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The Galleria in Milan.

GoNOMAD Destination Mini Guide: Milan

By Jennifer Leebove

Why Go?

It's the door to the rest of Italy. Get on a train after a day in Milan and head to many of the other historic cities Italy has to offer.

When to go

Best time to come is in Spring.

How To Get There

Many of the travelers flying to Italy stop in Milan first, because there are many cheap flights to this financial hub.

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From the Malpensa airport take the 50 minute shuttle bus that leaves every 20 mins to the Central Station; either check your bags at the station or hop on the metro to get to your hotel.

There are 4 metro lines and a ride costs 1 Euro, pick up your ticket at one of the machines in the Metro. Once you get to the historic center, you can pretty much tour the city on foot.

Best Attractions

The Last Supper fresco by Leonardo da Vinci, Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Pinacoteca di Brera, Brera District; it's a pedestrian artsy neighborhood and a great place for a cafe, Public Gardens, and Sforzesco Castle.

Best Unusual Attraction

A great way to get to know Milan is to go to the Public Gardens and watch the dogs play. Most people don't know this about Milan, but they love Happy Hour, 6-9, half price drinks and a great spread of pasta, cheeses and pizza slices await many of the locals after work. One of the best Happy Hours is in Brera.

Best Activity Guide

I would say that Milan is overall a working city, it lacks the piazza's, meeting points, but there is a lot to see and everything is within walking distance; take a walking tour through the historic distri Trattoria Toscana -- Corso di Porta Ticinese, 58 02/89406292 for reservations. American Brunch on Sunday at Indiana Post for reservations 02/58112220. Fabbrica Pizzeria -- Alaia Naviglio Grande, 70 no reservations available. Cantina Della Vetra -- Via Pio IV, 3 on the corner Piazza Vetra in Ticinese.

For reservations call 02/89403843 If you get a chance to eat seafood, strangely enough, the locals say you get the best seafood in Milan, delivered fresh daily. I recommend trying the muscles, calamari and shrimp. Delicious!

Best Cultural Entertainment

In late Spring and early summer, the Navigli District shuts off traffic and you can stroll and eat or drink outside at many of the restaurants and bars. Be sure to visit the local market, the biggest in Milan on Saturday at Via Papiniano or the expansive Antique Market in Naviglio Grande on the last Sunday of every month.

Best Local Haunt

Happy Hour is the way to go in Milan. My favorite happy hour is in Brera from 5-9, drinks are half price and as much as you can eat worth of cheeses, pizza, pasta and salad. Have a beer under the stars near San Lorenzo alle Colonne with the other locals.

Best Shopping

There are three great areas to shop in. Supposedly the longest shopping strip in Europe is in Milan, Corso Buenos Aires. Here you'll find all the typical affordable Italian stores, such as Benetton, Stefanel, Conipel and more. For upscale designer wear from Gucci, Prada etc, go to Via Montenapolone.

Lastly, near the Duomo you'll find Corso Vittorio Emanuele, this strip also has great shops. I especially like Zara, an internationally acclaimed Spanish label, they have great bargains and European style. Something important to note about Shopping, Milan has two offical sales periods of up to 20-50% off, one at the end of July, and the other starting on January 10th.

Money and Communication

I recommend that you use your ATM card for taking out money. It will be more economical than paying all those crazy surcharges for changing cash to Euros. If you need to make a phone call, buy the phone card at a newspaper stand, sometimes it's hard to find a phone because everyone uses cell phones, the best bet is to always head for the metro, down below there are always two or three phone booths and it's pretty quiet.

For long-distance phone calls, I recommend buying the "Euro Card" for 5 Euros at newsstands, it's a bargain. You'll need to make your calls from a phone booth or the hotel.

Anything Else

Don't miss Leonardo da Vinci's world-famous fresco, you have to reserve to see it, so it's best to book in advance. Operators speak English, from abroad, phone +39.02.8942.1146. Tipping: you don't need to tip taxi drivers or waiters.

Most restaurants give a 2 Euro charge for bread, it's called coperto. Everyone thinks of cappuchino when they think of Italy, try one of Milan's alternative versions, a small cappucino, cappuco (if you want to sound like a native) called Maroquino. Clothing wise, if you want to fit in, think New York.

If you speak Italian look into the online entertainment guide from Italy's most substantial newspaper, Corriere Della Sera, at vivimilano.corriere.it or pick up the insert on Wednesdays.

Thinking about moving to Milan or want to get up to date on all the red-tape? Here's a great site, informer.it/index.asp Get a weekly weather forecast and check out the weather before you come at intellicast.com.


Jennifer Leebove writes from Milan.


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