A Local’s Guide to Milan

New York Fashion Week is drawing to a close just as Milan Fashion Week is gearing up. But you don’t have to be fashionista to get the most out of Milan. There’s a lot more to this city than just couture and shows. Local Lavinia Pisani shares her favorite experiences. 

First-timers traveling to to Italy’s second largest city shouldn’t miss out on the classic sites: In the heart of the city,  Italy’s largest Gothic-inspired cathedral is a must see. Milan is also home to one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the world-renowned Scala Theatre, and the pinnacle of Italian architecture, the 15th century Sforza Castle.

Milan_SforzaInside_LPisaniThe best way to get around Milan using public transportation. Cabs are very expensive and traffic is often congested. So, check out the ATM (Azienda Trasporti di Milano) website where you can get access to daily or weekly passes.

Now that you know how to move around, it’s time to go to Brera, the artistic neighborhood. Once there, you can start to lose yourself in the narrow and stone-paved streets such as Via Fiori Chiari. When you cross Via Brera, you can easily reach the main public gallery, the Pinacoteca di Brera with its timeless paintings and statues.

This neighborhood is also famous for its family-owned restaurant Latteria San Marco since its opening in 1965. Take an hour of your visitor time to indulge in traditional Milanese food, which is prepared by the family owners Maria and Arturo.

Another dandy area of the city is Navigli. Explore the culture of vintage shops and flea markets on Via Alzaia Naviglio Grande. The best day to go there, is the last Sunday of the month. Located in a beautiful setting near the canal, the flea market crowds will enrich you with a genuine local experience.

Milan_SforzaGaribaldi_LPisaniAmong the many restaurants there, the most popular are El Brellin , Posto di Conversazione and Osteria Gnocco Fritto.

Coming from Navigli, it is easy to reach the city’s famous shopping street, Corso di Porta Ticinese. Walking all the way down this street, you will approach Colonne di San Lorenzo, a Roman ruin in the heart of the city. Because of the 2015 Expo Milan will host, the major railway station, Porta Garibaldi, will provide a vivid contrast to the Roman ruins.

Rising skyscrapers characterize the city’s presence of a contemporary city. Even the atmosphere in the air  here is different from the historic center that surrounds Piazza degli Affari, the quarter of the Italian stock market with its curious statue.

The city’s historic library, Biblioteca Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is another great place to stop. Here you can get a glance at some of world’s famous paintings, from Caravaggio and Da Vinci. The setting of Da Vinci’s  “The Last Supper” can be found at Cenacolo but prior ticket reservation is required.

If you would like to eat like a local Milanese, be sure not to miss Luini’s panzerotto, which has been popular since 1988. Princi is another famous bakery where you could stop to have focaccia or pizza. In a mood for a sandwich? Panino Giusto is legend since 1979. However, if you are looking for something unique, DeSantis will be the right choice. Last but not least, go to Arco della Pace to take advantage of their happy hour.

If you enjoy Museums, go to: Triennale Design Museum, The Sforza Castle Museum, La Scala Museum, Museo del Novecento, The Science Museum, or Museo del Risorgimento. If you are under 25, always ask for student or youth discounts and sometimes you will get a free pass.

A useful website to check to discover events and more is Vivi Milano (in Italian)

By Lavinia Pisani for PeterGreenberg.com. Lavinia is a journalist and photographer who is a native of Milan.  Follow her on Twitter @LaviniaPisani.