My girlfriends and I formed a book club last year. An excuse to meet up once a month, try new restaurants and talk books (yes, we do actually talk about books…whilst drinking wine)! This year we decided to have a one off ‘culture club’ and go on tour! Setting ourselves a budget of £100 for flights I got searching as to where we could go for a weekend in May!
If you are flexible on timings, and where you fly from, you are able to get flights for £50 return (bargain)! We all had work commitments, and preferable airports, so our tickets came to £70 (still a bargain)!
This won’t be the most extensive guide to Milan, as much of our weekend revolved around socialising, trying the fine Italian wine and eating magnificent food – as many girls weekends do – however, it should point you in the right direction, which you can then incorporate into your own itinerary!
I flew in and out of Linate airport, which I would completely recommend as it is the closest airport to the city centre. We took a taxi to our accommodation (just north of Milano Centrale Station) and it cost €30 which is quite reasonable if there are a few of you sharing. Alternatively you can catch the shuttle bus from the airport to Centrale Station which departs daily at 30min intervals between 06:00 – 23:50, takes about 40mins and costs €6. Tickets can be bought on the bus, and the shuttle bus stop is right outside the arrival hall, so you won’t miss it (opposite the taxi rank). We arrived just after a bus had left, hence we shared a cab, but if on my own I definitely would have caught the bus! A guide to Linate transfer options can be found here.
Malpensa is the other main airport, however this is further out, on the outskirts of the city. To get a cab you are looking at paying around €80 – €100. There is also the option of an express train to Centrale station that departs at 25 and 55mins past the hour from 05:25 – 23:25. The journey takes around an hour and costs approximately €13. Express train tickets can be purchased online here. Terravision also run buses from both T1 and T2 to Centrale station which cost around €8 – more information can be found here.
Overall, either airport is accessible with many options for transfers!
As with most big cities, accommodation options are endless! Hostels, hotels, apartments, Airbnb… We went for the latter! As there were eight of us, and we really wanted to spend time with each other rather than be separated in hotel rooms, this seemed the best option. We found a gorgeous house, 10mins walk from Centrale station with four bedrooms and the best sun terrace! It felt so very Italian with shutters over the windows, marble flooring and colourful walls! It was also very reasonably priced, costing us £70 each for two nights. The hosts were super easy to communicate with prior to arrival. They then gave us a whole list of recommendations of places to go, see and eat over our weekend, and let us check out late on the Sunday. A link to the property on Airbnb can be seen here. This was my first time using Airbnb (shocker) and I am converted! It was soo easy, and perfect for a big group!
Eating and drinking in Milan
Milan is the home of aperitivo, and almost all restaurants will serve aperitivo early evening (typically 18:00 – 20:00 or 21:00). The idea being that you have a pre dinner drink and snack to whet your appetite and prepare for the meal to come later in the evening. ‘Aperitivo’ comes from the Latin word ‘aperire’ which means ‘to open’ – i.e to open your appetite. What a great idea!! Small plates of food accompany your drink, so for the price of an Aperol Spritz (between €8 – €10) you can also have a light snack. Food is often laid out buffet style on the bar for you to help yourself…dangerous.
Etiquette is important when it comes to aperitivo, and you will stand out like a true tourist if you don’t abide by the rules and do as the locals do! Here are a few tips:
- Always sit down to enjoy your aperitivo.
- Anymore than 3 small plates will be seen as rude.
- Don’t pick at the food at the bar, always make a plate and then go to sit down.
Ultimately, if you wanted you could spend the evening moving from one place to another, enjoying a range of aperitivo as substitute for dinner.
On our first night we went Corso Como for aperitivo, on our apartment owner’s recommendation. It was good! The idea that you can order a refreshing drink (Aperol Spritz for me) and then enjoy a selection of food for no extra cost was quite mind blowing! Corso Como is in the financial district, so similar to Canary Wharf in London, there were a lot of tall, shiny buildings, therefore didn’t have the feel of real, rustic Milan. However, it was very busy with people having just finished work and going for Friday night drinks! The food was absolutely delicious! Mini pizzas, anti pasti, bread, cous cous, roasted vegetables, prawns….yum! It was a completely worth while experience, and I’m kind of sad we didn’t have time to do it again the next day!
Our first meal in Milan was not a disappointment! We went to Terraferma – a restaurant local to the apartment. From the outside it looked a little on the fancy side, with frosted glass windows, however the service was super friendly and they even seemed a little excited to have us there! We were treated to two complimentary pizza’s with a simple tomato sauce to get the taste buds tingling whilst browsing the menu. When in Italy…eat homemade pasta! I don’t normally go for Italian food when at home, but my my, if it tastes as good as Terraferma I may have to start!
I ordered the ‘homemade spaghetti with mixed fish’ – sure, it doesn’t sound too fancy, but it is probably my favourite memory of Milan! A bowl of mixed seafood (prawns, mussels, clams, squid and scampi) mixed with tomatoes and fresh spaghetti, all served in a pizza base bowl. You eat the whole lot! Perfezione! Dinner was rounded of with shots of Limoncello with the wait staff!
