A perfect weekend in Milan

Milan is underrated – mostly people fall in love with the beauty of Rome and Florence, and totally disregard what is Italy’s business centre. Often described as grey and industrial (like nearby, Turin, which can be a lovely surprise), I personally think it can be the perfect European city break – the centre of town is actually quite pretty, the restaurants are amazing, the shopping is pretty much as good as it gets (and of course, everyone looks the part!).

Ciao Milano! Our first glimpse of the Piazza del Duomo

Ciao Milano!

What is not to like? I adore Milan, a city I have visited many times on business trips and was yearning to return, after spending a lazy sunday in town, on my way back from Genova.

This time around, I travelled to Milan as a guest of BIT Milano, which is a travel exhibition for both trade and the public, which takes place every February, and a smaller scale version of London’s World Travel Market or Berlin’s ITB. We spent a day at the Fira Milano, but really looked forward to a weekend in this incredible city.

Here’s my itinerary for a perfect weekend in Milan.

Love was all around us at Via Montenapoleone

Love was all around us at Via Montenapoleone

 

Friday Afternoon

It was Valentine’s weekend and love was definitely all around us. As we checked into our hotel for the night, the lovely Four Seasons Milan, we knew we couldn’t find a better location. Right there, by all the lovely and wonderful shops – needless to say, I was in retail heaven. Mr. O looked a bit worried, and I have no idea why.

A little Four Seasons love is always good for the soul. And the body.

A little Four Seasons love is always good for the soul. And the body.

A little bit tired from walking around the exhibition (even in flat shoes!), we knew everything was going to be fine, as we checked into our lovely Junior Suite. My first (and second and third) impressions from this hotel were great. Service was outstanding (the usual FS love, with a bit of Italian love) and our room was lovely – had everything we needed, plus lovely chocolates! (how did they know??)

After that, it was time for cocktails – which is, as you may know by know, one of my favourite parts of the day. The Four Seasons, through its Milan Twitter account, had been teasing me for weeks, sending me photos of mouth-watering delicacies. I was mostly impressed with the choices available. I ended up choosing the “No name” cocktail, which besides looking and tasting lovely, was to be renamed “Ana” for that night (apparently, the first person who orders it each day gets it named after him/her. Even if not strictly true, it was a nice touch).

The "Ana" and a bit of "Glamour"

The “Ana” and a bit of “Glamour”

Cocktails are priced at around €20, but it is worth mentioning that, as we are in Italy, these come with “aperitivo”, some delicious pre-dinner nibbles which are a staple in this part of the world. The Four Seasons’ selection was outstanding and if you are not staying here, it is worth visiting just for that.

At this stage, it was time for dinner – and time for us to meet my lovely (Milanese) friend Clara and her partner Fabio. Clara and I worked together for many years (in different countries) and at home, she is known as Santa Clara. If I need anything in Italy, she’s my walking Michelin guide – she’s sent me to eat at the most incredible (and weird, at times) places, and I never had a bad meal. Needless to say, she was in charge of my foodie needs throughout the weekend and everywhere we ate had her seal of approval.

Loved La Voliera (photo by restaurant)

Loved La Voliera (photo by restaurant)

The Osteria La Voliera was her choice for this evening, and needless to say, it was fabulous. It felt like we were in someone’s dining room and it felt so comfortable, we stayed there all night! Oh well!

 

Saturday

No rest for the wicked, as they say – as we needed to make breakfast by 10.30 am – and we did.. just! As we were located on Via Gesu, in the heart of Milan, it seemed appropriate to just explore the retail (and architectural delights, of course) of the city.

With Via Montenapoleone, at our doorstep, we followed the Golden Shopping Trail, which also includes Via Spirito Santo, Via della Spiga and Via Sant’Andrea. I am not going to go into detail (obviously), but loved visiting the new Acqua di Parma boutique – it is such a classic brand, and I loved how it has been reinvented.

