20 Things Women Should Know About Milan

Featured image: Duomo Cathedral Square, Milan / Photo by Ouael Ben Salah on Unsplash

Milan Travel Tips From a Women’s Perspective

By Simon Falvo, Guest Writer

Travel addict and social media enthusiast, Simon Falvo is an Italian travel writer sharing her wild journeys on her blog Wild About Travel . She is a lover of remote places, nature and wilderness, as well as art and architecture. When she’s not traveling this Journeywoman enjoys spending time in her birthplace, Milan. We asked Simon to tell us about Milan from a woman’s point of view. Here are her 20 tips…

Is Milan safe for a solo women?

Traveling alone as a woman in Milan is not a problem at all. However, Journey Women must practice ‘big city smarts’ as they would do in any big city. It’s good to keep your eyes open, especially to avoid pickpockets. Don’t let suspicious characters get too close (they’re very good at diverting your attention and extremely quick at emptying your purse) and always hold your bag in front of you when you are on public transportation.

Best to use public transportation…

Milan offers an extensive network of public transportation that will bring you to all major attractions. The fastest way to move is the Metro (3 lines), with stops in almost all the most important spots. There are also buses and trams which are however slower as traffic in the city can sometimes be very heavy. The best option if you plan to extensively use public transportation is to buy a daily ticket (Euro 4.50) or a 2-day ticket (Euro 8.25). Taxis are very expensive and apply night surcharges. Furthermore, when the city is crowded due to important trade fairs, finding a taxi at peak hours could be something close to ‘mission impossible’. In this case, your best bet is to rely on the hotel concierge and to book a taxi well in advance.

Lodging…

Milan offers a large amount of luxury hotels but they’re very expensive, especially when the city hosts important trade fairs. Staying at a bed & breakfast is a good option for cheaper accommodation and an excellent way to get lots of insider tips from your local hosts. If you’re a solo traveler and on a budget, the trendy Ostello Bello is a good choice. Centrally located, this hostel also offers private en-suite rooms, meaning that you can have a good level of comfort at a reasonable price in an environment where you can meet other travelers.

Take advantage of bike sharing…

Meandering around the city by bike is a nice alternative way to discover Milan, and bike-sharing has become rather popular even with Milan locals. There are now many stations throughout the city where you can take or leave your bike. The system is not the most user-friendly, though, especially for tourists. You must subscribe to the BikeMi service online and only afterwards will you be able to help yourself at one of the 128 bike stations. Beware, however, that there are still only a limited number of bicycle lanes so you may have to ‘throw yourself’ into Milan traffic.

Exclusive fashionista paradise…

Milan is often known as the ‘Fashion Capital’ and the city offers everything a fashion victim can desire. The best area to spot the most famous brands is the so-called ‘Quadrilatero della Moda’, comprising Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Via S. Andrea. Even if you don’t plan any shopping (everything is hugely expensive), the streets are lovely and the shops beautiful, especially around Christmas time when the shop-windows display the best of Italian creativity. For a special treat, make a stop at Pasticceria Cova for a coffee or a drink at one of the most exclusive café’s in Milan where it’s not unusual to spot celebrities.

Holiday shopping in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy

Holiday shopping in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan / Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash 

Moderately priced shopping…

There’s nothing like Corso Buenos Aires for affordable shopping. Along the street you’ll find any kind of retail chains and smaller shops and boutiques able to satisfy every need. Clothes at Zara and H&M, bags and other leather accessories at Furla, shoes at Marilena and Geox, perfumery and make-up at Limoni and Douglas, and lots more.

Moderately priced lingerie…

In Milan, you don’t need to spend a fortune to treat yourself to some nice lingerie or fashionable swim suits. Retail chains like Tezenis and Intimissimi provide a wide choice of delightful and original lingerie as well as, in season, swim suits at moderate prices. Beware! Once you’re in their shops, it’s impossible not to buy at least one item.

Best hairdressers in Milan…

If you fancy a new hair cut or a special look, Tony and Guy in Via Vincenzo Monti is the right place. They are nice people, creative and very professional. You’ll step out looking brand new, with beautiful healthy hair. For the top end of hair-styling, your best choice is Coppola, the most glamorous and expensive hairdresser in Milan. Lots of Italian celebrities rely on them for their look.

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The best of design…

After fashion comes design, for which Milan is also renown. Pay a visit to Driade at Via Manzoni 30, a beautiful show-room displaying some of the best design pieces in a wonderful old building. Then head to Corso Europa, carrying some of the best brands in interior architecture. Design lovers shouldn’t miss the Triennale, hosting the Design Museum, as well as several temporary exhibitions. There’s also a lovely restaurant for a quick lunch, and a cafeteria in the park where one can have a drink when the weather is mild.

Best Museums…

If you have to chose only one museum while you are in my city, go and visit the Museo del Novecento. Overlooking the Cathedral square, this modern museum displays great works of art of Italian artists from the end of the 19th Century onwards. Additionally, from the wide glass panelled windows you can enjoy a superb view on the square and the Duomo. Other museums worth a visit are the Design Museum and the Pinacoteca di Brera. Although this latter cannot be compared to the great museums in Rome, Venice and Florence, it displays some wonderful works from the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance.

Bonus Tip: Time for dessert...

Ice cream shops and bars are very popular and finding out about the best ones is a hard task for visitors. As a local, lately, my favorite place is Grom, a small chain owning several outlets across the city. The place has become so popular that you’re likely to have to queue, but it’s well worth the time. P.S. Their ice cream is gluten free. 
Address: Via Santa Margherita 16

Navigli, Milan’s hipster neighbourhood…

Immerse yourself in the hipster atmosphere along the Navigli, the only two canals left in Milan. The area pulses with life, restaurants, bars and little shops and offer a totally different vibe. If you happen to be in Milan on the last Sunday of the month, don’t miss a browse at the famous Antique Markets along the canals.

