peck. This store occupies three stories filled with gastronomic delights including a huge variety of meats, cheeses, pastas, wines and other goodies. It is pricey, but just wandering around is fun and you don’t have to spend a cent. But it is a good place for gifts for all the foodies in your life. If you are needing a little pick-me-up, make sure to stop for a coffee and a sweet treat.
Via Spadari 9 Milan. www.peck.it
Italians are known for their sense of humor and frustration with the economy, so it should come as no surprise that when Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan created this work that was supposed to be temporary, it was then decided to make it a permanent fixture.
It is located in Piazza Affari, the square in front of the Italian stock exchange. It certainly sends a certain “message” to the money men of society.
The abbreviation stands for “Libertà, Odio, Vendetta, Eternità (Freedom, Hate, Vengeance and Eternity)”.
The sculpture itself is made of marble and stands 36 feet tall.
Piazza Degli Affari, Milan.
This elegant pedestrian street is flanked by 18th and 19th-century buildings and is filled with outdoor cafes, stores and Italian mammas with their bambinos. Oh – and also a view of a castle. Via Dante deadends right across the street from Castello Sforzesco.
Enjoy a little slice of Italian life on this street.
Via Dante 1, Milan.
No visit to Italy would be complete without going to Nonna’s house for lunch.
Risoelatte recreates a home setting from the 1960s including homecooked meals exactly like an Italian Grandma would make. Simple, regional and flavor-packed cooking with big portions – because Nonna wants to make sure everyone is full and content.
The retro styling of this restaurant alone is so adorable and actually does give some insight into what homes looked like in the 1960s and actually – what many homes that still look like today.
Via Manfredo Camperio 6, Milan. www.risoelatte.com
This 15th-century castle was once home to the powerful Sforza family and was originally a Visconti fortress that was built during the 14th century.
Its imposing presence makes a power statement even now after all these years. It is a great place to linger and walk around soaking up the historical energy.
This castle also houses seven different museums. One “museum” has just one piece – but it is a doozy – Michelangelo’s last and unfinished work, the “Rondanini Pietà.” The statue stands alone in a room and it is quite a striking scene, especially knowing that Michelangelo was working on this sculpture up until the day he died at age 88.
The grounds on the other side of the castle, include Parco Sempione, one of Milan’s prettiest parks. Sweetly shaded walking paths, perfectly manicured gardens and soft grassy fields makes for the perfect place to rest during a busy day of sightseeing.
Piazza Castello 1, Milan. www.milanocastello.it
Ahh the charm of the trams in Milan. No visit to Milan would be the same without a ride on one of these beauties. Trams were in widespread use by the late 1800’s and are still running strong today. Efficient AND romantic – the tram is my favorite way to scoot around the city.
Buy a ticket at any tobacco shop, bar or newspaper stand. Don’t forget to validate your ticket once you are on the tram.
You will be taking Tram N. 1 – complete with wooden benches and brass fixtures. Hop on this tram in the direction of Greco Rovereto. You can catch it at the Parco Sempione right behind the Arch of Peace at stop: Acro della Pace. Another place to catch it is at the front of the castle right near the fountain at stop: Cairoli. Your exit is Via Montenapoleone for a bit of shopping, strolling and lingering.
Parco Sempione: Stops Arco della Pace or Cairoli, Milan. www.atm.it
Brera is one of the most picturesque and quaint neighborhoods in Milan. Cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes give this quarter a lot of character and is ideal for having an aperitivo and people watching.
There are also a variety of other things to do in this area such as visit the Pinacoteca di Brera which has been showing off its masterpieces for over 200 years! It contains works by powerhouse artists such as Raphael, Bellini, Veronese, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Tiepolo. This museum is open until 7:15pm most nights, and 10:15 on Thursdays. It is closed on Monday.
There is also plenty of shopping in this area with tons of specialty boutiques and offbeat stores that help in maintaining ties to Brera’s bohemian past.
For book lovers, make sure to have a peek at the centuries-old Braidense National Library. Vaulted ceilings, tons of history and walls covered with books is the perfect place for peace and quiet.
For history buffs, check out San Simpliciano. This church, built in the 3rd century, is one of the oldest buildings in Milan.
Piazzetta di Brera, Milan.
The Navigli area is just plain fun. Here you will find cute shops, a lively art scene and many options for eating and drinking. It is the perfect place to end a long day of running around the city.
But hey, just because you are having a great time, don’t forget to soak up some history while you are here. These canals were built between 1177 and 1257. They were used for transporting all kinds of goods, but most importantly the marble that was used to build the Duomo. Pretty cool!
Even Leonardo loved Navigli. He left notes and drawings about his ideas for the canals which were later used by other engineers who worked on the canal system.
Naviglio Grande 26, Milan.
|Camparino in Galleria||30 min||8|
|Duomo and Terrace||90 min||8.30-10|
|San Bernardino alle Ossa||30 min||10.15-10.45|
|Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II||45 min||11-11.45|
|Via Dante||30 min||1-1.30|
|Castello Sforzesco||90 min||3.15-4.45|
This map is from your coffee stop in the morning up to the castle. The second map picks up after you have taken the tram from the castle and gotten off at stop, Montenapoleone.
AND CONTINUING ON…..