Address: Terraferma, Via Melchiorre Gioia, 63, 20124, Milano
Another recommendation from our hosts, and friends that have been to Milan. Luini is a street-food place located just behind the Duomo. You can’t miss it, as there will be two long queues outside, and a security guy directing customers! Luini serve yummy panzerotti which are deep fried (or baked) dough parcels stuffed with your choice of filling. An Italian style pasty, or mini Calzone if you will. The dough has the same sweet flavour as a donut (just without the sugar coating) and can be served sweet or savoury.
Sweet options include ricotta & chocolate, mixed berry & custard, peaches, almond & amaretti.
Savoury options include mozzarella & tomato, spinach & ricotta, onion, olive & tomato.
I ordered mine with salami and mozzarella, and then a cheeky custard donut to follow! My they were good, even more so if you are hungover (I wasn’t in the slightest!!)! They are also a great option for a quick, cheap lunch as each panzerotti costs around €2 – €3. Bargain!!
Address: Luini, Via Santa Radegonda, 16, 20121, Milano
This was only our second, but final restaurant of our weekend away! Located in the Navigli district, we stumbled across Trattoria Capolinea, and I’m very glad we did! We had to wait about 20mins for a table (it was Saturday night and we didn’t have a reservation) so were kindly given a complimentary bottle of Prosecco whilst we waited. Result! We then sat outside, with a view of the canal and enjoyed a dinner of risotto, pasta, and veal escalope! The veal escalope was on the waitresses recommendation, and as lovely as it was it needed some form of sauce, as opposed to some meat, chips and salad. Other than that, everything else was superb!
After dinner, once we had paid the bill the waitress brought out half a bottle of a liqueur to do a round of shots. This is standard practice in Milan, and a bloomin’ good tradition if you ask me! The strange thing is, I couldn’t tell you what it was we were drinking, but we ended up finishing the bottle! It wasn’t quite Grappa, didn’t have a burning, overpowering flavour, and was very more-ish! If anyone knows what this delightful drink was please let me know! Salute!
Address: Via Elia Lombardini, 1, 20143 Milano
Sights to see
The most famous of all sights and buildings in Milan, the Duomo is a beautiful, gothic looking Cathedral in the centre of Milan. It is a very dominating building and you will struggle to miss it if you are in the area. Whilst I was there I sat on the piazza, grabbed a beer and enjoyed my panzerotti whilst taking in the stunning view of the Duomo. The square is always busy, so don’t be disheartened if you’re struggling to get a good picture – after all, it’s hard to take a bad picture when the Duomo is you focal point! I would recommend getting up super early and going at sunrise if you really do want to get pictures without other people in them.
I didn’t go into the Duomo on my visit, but information regarding times, and prices can be found here. This was the only place on my list that I had to see whilst in Milan, and I think it should be top of your list too! If I venture back to Milan, I will definitely get up early, visit the piazza (take photo’s), and have a wonder around the cathedral, crypt and terraces!
This park is very central – about a 10min walk from the Duomo, and is a great place to relax, and have a wander on a warm afternoon. The park is also home to Sforzesco Castle, and Arco della Pace – popular places to visit whilst in Milan. We took a refreshment stop at Bar Bianco, in the middle of the park by the lake, and enjoyed a refreshing Martini Royal! Be warned, the reviews are right about this place though – the service is super slow and it may take you a while to get a drink. But if you’re not in a hurry as we weren’t, this is not a problem! Italian time!
Navigli is the cool, trendy, arty, student area of Milan – I suppose the equivalent of Shoreditch in London. Set on the canals, it is pretty as a picture. Both sides of the canal are lined with bars and restaurants, with bridges scattered along to pass from one side to the other. The atmosphere is buzzing, like at a festival, with everyone sat outside, having a good time. We were there in the evening so had a view of all of the lights twinkling on the water whilst we sipped on wine. Many of the bars in this area are open until 02:00, so it is a great dinner / post dinner drinks option. I would also liked to have seen the area during the day, and bar hopped for aperitivo early evening – next time!
Milan was the perfect destination for a weekend away with friends! There isn’t an abundance of places to go and sights to see, so it meant we could just relax, wander, stumble across places and soak up the Milano culture. I have left Milan feeling as though there are a couple of things I could go back to do, such as explore the interior of the Duomo and see the Navigli area during the day. The beauty of Milan is that you can get many places on foot within the centre of the city, and for areas a bit further out, the Metro system is very cheap and user friendly. One thing that I do feel that I have achieved to my maximum potential is sampling a variety of Italian food! Meats, cheese, bread, risotto, pasta, pizza, panzerotti, escalope…. yes, I basically spent the whole time eating! And, let’s not forget the delicious drinks – wine, Campari, Aperol, Martini…..ooh, is it aperitivo time yet??!
For a cheap and accessible destination from London, Milan is definitely a great option! The flight takes an hour and half, the airports are central, the night life is late, the food and drink amazing, the architecture perfect… the list goes on! It is completely realistic to be able to fly out after work on Friday and return on Sunday night feeling like you have ‘done’ Milan.
To round off your trip, enjoy a Peroni beer at the airport whilst waiting for your flight… Afterall, when in Milan…!