Bargain hunting at flea markets…

The most popular flea market in Milan is on Viale Papiniano, on Tuesday and Sunday. There you’ll find any kind of food, clothes, shoes and various objects. Another good choice is the flea market on Via Losanna, also on Tuesday and Sunday, where you can often find great bargains on clothes and shoes.

The trendy neighbourhood of Navigli, Milan

The trendy neighbourhood of Navigli, Milan / Photo by Siavash on Unsplash

Trendy Corso Como…

Along Corso Como, one of the few pedestrian areas in Milan, you can enjoy a stroll looking at the trendy cafés and shops. Don’t miss the fashionable 10 Corso Como Cafè for a drink on the lush patio and have a look at the inside showroom as well as the the photography exhibitions taking place regularly in the building. A good nearby place for shopping – everything design, from small items to furniture – is HighTech on Piazza XXV Aprile, 12. Closed Sundays.

Outlets offer big brands, small prices…

Are you sighing when looking at some Italian fashion brands and thinking you’ll never be able to afford them? To make your dream come true, your best bet is going to a big outlet, like the one at Serravalle Scrivia. The Serravalle Designer Outlet is like a village where you’ll find many of the most famous brands in fashion and design at lower prices. You can easily reach the outlet thanks to the shuttle bus driving customers from Milan to Serravalle Scrivia twice a day. Bus fee: 20 Euro.

Happy hour…

In Milan, Happy Hour is called aperitivo and it has become one of the most typical traits of local life in the city. From approximately 6 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. people gather for fix-priced drinks which includes offerings from a buffet. In fact, often aperitivo is a cheap alternative to dining out. Due to its popularity most bars now offer Happy Hour but the quality of the buffet is not always the best. In general terms, it’s better to avoid the bars close to the Duomo – most of which are very expensive and of poor quality. An exception is the rooftop terrace bar on the seventh floor of La Rinascente shopping mall, offering a beautiful close-up view on the Cathedral. Fashionable and trendy, the Roialto café offers one of the best Happy Hours in Milan. Far from the touristy spots, it is mostly populated with locals and it’s not uncommon to see famous models there. Address: Via Piero della Francesca 55. Bus routes: 1, 14, 19, 33

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Be aware of extra costs for table service…

Whenever you stop at a bar or a café for a drink or a snack and sit at a table, look first at the price list to see how much the place surcharges for table service. In many cases, there’s only a little difference but at the cafés in the center or in fashionable places the surcharge can be rather high. Take care!

Street food…

Luini is a small bakery in a narrow street (Via S. Radegonda 16) close to Milan’s Cathedral, where you can buy the best panzerotti of your life – this is fried dough, crusty outside and fluffy inside, filled with mozzarella cheese and tomato. At Luini, panzerotti are baked in real-time so you’ll eat them still hot and at their best to enjoy the flavours.

The best family-style trattoria and pizza…

Traditional family trattoria in Milan have almost disappeared to leave space for more fashionable, modern restaurants but there are however a few left, usually open at lunch time. You’ll find traditional Italian dishes in a simple environment at Trattoria Sabbioneta (Via Tadino 32) as well as at the Trattoria Burla Giò (Via S. Giovanni Sul Muro). Ask for the daily specials or the jewels in the menu and you’ll get advice for the best possible food choices. While pizza is ubiquitous, you’ll find the real pizza in the traditional Napoli style at the pizzeria Rita e Antonio (Via Puccini 2), by many considered the best authentic pizzeria in Milan.

Reasonably priced restaurants…

Milan is an expensive city and finding nice restaurants serving good food at reasonable prices is not always easy. A few good options I’d like to recommend include: Marcellino Pane e Vino at Corso Sempione 82 (stylish, quiet, traditional-creative cuisine and a great choice of wines), and La Cantina di Manuela (wine bar at two locations serving select high end local food products).

The beautiful architecture at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The beautiful architecture at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II / Photo by Daryan Shamkhali on Unsplash

Must-see attractions…

You haven’t seen Milan if you don’t go and visit the Duomo, Milan’s Cathedral, with its thousands of sculptures and the magnificent surrounding square. Inside, the interior is imposing and will leave you speechless. And if there’s good weather, I strongly recommend going up on the roof. Despite being rather expensive, it’s really worth it. The best time of the day is just before sunset, when the marble gets colored in yellow and then pink. Facing the Duomo, on your left, you’ll find the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the shopping arcade dating back to the 19th Century with its stunning iron and glass vaulted roof and the sculptures adorning the galleries. Have a stroll, sip a coffee or, even better, an apéritif at the historical Camparino café and just immerse yourself in what is called ‘Milan’s drawing-room’.

Another must-see attraction is Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Reservations are a must since only small groups are allowed in at the same time. You’ll see the mural painting whose iconography was used as the central theme by Dan Brown in his best-seller, The Da Vinci Code. Next, see the adjacent Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, with its beautiful architecture and superb frescoes. Other things that shouldn’t be missed are the beautiful Loggia dei Mercanti (near the Cathedral), a small and intimate loggia, surrounded by beautiful ancient buildings, the romanesque Church of S. Ambrogio and a walk along Corso Venezia to admire the elegant buildings and spot the beautiful courtyards.

Enjoy Milan, everybody!

Bonus Tip: English language cinema...

Are you tired of hearing Italian only? Longing for a bit of English? I thought you should know that there’s a program for movies in original language (mostly, but not exclusively, in English) going on at three cinemas. On Monday it’s happening at Cinema Anteo, on Tuesday Arcobaleno Film Center and on Thursday Cinema Mexico. There! Do you feel better now?

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