Being a spotter for Milan for the brilliant Spotted by Locals I had the chance to share my favourite places in the city of Milan with locals and visitors for quite a while. For updated, interesting tips about Milan, go check Spotted by Locals/Milan.
If you are looking for more hidden corners, check out my blog post on the hidden courtyards of via Borgonuovo!
Since I recently moved to Paris, here I decided to make a last tribute to some of my ultimate favourites there.
Located in the corner of via Anfossi with via Cadore, this pizzeria offers more than 70 different types of pizza sottile, pizza with an extremely thin crust. The owners come from Sardegna and on the menu there are some typical sarde creations. Dangerously delicious.
Brera flea market
An excellent place to spend every third Sunday of the month, wandering among the curious stands of the oldest mercato delle pulci of Milan, where antiquarian articles and pieces of art could be an endless source for interior design inspiration. The market is open all day long and could be accompanied by a cone of ice-cream.
One of the most intimate chocolate tastings. Dark green curtain is proecting the gentle chocolate creations from the sunlight, so it does worth to enter the stylish boutique. My attention was always drawn by sweets shaped like objects from a lady’s wardrobe: a polka dot pair of heels, a little flavoured stripped purse. Just like a boudoir of sweet cacao temptations.
Cardinale (men shoes)
Each time when I visited this places I wished I were more than a companion. The little greenish bottega artiginale, an artisan shop guarantees an intimate shopping experience. For more than forty years (the shop opened back in 1970s) the owners have always been demonstrating passion for classic English shoes.
All the pairs are attentively organised by type and colours on elegant wooden shelves. The air is saturated with a scent of leather goods. Models evoke some classics like Church’s Burwood Holes or Westbury. The experience shop-keepers could guess a visitor’s shoe size simply by casting a glance, and trust me, they are always right. The regular clients are kept on record and often addressed by name.
Cargo & High Tech
The store entrance can be found under number 12 in Piazza XXV Aprile, but do not expect to cross the threshold immediately. A gateway is leading the visitors towards a shady courtyard, kept out of sight from the street.
The store itself is situated in a spacious ex-factory like building and only a brief look through the glass door promises more than a regular shopping experience. 2000 square meters of exhibition area, four levels and a labyrinth of paths used to take me on a daydreaming journey for home decoration.
In summer when temperature in Milan went high enough to start bothering my daily walk I liked to take a stroll in via Morgani, where the three crowns shaped a nice green umbrella. There, on the corner with via Broggi I stopped by in the evergreen oasis of Fiori Rosalba
Here the vintage interior acts like a cinematic time wrap: groovy tales in black and red and stylish easy chairs portray its beautiful love affair with a French bistro from the 1950s.
My typical breakfast here happened to be in the company of a forest fruits brioche, a velvety cappuccino and the international issue of the New York Times.
Lunch hours are busier, but I definitely recommend to chose the backyard as a setting for your lunch break. Through a corridor, visitors are taken into a spacious garden, where the vintage mood is enhanced by trees planted in barrels and fabulous red tablecloths.
Opt for the daily vellutata or a vegetable tart. Desserts are all homemade and often served with a pinch of originality. Besides this place always attracts a colorful crowd and definitely stays in the number one place when it comes to an aperitivo in the area.
La Rotonda della Besana
A deconsecrated church turned into a children’s museum.
Laboratori Scala Ansaldo
This place opens back in 2001 when the city municipality gives 20 000 m2 of an old train factory to the La Scala artists. From that moment on, this is the place where the scenography and the costumes of the famous opera performances come to life.
The theatrical scenery is designed all per terra, on the floor.
Visitors are allowed to take a stroll on the terraces above the working areas and witness how the scenography is being created. Real-size woods, walls, dragons and caves made of polystyrene, sand and paint look more than real. All these artistic constructions are prepared for the unique 23m deep elevator system for the scenography of the La Scala which allows the quick change of the decor in between the acts.
Another impressive part of the workshop is the costume department, where a team of skilled designers and tailors take care of the authentic look of the opera singers and ballet dancers. Walking in here I could see the lavanderia, the laundry room where all the garments are attentively cleaned and disinfected after each performance.
Visits are possible only with a guided tour.
Some mornings start with desire for something French and there it comes Marotin.
On the corner with the stylish via Mameli and via Archimede this place somewhat brings the spirit of a little charming Parisian cafè.
The petite parlour, with minty green and creamy white ambient leaves a sensation for a room dressed as a French macaroon. Little stairs show the way up to a cute inner balcony with several more table and a view from above.
It looks like the Marotin staff has mastered the art of cappuccino because I hardly find words to describe the joy of the velvety drink. To complement the cappuccino experience I recommend some of the freshly baked tiny pastries, especially those with an apricot jam.
When alone I usually take one of the marble tables adjacent to the window so that I could read in piece the newspaper or just spend sometime in people watching. By good weather and in a nice company I recommend reposing outside, under the sunshade.
Urban legends say that Maria Callas used to come here for a cup of tea and biscuits before a performance in La Scala. Albert, the prince of Monaco and Hugh Grant also have chosen Taveggia for their breakfast spot in Milan.
