Meet Mary, a student and writer living in Milan. If you’ve been paying attention, you may remember my own brief trip to Milan over the summer. Mary recently offered to write an insider’s perspective of Italy’s most fashionable city and I was thrilled to accept.  Enjoy!

Everybody knows the obvious stops to make in Milan: visiting the Duomo, the painting of the last supper, going on a shopping tour (or at least doing some window-shopping) including the famous luxury store “La Rinascente” and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, seeing the famous opera house called “Scala”, and wandering the canals of the Navigli district.

Many locals like to enjoy the atmosphere of the little Navigli district after work, which feels a little bit like being in Venice. Decades ago, one could see a lot more of these canals, being a rapid way for delivering goods and getting around in the city. Nowadays, they were substituted with asphalt, cars and bigger streets. it’s truly a pity… However, if you want to have an aperitivo, the Navigli district is one of the best locations in the town, you will find a lot of nice and stylish bars here!

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Milan for design victims

In general, being a city located in the north of Italy with lower temperatures, Milano has developed a special beauty INSIDE its buildings – if you are a fan of interior design, this city should be worth a visit. Not many people know the building called “bosco verticale” (vertical forest) near the station of Porta Garibaldi that won several design prizes. It consists of two higher apartment buildings, with each floor completely surrounded with balconies with real trees, so that the buildings seem completely green from outside and give an appearance of a real vertical forest. Stefano Boeri is the architect of this project, and here is the link to his site where you can find more information regarding this innovative architectural creation. A fact nearly nobody knows: beneath the buildings you can find the HQ of Google Italy.

Old Duke Sforza’s Castle

One of the most interesting and relaxing afternoons you can spend in Milan is strolling around the Castello Sforzesco. Many tourists usually don’t bother to visit it inside, but I can tell you that it’s really worth the money. When arriving there, you will notice its imposing structure and beautiful garden. The structure that one can see today was built by the Duke of Milan Francesco Sforza on the remains of the previous fortification in the 15th century. It was enlarged later on, making it one of the biggest citadels in Europe. It is a huge quadrangular fortress surrounded by a moat with large towers and complete with a magnificent drawbridge.

The fountain at the entrance of Castello Sforzesco

The fountain at the entrance of Castello Sforzesco

It is free to enter the grounds of the structure, but the museums located within have a fee. In the upper floor of the museum you will be able to gaze at amazing frescos, murals, carvings and sculptures all from the time then the castle was used to protect the city.

beautiful arcs of Castello Sforzesco

beautiful arcs of Castello Sforzesco

fresco inside of the castle

fresco inside of the castle

You can also visit the Museum of Ancient Art, which houses Michelangelo’s sculpture Rondanini Pietà that was the last one he ever created. Here is the link to the castle’s official site.

The “Original” Campari bar

As you might know, Campari is a drink invented in Italy. In fact, it was invented in Novara (near Milan), and in 1915 its inventor Davide Campari opened the first Campari Bar. Where? In Milan, of course, at the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  The bar is called “Camparino“, and if you want to try the authentic Italian Campari, you should go there. Re-opened in 2013, the bar offers some of the best Negroni you will ever find. That’s a real insider’s tip – so cheers!  Here is the link to the bar, with the pictures of the bar and the event list. The place is situated under the arch, you can find it on the left of the big arch of the gallery.

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The Brera District

Last but not least! You may have noticed that Milan is not a typical Italian city many tourists imagine it to be – with small streets and laundry drying on the lines across the streets, but there is one little district in Milan called Brera, which has the atmosphere of a more traditional Italy. Milanese love to go there in the evenings, as the area hosts a huge number of little restaurants and bars. You can also find shops with local food, bookshops, and shops of upcoming designers. Everything here just seems a little bit more “normal”… and this is what we appreciate!

The “restaurant street” Via Fiori Chiari in Brera, image courtesy of Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip) , CC BY-SA 2.0

The “restaurant street” Via Fiori Chiari in Brera, image courtesy of Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip) , CC BY-SA 2.0

The last comment to finish my article: pay attention to when you visit Milan. There are lots of fairs taking place in the city, and also if it seems to be a big city – it isn’t really. To avoid paying too much for your accommodation, I suggest you to check the prices on sites such as the Italian Venere.com, permitting to compare the various solutions. A nice and safe area where one can stay in Milan, in my opinion, is located near the metro stations Porta Venezia and Lima. This area has another convenient aspect: here you will find one of the most famous streets of Milan for a nice AND affordable shopping tour, called Corso Venezia! In this neighborhood you can also find some of the few remaining old trams – try them, they are really nice, both inside and out.

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I wish you a beautiful, stylish and interesting Milan stay!