Swanky Acqua di Parma boutique at Via Gesu

Swanky Acqua di Parma boutique at Via Gesu

Not quite sure where time went, but after walking for 3 hours or so, it was time for lunch. I had a little preview of The Excelsior Milano last time I was in Milan, and knew that this was the place to go to for lunch. Part department store, part delicatessen and seriously cool, The Excelsior is definitely worth a visit – even if just to see its design and how more traditional brands like Tiffany & Co. were willing to take risks and adapt its brand to a more modern clientele. Eats is the place.. well, to eat and having booked early, we managed to get a table. We couldn’t decide if we wanted the Japanese or the Italian menu, and we were kindly placed in an area where both waiters could serve us. It was fun indeed.

Excelsior Milano

Excelsior Milano

After a lazy lunch, it was time to see some proper sights – we were so close to the Duomo, that it would be rude not to say hello. I seriously like this square and it is worth a visit (I went on a Walks of Italy guided tour of the Milan sights in October and loved it).

But as it was soooooooo busy, I decided to take a little shortcut – and enjoy the view from a different location. Not bad, is it?

The same view, and definitely no hoardes of tourists

The same view, and definitely no hoardes of tourists

So where is this place? No, it is not the top floor of the La Rinascente department store (also great and worth a visit). It is located at the top of the Autogrill building a block before the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle. Just locate the building (I think it has signs to Burger King or something as exotic), ignore everything and take the lift to the top floor.

And this is what you get at the Terrazza Aperol.

An aperol spritz with a view, in Milan

An aperol spritz with a view, in Milan

In case you are intrigued by the Aperol Spritz, here is how to make it:

  • 3 parts prosecco D.O.C.
  • 2 parts Aperol
  • Top up with Soda Water (or sparkling water)
  • lots of ice and half a slice of orange

I first discovered the Spritz when I went to Venice, and it is part of our lives. Of course it tasted better right there, at the source. And at €8, it is incredible value for money – especially for the view!

After a relaxing afternoon, it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready for the aperitivo. You know, cocktails and a nibble. Or many. And the place to go? Obviously the Armani Hotel, located in the “Armani powerhouse and flagship” in Via Manzoni.

The Armani Bamboo Bar - an oasis of calm and exceptional design

The Armani Bamboo Bar – an oasis of calm and exceptional design

After we were wowed by the modern look and feel of the place, it was time to try the aperitivo. And for 2 hours (no joking!), we were taken on a culinary and cocktail journey around the world. I loved how Mattia, the coolest bar manager in town reinterpreted great classics (such as the Mint Julep, here called the Oriental Julep) and having heard for my love of Gin & Tonics, prepared me the most special one I have ever had.

Aperitivo at the Armani Hotel

Aperitivo at the Armani Hotel

Dinner took place at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, a place where we had an incredible dinner last time we were in town. Santa Clara approved of the choice and I don’t know how, but we managed to get the last table (having booked with only 1 week’s notice).

First time we went, we were slightly worried as this place is quite far away from the city centre – we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Where we getting kidnapped? We were slightly nervous.. This time around, we knew (kind of) where we were going (add a €25 one-way taxi fare).

Some of the best cuisine I have ever had in Italy

Some of the best cuisine I have ever had in Italy

One thing I loved (and remember from this place) is the fact that ladies’ menus do not have prices on – always a good sign. I am obviously joking, but I remember the days when this was the norm. I also remember choosing something and being told by Mr. O “no”, you may want to try the 3rd one on page 3. We laugh about that to this day.

Sadly, we couldn’t justify one of the tasting menus, due to our aperitivo at Armani. So we went with some great a-la carte choices, which we obviously didn’t regret. Dinner here costs around €250 for two including wine, and it is incredible.

 

Sunday

Not an early riser myself (which you may know by now!), I was delighted when the Westin Palace, where we stayed on the second night, announced that breakfast was served until 12 noon at weekends. This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this – I really hate having to wake up at 9am on a Sunday to make it to breakfast just before 10.30pm and was indeed in heaven.

Or was I? I loved our suite, which included a turkish bath, with incredible views of Milan. As I said, I slept like a princess and loved it – every now an then I love a more old-fashioned hotel.

The Westin Palace in Milan

The Westin Palace in Milan

Following a recommendation from another Milanese expert, we walked to 10 Corso Como, which is a seriously cool shop. Located at.. number 10 in Corso Como, it is absolutely worth a visit.