Situated between the Courthouse and Duomo di Milano, the legendary coffee-house is welcoming circles of artists, magistrates, politicians and pastry-lovers in an exquisite atmosphere for more than a century.
Curious to know what stays behind the elegant coffeeshop I am told the story of Mr. Fermo Taveggia who back in 1909 decides to turn his bakery in a luxurious confectionary shop. In 1930 Taveggia moves to its current address in Via Visconti di Modrone 2, and becomes a real attraction with its windows, generously decorated with mouth-watering pastries.
Being a coffee lover myself I do not miss opportunity to come here for a breakfast alla milanese with a delicate cappuccino, accompanied by one of the 25 different types of freshly baked brioches.
To make the day special I often go for the emblematic cup-shaped budino di riso, or rice pudding with cinnamon or the miniature macaroons.
I have been always convinced that to get the spirit of the locals, one should first visit the markers. To walk around the full stalls and get lost in aromas, faces and conversations.
A good opportunity to collect impressions for the east part of Milan could be to take a stroll among the stalls of the Thursday market in Via Pietro Calvi.
From early morning lavish stands decorate the street until Piazza Risorgimento, spreading around in some of the crossing streets.
Among the most appreciated goods are the seasonal fruit and vegetable offers, which stand out with exceptional quality. Do not worry if something looks unknown. The courteous sellers are ready to provide all kind of information from botanical explanation to comprehensive cooking directions.
Along the day vendors keep reducing the prices so you could risk going home with an extra basket of greens. House-made cheeses, salt-cured meat, honey, ingredients and spices from all over Italy make you wish lunchtime were closer.
Clothes, shoes and household items for all tastes and needs are not missing, either.
My personal favourite spots appear to be the flower stands where at the lowest price for the area you could get a good selection of plants and a number of advices how to take care of them.
For the best market experience and less crowd visit before 9.
The gelato competition in Milan is tough. In almost every corner there is proud ice-cream producer inviting for a try. But I am always looking for the opportunity to find a homemade ice-cream which also comes easy to digest. Last thing one would like on a hot summer days is to feel heavy with sweat creams.
Here comes my recommendation for an exquisite ice-cream experience: in Office del Gelato in viale Monte Nero. This ice-cream parlour follows and further improves the traditions of a gelato producing which has started back in the 1950s in the province of Cuneo.
Among the flavours I notice some evergreen ones like salty pistachio, stracciatella, nocciola or fiordilatte. But if you are a gelato explorer I highly recommend the light cinnamon flavoured Lotus, the Officine (gianduja and rum), apple with calvados or any of the fruit flavours.
On a hot summer day I usually opt for a granita, the semi-frozen dessert and when hungry I cannot resist in front of brioche con gelato, yes, it’s a brioche filled with an ice-cream. Sometimes on the weekends I treat myself with some of the ice-cream cakes. Pear and chocolate one is irresistible.
I usually stop by here in the afternoon and take my time for this gelato experience. After some time spent in contemplating which flavours to discover this time I sit on the cute benches in front of the parlour, enjoying a cup of amazing ice-cream and some people-watching in the romantic Montero street.
Alberto Marchetti gelateria
There is no better way to get to know Milan, but to be curious. Often architectural beauties remain hidden behind massive wooden gates or high fences and a visitor has to be brave and just sneak in everywhere where doors are not locked. Assuming this practice it is one of my favourite activities to explore the gorgeous courtyards of Milan, when possible.
Like this, in the beginning of Corso Buenos Aires, one of popular shopping areas for youngsters, I take my time to enjoy the entrance of Palazzo Luraschi.
Only meters after the entrance I leave the city bustle and move to Milan in the last decades of 19th century when the building was erected. The courtyard appears to be a museum of urban history itself, since its architect, Ferdinando Luraschi includes in the plan four columns (those one see straight in front from the entrance) from the original construction of Lazaretto, Milanese hospital built in the 15th century.
Visitors are observed: from the walls of the courtyard twelve busts of characters from the famous work of Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) are scrutinising everyone crossing the threshold.
When I look around I see a little well with cast-iron details, when I look up I see the sunlight touching the upper floors of the building: without any doubt one of the most enchanting corners to start discovering Milan.
There is one place in Milan where drawings appear to be at home. In the bright building of Spazio WOW in viale Campania all the comic heroes are welcomed.
I usually stop by here when I am seeking inspiration and some good mood.
First stop is always the library on the first floor. In the roomy space comic lovers will be amazed. Among the exponents there could be noticed comic strips from the 1960s and 1970s until today. Anyone could have a look or read a piece spending there as much time as they want.
The second floor is saved for temporary exhibitions.
The large windows, the high ceilings and the industrial elements remind me that this building used to be a sugar factory in the near past.
The outdoor part of Spazio WOW is also turned into a piece of art. The Dream terrace, accessible from the courtyard is also beautifully decorated with drawings of young Milanese street artists. My favourite one is the image of the Mother Nature, overlooking the yard, created by Nais.
Recently, the entire facade of the museum got decorated with well-known comic characters, as well.
