Thursday, December 17, 2009


Milan has a reputation for having one of the highest standards of living in whole Italy. This is the biggest city in Northern Italy, home of its stock exchange and yet – not driven by tourism, capital of fashion and design, and not to forget the local religion called football – the city is home to Milan and Inter, two of the top Italian teams that drive the crowds to San Siro stadium on Sundays during the season.

Most of the sights of Milan are in the city center. Must-see attractions are: Milan Duomo - the third largest cathedral in the world; the Castello Sforzeco - a fortress built in 1368 that later became an elegant and stunning Renaissance residence of the family; the Teatro alla Scala Opera House - built in 1776 and hosting some superb theatrical productions; Santa Maria delle Grazie - the church where Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting 'The Last Supper' is on display; Santa Maria presso San Satiro – a church with a very interesting sound effect – the choir singing seems to come from the sanctuary where there is noone indeed.

For the art lovers, there are large numbers of galleries and museums, such as the Pinacoteca di Brera Gallery - housing one of Italy's most important art collections; the Villa Reale and Civica Galleria d'Arte Moderna - featuring masterpieces by famous artists such as Matisse and Picasso; Palazzo Bagatti-Valsecchi - considered to be one of the finest museums in the whole of Europe, with many outstanding displays and collections; Milan's Civic Archaeological Museum - home of the world's oldest wooden plough still in existence, dating back around 4,000 years.

The city also harbors some less-known attractions such as the Navigli’s canal-side cafés and old-fashioned gelaterie (ice-cream shops) and the funky design district of Isola.

Milan is a major European city therefore you can easily reach it by plane, train, bus or car. Once you are there, the city is relatively easy to get around. The centre is fairly compact and most of the sights are within walking distance of one another. There is an excellent bus network and local railway in Milan. The metro consists of four underground lines which run from 6 am to midnight. If you choose rent-a-car, have in mind that traffic in Milan is often heavy and driving in the city centre can be quite an experience due to Italian temperament. Instead of a car, you can also rent a bike for just €10 per day. Alternatively, if you prefer to be driven around, there are plenty of taxis. Official Milan taxis are generally white, although there are also some yellow and other color taxis. You should only use the official licensed taxis – with taxi sign on roof and numbered shield on the side. There may be some supplements such as luggage or late night charges so it might be better to ask for these before leaving.

As for staying - there are plenty of places to stay in Milan – over 400 hotels with rates ranging from €10 per person in hostel up to over €1500 per suite. As Milan is the business center of Italy, it is natural that here are the most expensive hotels in whole Italy and also – the largest number of business hotels.

If you have a limited budget – choose “backpackers hotels” where rates normally are as low as possible. Best offers you can find in the area of the Stazione Centrale, on the Piazzale Loreto and the Corso Buenos Aires. For a business trip you may prefer a more convenient hotel in the business center of Milan. As in every other major city in Europe, here you would find famous hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Ritz, Plaza, etc. providing all kind of services and facilities for your stay.

Milan may be famous for its shopping, trading, and amazing designers, but it is also a great place to enjoy a good meal. Milan restaurants are usually very expensive. For one complete dinner take count of at least 25€ per person. A 15% service charge is usually added to the bill at the end. Additional tip is customary.

If you want to keep it cheap and simple, there are many ethnic restaurants, pizzerias and trattorie in the city where you can enjoy local food on reasonable price. Typical antipasti include ‘nervetti’, a local specialty of boiled calves’ shank seasoned with onion. This could be followed up with the city’s signature dish, a filling ‘risotto alla milanese’ which is flavored with beef broth and saffron.

In terms of where to eat, the golden rule applies in Milan as it does everywhere else: stay away from the main tourist streets and attractions, especially the Piazza del Duomo, where the restaurants offer multilingual menus and over-priced food.

For cheap meals, the best place to head is Navigli – with wide variety of cafés and pizzerias offering simple, low-cost food. Other way to keep the costs down is the local version of the Happy Hour known as ‘aperitivo’. Usually from 18:30 to 21:30 in most of the bars with 5-8 € you can have a drink with an open buffet with a large variety of food. Many places offer not only pizzas and snacks, but also pasta, vegetables and sometimes meat.

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