First impressions of Milano: Blue suits, designer sneakers, smoking, and shopping, in that order. It seems the only exercise the city dwellers get is walking their small dogs or stepping out for a cigarette. Or both.
Milan is much like Venice for us. A stop on the way to Lake Como, The Dolomites, Turin… Fill in the blank. Milan should not be a singular destination, rather a jumping-off point. It’s industrial, fashion-centric, and a working city filled with business professionals in blue suits. It’s touristy, yes, but in Venice, the tourists are carrying selfie sticks. In Milan, they’re carrying high-end shopping bags.
- When you check into your hotel and ask for a city map, they hand you a map with all the designer stores marked. And it’s daunting.
- Any viewing of The Last Supper needs to be booked months in advance.
- The worldwide pigeon headquarters (in case you’ve been searching) is located in Piazza del Duomo.
- Venice is surrounded by water and is navigated by canals. With the exception of one small canal littered with bars and restaurants, the only water in Milan is from the dogs peeing on the streets.
Milan is an amazing architectural city blending the best of the old (Duomo, Vittorio, Porta Nouva) with a lot of incredible new construction on the outskirts. The contrast in itself is worth paying attention to.
The hotel concierges mean well, I know they do. But in Milan, their recommendations are not great—to say the least. We had to find a few gems on our own:
- The Manzoni (because it’s essentially a Tom Dixon design studio)
- 28 Posti (small, chef-driven, and creative. And the hotel concierges won’t send you there)
- Camillo Benso (casual outdoor tables with a great location by the Porta Nuova… And they have really good pizza)
- Ratana (gives you a totally different location and perspective of the city, closer to where people work and live. And there’s great walk through the park to arrive)
Side note: There is an Eataly in Milan, and even though you find them all over the world now, it’s still nice to wander through and see all the products in the country they were inspired by.
Where to Stay:
Stay downtown, within walking distance of the pigeon world headquarters. There are a lot of big dogs in Milan (translation: big-dog hotels). This might be the city to splurge, since we’d only recommend a couple of nights here.
- The Four Seasons (in an old monastery, in the midst of shopping madness. In our assessment, the best hotel in the city, even though technically a chain.)
- Armani Hotel (great 7th floor lounge and bar with city views)
- Hotel Bulgari
- Mandarin Oriental
- Uptown Palace (farther from the city center, but also quieter)