Very impressed by 10 Corso Como

Very impressed by 10 Corso Como

From here, we made our way back to the city centre, taking advantage of the fact that some of Milan’s shops are now open on Sundays (they never were and it was always a pain!). We inspected every single square metre of La Rinascente (which was much better than I remembered) , with just enough time to spare before we met another of our friend’s for brunch at the Armani Cafe.

With my last saffron risotto, it was time to say Ciao, to this incredible city. Which we all know I am so coming back to.

Grazie, Milano!

xo

Mrs. O

 

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to BIT Milano for inviting me to visit the city and the exhibition. I was hosted by the Four Seasons Milan, Westin Palace Milan and the Armani Hotel, which I adored and can’t recommend enough. My opinions are, as always, my own. Grazie mille!

52 Comments

  1. Great article – as always! I am planning a trip in March and now I am even more keen to sort all details our asap. Agree that the Four Seasons is amazing, the rooms, the service, the aperitivo in the stunning bar with authentic parts from the old monastery!!
    Malin recently posted..Comment on Maxim’s City Hall by hautecompassMy Profile

  2. Saedeh /

    I went to Italy but I can’t go to Milan because I don’t have enough time .i really glad for you mrs.o that you can visit Milan , very beautiful place .

  3. Milano is beautiful but near Milano there is another beautiful city… Bergamo!!!
    Every person from Bergamo will tell you that they have had to answer this question at least once in their lives: “Above or below?”
    The question arises automatically outside the city limits because, as everyone is aware, Bergamo is really two cities in one, the Upper or Old City and the Lower or Modern City….
    If you want, you can read here about Bergamo!
    http://www.smartrippin.com/en/citta-alta-e-citta-bassa-i-segreti-di-bergamo/
    Bye Bye!!!

  4. I hope to have a perfect weekend in Milan someday… :)
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: Rooftop view of San DiegoMy Profile

  5. Sounds like the perfect weekend! I was only in Milan’s airport, guess I should go back and actually visit next time. :) I’ll be staying where breakfast i served until 12.
    The World Wanderer recently posted..A Hike with Discover Outdoors.My Profile

  6. I should really spend more time getting to know Milan better one of these days!
    lola recently posted..why i will be returning to Costa BravaMy Profile

  7. Milan looks pretty cool for a town not known for tourism. You definitely sold me on the perfect weekend especially with delicious cocktails served in such a personal style. I think I will try a Traveling Ted up with a twist.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Traveling Ted wins the Chicago Marathon lotteryMy Profile

  8. i went to milan a few years ago and didn’t really enjoy it, but i don’t think i got to see it with as much style and luxury as you, mrs o! definitely have to give it another try now! xo, the wino
    thelazytravelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #38My Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      most people feel the same way, but I promise you’d like this way! Also to be fair, things have changed in the last couple of years.. a lot!

  9. Looks like Mrs O had a VERY busy time in Milano!!!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) recently posted..Safari on Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National ParkMy Profile

  10. Your pictures of Milan look so interesting and I always had the feeling for an ugly and dirt places and the only reason to go to Milan for me was – for the fashion events.

    But when looking on your pictures and reading your review it sounds really interesting and there might be a few hotels I should visit.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and greetings from Munich

    Vanessa
    Vanessa recently posted..Condor at Mexican Embassy Berlin #mexicowithcondor – Blogger EventMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      Oh no, there is a lot more to Milan :) I always used to do the same, go in and out for meetings but one day decided to stay.. and did that ever since!

  11. Aperol Terrazza?! SOLD! I think you know of my love for the Aperol spritz :-) I haven’t been to Milan, and I have to say it’s never come up when planning an Italy itinerary. It looks fab, and of course I’d love to see the Duomo, but maybe too glitzy and luxe for my speed?
    Francesca recently posted..Giving my daughter the gift of travelMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      Francesca, I honestly think you would love it. Milan is for everyone who can give it a bit of love!

  12. i love the hanging hearts
    Hogga recently posted..Surviving the Arctic for IdiotsMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      Had never seen Valentine’s street decorations. I thought they were quite sweet.. on location! Please don’t have them everywhere now!