Once I am done with the visit, I do not miss the chance to get something fresh to drink from the bar under the Dream terrace and to enjoy the pirouettes of the skaters nearby.
No doubt there are numerous of places to enjoy Chinese cuisine in the city of Milan. Some prefer more the street food quality, others opt for a more sophisticated location, but there is one place which offers quick authentic Chinese delights in a pleasant atmosphere.
Su Garden in via Carlo Tenca is well-known among locals as one of the best Chinese restaurants in town. The menu reveals pleasant surprises for the those who prefer both more westernised and not this greasy cooking styles, and for those who would like the test their spicy tolerance. I usually ask for the spiciest chicken or seafood dish which comes with a nice bowl of aromatic sticky rice. The asian style salads here are a must.
If you like to experiment, you could become a creator of your own dish as well: the chef gives opportunity to everyone to pick up some ingredients and build the base of their own self-made specialty.
What I like even more about the place appears to be the ambient. Unlike other local asian places Su Garden has a huge fresh welcoming hall and as the name signals – an inside garden which turns into the perfect stage for an asian summer dinner.
Booking is recommended.
Street Galleries of Milan
An year and a half ago when I moved to Milan I was triggered to find out more about the urban culture of the city. Surely, I have started with visiting galleries, discovering local bands, but what I defined as a good underground compass in the urban trends at that time was mainly the street art.
Perhaps for a visitor, the walls of Milan may look more covered with scratchy signs and meaningless messages, but for those willing to understand better the young and active spirit of the city more will pop up.
Some of the most interesting installations to me come from an art team of two ex-students of the Academy of Fine Art. Their name is Urbansolid and perhaps their more recognisable installations for the locals are numerous gigantic noses and ears in jazzy coulours trying to catch the city smells and hear the city rumours. Their works now could be seen in other big European cities.
Another young talented street artist of Milan is Nais, who painted the terrace of Spazio Wow. I am really fascinated with the enchanting and peaceful street fairy tales she creates: children playing together, friendship, harmony and joy is what it streams from her creations.
Good street-art galleries where I like taking a stroll are the area of Navigli or the design street via Tortona.
To get away from the traffic and the urban chaos and to spend some time scrutinising the rooftops of a city is a preferred intimate moment for all travellers. The most common spot the enjoy the central cityscape remains the terrace of Duomo di Milano, but a good spot to get another point of view appears to be the Branca Tower.
It was open to public back in the 1930s as a part of the Triennale design museum which is just nearby. At that time the 108, 6m high tower was known as Torre Littoria and according to the legends Mussolini insisted that the construction should not surpass the highest point of Duomo di Milano.
In the 1970s the torre was renamed after a brand of locally produced liquors which funded its restauration and it was open back to public in the middle of 2000s.
The elevator brings you up almost for seconds and until you realise there is an impressive panoramic view of the entire city in front. One could easily recognise the newer quarter with the recently built skyscrapers, the outline of Duomo or the glaring glass roof of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
I highly recommend getting up in the golden hour, before sunset.
To get away from the traffic and the urban chaos by climbing a higher city point and enjoying the city overview has always been a very preferred moment for myself. No doubt the most common spot to enjoy the central cityscape in Milan remains the terrace of Duomo, I recently got the different point of view by getting up in the Branca Tower.
Situated in the north part of Parco Sempione the Branca Tower rises 108,6 m high and offers an amazing panoramic view towards the entire city. It was open back in 1930s and legends say the Mussolini himself insisted on building the tower a bit lower than the highest point of Duomo di Milano.
The decaying tower was closed in 1970s and after a reconstruction opened again in 2000s.
I enjoy climbing the top in the morning when the sun reflects in the tops of the recently built skyscrapers by Porta Garibaldi or by sunset when Duomo, the glass roof of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Torre Velasca are coated in golden paint.
Via Paolo Sarpi
After a generous dinner in a well-known local Chinese restaurant in the first month of my arrival I found myself taking a stroll in the lovely Via Paolo Sarpi.
I have heard they call it the heart of Chinatown. Stories that the first Chinese ambulant traders were arriving and settling down in this area started to appear in my mind, but I did not know that these days via Paolo Sarpi is one of the international cultural corners of Milan.
Recently turned into a pedestrian zone, the street guarantees a pleasant calm walk and firsthand experience in Italian and Chinese custom and traditions.
Firstly I notice the gorgeous and well-kept Milanese two- and three-floor buildings artistically decorated with red lanterns. The offer is also astonishing: affordable Chinese restaurants, several food markets with delights from all over Asia, jewellery and clothing stores. Adjacent to these under number 19 I come across a famous Italian cappelleria, a hat store which has been here for a century or see people of all nationalities visiting one of the best butcher’s shop in Milan – Macelleria Sirtori.
Occasionally via Paolo Sarpi hosts some cultural events and street festivals as well. In February I got the chance to witness the traditional celebrations of the Chinese New Year in the street and I do recommend to everyone passing by in this time of the yea to check it out. To me via Paolo Sarpi is one of the ingredients for Milan to become a real melting pot.