(Updated April 2020)
After another stopover in Milan on the occasion of my trip to Venice for the Biennale, I’m now ready to share my best bits of advice in this brand-new “24 hours in…”-post.
As usual, while writing, I had a layover in mind or a short break on a road trip down South. If you’re staying longer and want to experience it some more, check out my recent post on an entire weekend in this Northern Italian city of art and fashion to get further inspiration and information.
Of course, you won’t be able to see all that there is in only 24 hours. But since Milan has much fewer touristy sights to offer than most other Italian cities, a day will definitely allow you to see the major part of the city’s landmarks. Unless, of course, you lose yourself somewhere between the posh designer stores….
Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 1.17 US$ (October2017) / current rate
Carabinieri (Police) 112
Fire Department 115
Malpensa Airport, IATA Code: MXP
Linate Airport, IATA Code: LIN
Tourist Info Online and Onsite
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (corner piazza della Scala)
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 45 55 55
Opening times: Monday to Friday 9 a. m. to 7 p. m., Saturday 9 a. m. to 6 p. m., Sunday and holidays 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Following either of the itineraries, you should consider getting a Museum Card. It’s good for three days which you probably don’t need, but it costs only 12 €uro which you already pay for a visit to the museums at the Castello.
Getting Downtown and Back
No matter what people say about Italy, I’ve been there so often and I really like their public transport system that brings you to almost everywhere at a reasonable price.
The joy begins right at the start with the airport shuttles. Already from Malpensa airport, there are two options for going to the city center.
Either, you take a bus. This is a bit slower – mind the traffic especially during rush-hour – albeit, a little cheaper, some 8 €uro one way and 14 €uro round trip. To obtain tickets, there is a little booth with a very unfriendly man right next to the arrival door.
Or you take the train which is a bit faster, but also more expensive, around 13 €uro one way, 20 €uro round trip within 30 days. Besides, you have to book online if you want this price.
From Linate airport you have to take a coach, there is no train connection.
There is also a bus connecting both airports. So getting to the city center and back is really a piece of cake.
Note: If you want to follow the sunny day itinerary, you better go to Cadorna station (only possible by train from Malpensa) instead of Milano Centrale. There, you can leave your luggage at the ‘Deposito Bagagli‘, the luggage deposit, and head straight for the fun.
Public transport in Milan costs 1,50 €uro one trip, if you buy a card with ten rides on it, you pay 13,80 €uro, but honestly, I don’t think that you will use them – at least not on a sunny day.
Milan is a relatively green metropolis – compared to other Italian cities – so you could spend a sunny day just strolling through one of the many parks.
But then, of course, you’d miss out on a lot, so let’s level it out; which is easy since the largest and most beautiful park, the Parco Sempione, is adjacent to the Castello Sforzesco.
If you arrive at Cadorna station, as suggested above, you just walk down Via Marco Minghetti to the castle – five minutes max. If you’re coming from Centrale, take Metro M2 to Cadorna (5 stops).
The castle was built from 1450 by Francesco I. Sforza on the remnants of the destroyed Visconti family’s castle. Over the centuries many architects like Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante have built and altered it. The former bastions were transformed and form part of the park.
Besides admiring the old structures, you should absolutely visit the Museo Pietà Rondanini located to the left as you enter from Via Marco Minghetti.
The Pietà Rondanini is a marble statue by Michelangelo depicting Mary and Jesus taken from the cross. Although many of Michelangelo’s sculptures remained unfinished, this one is special since it was his very last work.
Museo Pietà Rondanini
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 46 37 03
Inside the castle are two other museum complexes, the collection of ancient art including many archeological treasures as well as paintings and sculptures.
Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Antica
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 46 37 34
A large variety of antique instruments is to be seen at the
Museo dei Strumenti musicali
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 46 37 03
All the museums at the Castello are open Tuesday to Sunday 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.
If you intend to visit these three museums, you should consider the museum card (which i. a. grants you also access to Milan’s aquarium mentioned below).
