Claudia Flisi's Milan

Written by  Claudia Flisi

Claudia Flisi, WR's most prolific horse riding expert, comes from the gorgeous, stylish, colourful, tasty city of Milan, lucky thing that she is!  So her advice on what to see, what to eat, what to do and how to behave is priceless.

We're very lucky to be able to feature that home grown advice and local knowledge here, in her responses to our Questionnaire for Experts, Bloggers and other Travel Knowledgeables.

Where's your home town, and what's the main reason people visit? 

Milan.  Most people who visit here are business travelers,  as Milan is the business and finance capital of Italy, and is one of the most important trade fair centers as well.

What's the main reason you think people SHOULD be visiting?

Since Milan is in Italy, there is plenty of culture, cuisine, style and shopping – more than you will find in most other Italian cities.

If you had to recommend to the friend of a friend one unmissable thing to do in your home town what would it be?

For music lovers, a visit to La Scala.  

For lovers of art, the Poldi Pezzoli. For shopaholics,  the sacred area defined by Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga.

For foodies, well, the list is too long . . . ..

If they had a whole day in town what would you recommend they do?

In the morning, culture!  Start at the Duomo, the 14th century cathedral that represents the heart of the city.  Explore the adjoining Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, built in 1861, a prototype for today’s enclosed shopping malls.  

The Galleria leads to La Scala, Mecca for music lovers worldwide.  You can line up for last-minute tickets sold the day of the performance (good luck) or tour the museum.

Lunchtime:  Bagutta, Via Bagutta 14, a five-minute walk from the Duomo, for a trattoria frequented by the city’s intelligenzia.

Afternoon:  young fashionistas should head for the Brera district for the boutiques and style setters who frequent them.  Located northwest of the Duomo (Metro L 2: Lanza),  this former working class neighborhood features apparel and shoe stores as well as  boutiques for curios and objets d’arte.  Older fashion fanatics should stick to  the world–renowned shopping district called the Quadrilatero: Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga as bookends, crossed by Via Sant’Andrea and Via Borgospesso (Metro 3: Montenapoleone).  

Design lovers will want to walk the area around San Babila (Metro L 1: San Babila)., with its plethora of cutting edge furniture and lighting stores.  Within a few hundred meters are the flagship stores of world leaders in furniture and lighting objects, including Arteluce (Via Borgogna 2), Artemide (Corso Monforte 19),  Cassina (Via Durini 18), and De Padova (Corso Venezia 14).

Others are scattered throughout the city; names can be culled from the pages of Domus and Abitare magazines available in bookstores and kiosks.Dinner:  tradition reigns at Boecc, Piazza Belgioioso, 2, an easy walk from any of the afternoon pursuits.

Night: the Naviglio area lights up with bars, restaurants and night spots. Like Brera, it  is a working–class area that has gentrified into a haven for yuppies and intellos.  The Navigli were originally waterways that flowed through the city; most have been covered over but two canals, located in the southeastern part of Milan, remain open.  Today they form the nexus of a nightlife with considerably more sparkle than the dank aquatic passageways themselves.

What if they had three days?

Day Two: am:  Visit the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (Metro L 2: Sant’Ambrogio), as Saint Ambrose is the city’s patron saint.  He was known for his personal integrity, keen intelligence, and diplomatic skills (the honey–based liquor known as ambrosia is a reminder of his persuasive eloquence).   The Basilica was founded by the bishop between 379 and 386,  and is flanked by a 9th century Benedictine monastery that became one of the most important in Europe for its time.  The museum’s treasures include tapestries and precious fabrics dating back to the 4th century.

Lunch:  Corso Como 10 at the eponymous address (Metro L 2: Garibaldi).It is very Japanese in feel, with an assortment of clothes, furniture and objects that are ultra–refined and brilliantly presented.  Since it is also a café, it does not close at lunchtime:   business people often go there to admire the beautiful merchandise on display and the beautiful people browsing them.

pm:  Art afternoon! The Pinacoteca di Brera (Via Brera 2) is considered to be one of the world’s major art collections. Its masterpieces include works from the Renaissance and Old Masters of later periods –– with paintings by van Dyck, Reubens and Rembrandt as well as Italian artists.  The Poldi Pezzoli (Via Manzoni 12, Metro L 3: Montenapoleone or Turati) is  a jewel of a museum, with the feel of a private home rather than a public institution. Founder Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli (scion of a distinguished Milanese family of the 19th century) arranged his home around his art collection, gearing the color and style of each room to the artworks exhibited in them.  

The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Piazza Pio XI 2, Metro L 1 and 3: Duomo), like the Poldi Pezzoli, began as as an art lover’s private collection.  In the early 1600s, Cardinal Federico of Milan assembled a group of paintings, drawings, and manuscripts, and grouped them in a building designed ad hoc for this collection.

Night:  Tickets for La Scala or one of Milan’s theatres, such as the New Piccolo Teatro made famous by the late Giorgio Strehler and the Carcano on Porta Romana, sometimes featuring performances by Nobel prize winner Dario Fo.

Day Three:

am:  Visit a street market. One is held every morning except Sunday in a different zone of the city and, amidst the clutter and bric–a–brac, designer clothes and shoes can be purchased at incredible discounts.  The Tuesday and Saturday market on Viale Papiniano (Metro L 2: St. Agostino) draws a large crowd, as does the Saturday–only Senigallia market (via Calatafimi, nearest Metro L 3: Missouri).  Sunday shoppers may want to check out the "Borsino della Filatelia e della Cartolina" (stamp and postcard market) in Cordusio Arcade (Metro L 1 & 3:  Duomo), a paradise for stamp collectors.

Lunch:  picnic lunch in the park of Castello Sforzesco, either panini or a proper repas purchased at Peck  (Via Victor Hugo 4, Metro L. 1, Cordusio), the most famous gourmet food store in the city.

pm:  a tour of the Castello and its grounds.  The castle was commissioned by the Sforza family in 1450 and was embellished by, among others, Leonardo da Vinci.   Its museums include changing exhibits and an impressive arms collection.

What will you never catch a local doing?

Ordering a capuccino AFTER lunch or dinner.

What WILL you catch a local doing?

Stopping for an aperitivo at Cova on Via Montenapoleone around 7 pm.

And what local delicacies would visitors be fools not to try while they're there?

 Osso buco, cotoletta milanese and risotto milanese.  In the winter, panettone.   In the summer, gelato.  At any time of year, cafe and vino.

In 140 characters, how would you sum up your home town as a great destination?

The glamour and charm of la dolce vita – stylish people, sleek design, sophisticated nightlife – wrapped in the efficiency of northern Europe.

Just some of the highlights of Milan:

From her home in Italy, Claudia has ridden on five continents, from sea level (in Australia) to 5,000 meters (Kyrgyzstan). On horseback, she has chased bulls in Ecuador, dodged cobras in India, and avoided elephants in Botswana. On her own two feet, she has climbed Uluru and camped in Cappadoccia. When not travelling, Claudia writes about business and culture for the International Herald Tribune and many other publications, and for corporate clients ranging from Apple (computers) to Zegna (clothing). She shares her life with an Italian husband, two multicultural sons, a bilingual dog, and two blogs about expat life

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