  13. A city I thoroughly enjoyed walking in. Love apertivo hour too!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Bolivia Salt Flats: Journey from Tupiza (Part 1)My Profile

  14. I hate that I only had 24 hours in Milan. I’m totally taking you with me the next time and show me your perfect weekend first-hand.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Small-Town Nirvana is Found in @TellurideMy Profile

  15. Francis C /

    Love this post, Mrs. O. And with an upcoming trip to Milan, this will be easy to follow. Now the mrs. wants to come too.. all your fault, again!

    Seriously, thank you for your great tips. Also noticed that you mentioned prices, that is very useful (sometimes things are more affordable than people think!)

  16. Francesco /

    Mrs. O, I am so glad you come back to Italia. And that you like it. Most people do not like Milano, but it is my hometown. It is nice and I like it very much. Maybe when people like you write about these places, more people come? My girlfriend loves aperitivo at the Armani hotel. And the cafe, and the Nobu restaurant.

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      I love Italy, Francesco – as I always say, there can’t be enough Italy in one’s life! I love Milan, seriously – and if this post inspires people to consider it, then I have done my job. PS girlfriend has great taste :)

  17. Love this post – Milan is a destination I keep considering and then putting on the backburner. Not for any particular reason! I just never seem to get round to planning a trip! I must get cracking, I think – it seems like it would be my kind of place for a weekend! A fab Sunday read!
    Clare recently posted..So, Where to Next?My Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      Clare, it is a great destination and absolutely perfect for a weekend. Lots to do and see… and eat and buy. Oh my!

  18. Fabio /

    Dear Ana,
    it was a lovely dinner, indeed. Say hello to Mr. O.
    Fabio

  19. A lovely report on Milan. It brought memories of spending a pefect day between a stay in Venice and a train trip to Geneva. Thanks Ana for all your clever insites.

  20. Clara /

    Dear Ana, as usual is great to read your diary, but this time I’ve been totally engaged..thanks a lot. I’m in love with Milan and I’m so happy when I read that an expert traveller like you really appreciates my town. See you next time, Santa Clara :-)

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      My pleasure, Santa Clara. You know that you have always made sure I had a great time in Italy. And Milan is your home turf!

  21. Looks like a lovely weekend! I have always wanted to go to Milan…but have to admit, the amazing shopping districts scare me a little – it would be hard to show restraint! My shoe collection is already requesting a room of their own! :)

    Love the ladies menu. Had never heard of that before! Perhaps not so common in North America?? Will have to keep my eyes open.
    Anita Mac recently posted..Tips for walking the Camino de SantiagoMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      Anita, that used to be the norm in Europe, maybe 20 years ago. Obviously with all the female emancipation it would create a lot of issues. But so much fun. I loved it!

  22. The Westin Palace or the Armani hotel. Why choose? How about both, right?:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Amen Corner – Picture of the WeekMy Profile

  23. I loved Milan and found it quite charming. I just missed you as I was there the week before you. I wrote about it for The Daily Basics. The food was great! I sampled everything from fine dining to local dives and loved it all!
    I am so glad you wrote this post – Milano, one of my fav cities!
    Ciao!
    Priscilla recently posted..Goodbye Métro, So Long Paris Taxi Cabs, Hello SnapCar Paris Travel App!My Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      I know, next time we shall coincide! Milan is truly great! PS. and the dives are the best!

  24. Pedro J /

    Interesting.. I am one of those who thinks Milan is ugly. Let’s see if I have a business trip coming up – I never stay the weekend! Those restaurants look great!

  25. Lucia /

    This is perfect – I am going to Milan in June for a conference (which sadly is at the airport). I have been thinking about staying for the weekend or not, and I am sure I can have a bit of fun. Looks very nice! And thank you for the Aperol recipe – I had seen it but not sure what it was!

    • @mrsoaroundworld /

      So pleased! If you are going there, it is totally worth to stay. I wouldn’t think twice!

  26. John M /

    Hum, never said it crossed my mind to stay in Milan. The Four Seasons looks lovely and I am sure I would like it. And my wife. This is going on the list.

  27. Joanna /

    I am with you, Mrs O. I love Milan – I go every other month for meetings and always try to spend the weekend as it is worth it. I went to Excelsior last time and loved it. Need to try the Hotel Armani – looks wonderful!

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