Once you walk through the back gate into the park, you can buy a gelato and stroll along the trails in the shade of the majestic trees, sit on one of the benches or just on the thick and soft meadows.
If you get bored, there is more to see like for instance the Acquario Civico di Milano, Milan’s aquarium, or the Palazzina Appiani, a small neoclassic villa by Luigi Canonica which was used as a podium for the French royal family during games and events.
If you wanna find out how the French royals watched the game – the villa can be visited.
I know that especially in the US Italians have a reputation…for having a thing for food. You’ll appreciate it as it now comes to lunch. Walk back to the castle and get to the other side, take a selfie at the Fontana di Piazza Castello, the castle’s square, and then continue down Via Luca Beltrami to the traffic circle Cairoli. On the opposite side of the circle begins Via Menfredo Camperio, and that’s the first step to your special lunch.
Although Milan does not overwhelm its visitor with statues and facades and museums like Rome, Florence or Venice, there are some visitable venues; whereby the really great art here is rather modern to contemporary.
However, two of my favorite galleries are not far from the station Palestro (M1 – when at Cadorna, just take the metro towards Sesto 1 Maggio, coming from Centrale, you take M2 to Loreto and change there into M1 towards Bisceglie) and right next to each other. That makes them the perfect spot for a rainy morning.
The GAM – Gallery of Modern Art, which presents approximately the years from 1800 to 1900, is housed in a neo-classicist villa, built at the end of the 18th century as Count Ludovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso’s home.
Besides the wonderful symbolism paintings by Giovanni Segantini and the post-impressionism, realism paintings by Angelo Morbelli and late neoclassicism sculptures another very interesting part are the ancient decorations and furniture of the majestic rooms and halls.
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.
The PAC – Gallery of Contemporary Art, which does not show any permanent collection, but invites the public to see outstanding contemporary pieces from all over the world, is the GAM’s modest neighbor.
It’s housed in the former stables and the space is much smaller. However, the art isn’t: Every exhibition I’ve seen here got me all enthusiastic!
Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC)
Via Palestro 14
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 88 44 63 59
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 a. m. to 7.30 p. m. (Tuesday and Thursday to 10.30 p. m.)
By the way – if the rain stops for a while, you are also in the perfect spot to enjoy one of Milan’s many parks: The Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli are just across the Via Palestro, and although this public garden as significantly smaller than the Parco Sempione, it’s just as beautiful and ‘entertaining’.
Hungry for lunch yet? Although on a nice day you could walk the 2,5 km / 1.5 miles to the restaurant, you might not wanna do it in the rain. No problem, hop on the M1 at Palestro and get off at Cairoli. Via Manfredo Camperio, where the restaurant is located, starts just at the Cairoli traffic circle.
Of course, you can get a slice of pizza or a piece of focaccia at every corner.
But if you want to combine typical Italian food with a really fun environment, make a reservation at the “Riso e latte” – which translates to rice and milk. It’s a tiny family-style restaurant decorated in the fashion of the 1960s.
They are open every day, but Mediterranean style, i. e. for lunch from 12.30 p. m. to 2 p. m. and for dinner from 7.30 p. m. to 10.30 p. m.
Reservation is highly recommended.
Riso e latte is not only a great place,but it’s also very conveniently located between the castello and the must-see Duomo and adjacent Galleria Vittoria Emmanuele in the very heart of Milan.
To get there, make sure to turn into Via dei Mercanti once you get to Piazza Cordusio. This street is smaller than the Via Orefici, one of Milan’s main shopping streets, but much more picturesque and ‘Italian’. It leads you straight to the Piazza del Duomo where you can see Vittorio Emanuele II on his high horse; and he doesn’t get off it.
Since lines can be very long, I strongly recommend to make an online reservation, otherwise, you risk spending too much of your precious time in Milan in a queue.
There are different parts that you can visit and various packages, so you better consult their website.
Duomo Info Point
Piazza Duomo 14/a
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 72 02 33 75
The Info Point is open daily from 9.30 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.
