Milan may be Italy’s fashion capital, but don’t let its reputation for style distract you — the northern city is home to some of the country’s best art galleries and museums for modern and contemporary art. On top of that, it’s quietly hosting a burgeoning restaurant renaissance as well. With only 48 hours to explore it all, here’s the best way to sample a bit of everything.
The first thing you’ll want to do upon arrival is park your bags at the fabulous Hotel Principe di Savoia — don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the luxurious property a bit later — and grab a set of wheels from BikeMi, Milan’s citywide bike-sharing program (sign up in advance), to go over to the Piazza del Duomo. The Museo del Novecento there has an incredible collection of Italian art from the late 1880s to the end of the 20th century. Keep your eyes out for The Quarto Stato, the epic Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo painting that sets the stage for Italy’s turn-of-the-century social revolution. After admiring the pieces, make your way to the Duomo, Milan’s gothic cathedral, before 6 p.m., for a walk (or elevator ride) up to the rooftop to view the city and take in a sunset through the 18th-century spires.
Once you freshen up back at your room, head out for an evening in Navigli, Milan’s nightlife neighborhood of quaint canals, great cocktail bars and amazing restaurants. Carlo e Camilla in Segheria is the area’s latest dish. The shabby-chic spot — with long family-style tables illuminated by Venetian chandeliers — is in a former woodworking factory. Acclaimed chef Carlo Cracco created an enviable menu of contemporary Italian cuisine that includes dishes such as spaghetti alici, lime e caffè (spaghetti with anchovies, green onions, lime and coffee), and riso al salto, acqua di pomodoro, stracciatella e basilico (a kind of flipped risotto with tomato, stracciatella cheese and basil). Navigli is charming, so walk around the area for more neighborhood flavor before finally making your way to Mag Cafè, a place known for top-notch cocktails from bartenders Flavio and Matteo.
Hotel Principe di Savoia
If you’re an early riser, head to Principe di Savoia’s rooftop fitness area, Club 10, for a morning run, swim or sauna. Keep in mind, Club 10 has a spa that offers face and body treatments — the reflex zone massage sounds especially appealing after so much walking the day before — that will be great for an afternoon relaxation session. If you are ready for breakfast, the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant, Acanto, overflows with delicious foods, including local jams and honey, breads and salmon. Acanto’s chefs are also in tune with guests who have dietary concerns.
For a glimpse at 1930s Milan, trek over to Villa Necchi, a beautiful private-home-turned-museum designed by Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, and used as a backdrop in Luca Guadagnino’s 2009 film I Am Love. After taking in the sights, head over to your noon appointment at Santa Maria della Grazie to see Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Il Cenacolo (The Last Supper). You must make a reservation to see the mural. Visits last only 15 minutes so, if you are a serious art aficionado, book two back-to-back sessions. If it’s a sunny day, plan to picnic in Parco Sempione. Otherwise, have pranzo (lunch) at LadyBù, a great bistro with a focus on mozzarella along with traditional risotto and pasta.
Of course, there is no Milan without fashion, so plan on spending the entire afternoon walking around Via Montenapoleone and the surrounding streets. This is the city’s fashion epicenter with haute couture’s favorite names (Gucci, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo) running up and down the manicured roads.
You’re going to need a break from the shopping eventually. When that happens, step into Cova, one of the city’s oldest cafés and a constant social scene. The desserts are divine (try the budino di riso, or rice pudding) and cocktails are stylish (like the Negroni sbagliato, which swaps prosecco for gin in the classic Italian drink), but you’re there for the people-watching. Note: Cova is cash only so make sure to hit the ATM before arriving.
Swing back to the hotel and make sure to rest up. Dinner will be across town at Wicky’s, a modern Japanese restaurant led by chef Wicky Priyan who, interestingly enough, holds a criminology degree from his home country of Sri Lanka. We know what you are thinking — “A Japanese restaurant from a Sri Lankan chef in Italy?” The fact is that Milan is undergoing a food revolution with a slew of amazing, international restaurants, led by creative chefs, popping up all over. Spend the evening admiring the culinary grace, unless, of course, you have hard-to-score tickets for a production at La Scala.
Photos Courtesy of iStock, Markus Mark and Principe di Savoia