The Duomo is open daily, but the individual parts have different opening hours, so check out what you want to see and which package is suitable for you.
Honestly, since everybody makes such a fuss about the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, I don’t like it.
Yes, it is very posh and elegant, but it’s also full to the brim with tourists; and exclusively tourists, no local would go shopping or take selfies at the Galleria. But suit yourself, it’s certainly an important sight and to be found in each and every guide book about Milan.
Built in 1864, the building is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco, and frescos, covered by a posh glass roof which highest point reaches 47 meters. Doubtlessly, this construction is a celebration of the declaration of the Italian state in 1859.
The Galleria is accessible every day from 9 a. m. to 11 p. m.
After the über-touristy part of this itinerary, let’s get to the fresh, young, and hip part of town, namely the neighborhood around Porta Genova South of the center.
I admit that the afternoon activities do not differ that much from those on a sunny day. That’s because even on a sunny day, you have to see the Duomo; otherwise, it’s like visiting Paris without…you know what.
However, on a rainy day, you probably do not want to walk from the lunch place to the Piazza. Actually, you don’t have to. Subway M1 stops at Cairoli circle and takes you straight to Duomo station.
Visiting the cathedral on a rainy day, you’ll probably miss the opportunity to climb around on their roof. Never mind, you get a good view of the Duomo and its surroundings from a neighboring building that houses another great museum, too, it’s the Museo del Novecento which shows art from the last century (it’s very confusing in Italian that they don’t number the centuries as we do: for us the past century is the 20st, for Italians it’s the (1)900st).
The museum has an interesting permanent exhibition of all the famous Italian futurists and constructivists, but they also organize inspiring special exhibitions. Already the building itself is very intriguing since they basically pulled a modern glass construction over the old structures so these are still visible – and the view from the museum towards the cathedral, the piazza, and the adjacent streets is priceless.
You’re in Italy, you have to have a pizza at least once a day and “I Capatosta” does not only make some of the best pizza in town, it is also ideally located in the currently hippest district of town, in the area around the Navigli.
The Navigli were waterways, dug to facilitate the transportation of goods to and through the city. Basically like the Grachten in Amsterdam or the Fleete at Hamburg. Today, this area full of shops, bars, and restaurants attracts crowds of nighthawks and mosquitos alike.
To get from the center to the restaurant, take the M1 at Duomo and go back to Cadorna where you change trains and continue on the M2 to Porta Genova.
Pizzeria I Capatosta
Alzaia Naviglio Grande 56
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 89 41 59 10
Open daily for lunch from noon to 2.30 p. m. (weekends till 3 p. m.)and for dinner from 7 p. m. till midnight.
At the Navigli, you are already in the best neighborhood for food and drinks and joy and fun. So just cross the Ponte di Ferro, the iron bridge, and turn right.
Walk along the Naviglio for less than three minutes before you turn left into Via Angelo Fumagalli and on the left side, you’ll see Rita’s bar.
Via Angelo Fumagalli 1
Phone: + 39 – 02 – 837 28 65
Rita’s bar is open daily from 7.30 p. m. (aperitivo!) till 2 a. m.
To get back to the Marconi Hotel* at Milano Centrale, first walk back towards the pizzeria and continue then to the metro station Porta Genova. Subway M2 towards Cascina Gobba takes you straight to the main station Centrale.
Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to either Milano Centrale station (or Cadorna) is the best option, and the Marconi Hotel* is a pleasant place at a reasonable price and a less than 10 minutes walk from the main station (where also the airport bus station is located).
Map – sunny day itinerary
Map – rainy day itinerary
Note: If you have a couple of days in Milan – or in case you don’t want to see the city center at all – you can easily go to one of the lakes North of Milan like Lago di Como (my favorite) or Lago di Garda (everybody else’s favorite). Since the train ride takes about an hour and you don’t even have to go do downtown to take it, but can hop on right at Malpensa, it’s a great
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