Over the years, I’ve heard contrasting grips and praises by Italians for Milan. From being the “grey” city to the epicenter for contemporary culture in Italy. I love a big city, as I come from one and at that, one which also has a reputation for being grey and rainy. In case you are new to this blog, you should see how I feel about fashion when Vogue came through Florence. Ironically enough and despite my intentional ignorance for fashion and incapability to wear high heels, I love Milan.
Currently, I’m mulling over Florence’s state of the dining art, and its eroded culinary scene. I adore many restaurants in Florence, and there are some interesting players here, but fine dining and creative fusion is more that 15 years behind the rest of Europe and to similar Italian cities like Rome and Milan. Granted, these are megalopolises in comparison but Florence has a lot of limelight to take pride in. It’s embarrassing how much more it could offer to diners and how much potential the food scene has.
This is why I love Milan. It is pulsing with good energy, it’s bustling, you feel like you are actually in Europe, there are people filling the streets even outside of high tourist season months. There are promising craft cocktail lounges and speakeasies. And most of all, there is a dining scene which is a worthy contender in the European culinary arena.
If you are a foodie, a cocktail enthusiast and a craft beer lover- Milan is worth a day trip from Florence. With a fast trains, you can get there in under 2 hours and be eating gourmet risotto at Cesare Battisti’s Ratana by lunch and sipping a To Fly jetsetter cocktail at Mag Cafe along the Navigli with a personal charcuterie board aperitivo in the stylish Navigli district before heading back to Florence in the evening.
In the end of November, when the weather still crisp and sunny with Fall- I made a jet flash jaunt for 24 hours. Without fail, on every occasion I go to Milan from Florence, I get a little hit of culture shock, a visual shake from the little Medieval/Renaissance village with bells frozen in time.
In 24 hours in Milan from Florence, you can do the following:
Start out with a buffet brunch and drinks at Refettoria Via dell’Orso, 2 in the artsy, hipster-y district of Brera. They have a whole angle dedicated to baked goods in addition to their hot bar buffet of risotto, charcuterie, eggs, petite savory bites of polenta or puff pastry, quiches and more. Access to the buffet is 30eu and includes drinks. Not into buffets? Pop over nearby to a luscious Farage on Via Brera, 5 for a cappuccino and a luxury chocolate based creation featuring confections by Alessandro Servida.
Work off those carbs and head across town to the Fabbrica del Vapore. This is a contemporary events space and expo hall for rotating activities such as the Panettone fair in late-November I
visited crammed through like a sardine or the current running Young Artists Biennale. Strangely enough, at the Panettone fair (Repanettone) the best panettone was made by Campania-based baker Sal de Riso. The one who struck my sweet tooth the most was the limoncello cream panettone made with prized Amalfi Coast lemons.
Jump on the super efficient Metro and head over to the Garibaldi area to check out Corso Como Milano, a concept complex with boutique fashion shops, designer finds, a rotating photography gallery, modern book shop (a danger for coffee table book collectors), and a rooftop terrace for a chill or a drink. Hit up Cafe Gorille to get a caffeine refuel post Corso perusing.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite yet again, wind up the day with a visit to the Navigli for a self-guided Aperitivo crawl. I suggest you dwell at Pinch on Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 63 for their Aperitivo bite platter with a vintage aperitif cocktail and if you continue feeling peckish, indulge in a foie gras and truffle mayo burger with one of their craft bottled beers.
Stumble over to Mag Cafe on Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 43 just a few doors down from Pinch for a post-aperitivo digestif cocktail. At Mag, I highly recommend their To Fly provision. It’s a Zacapa Rum/Dry Vermouth and China based cocktail heightened and softened with rose, eucalyptus honey and mint. It was the closest thing you’ll get to flying in First Class, as it’s served in an individual bottle in a personal ice bucket with a small sipping glass to self-dose and a boarding pass to match with the drink’s recipe. Mag Cafe is one of the highest regarded drinking spots in the city, it’s small, cozy and crawling with vintage accouterments. One of the owners is said to own the smallest bar in the world “1930”, a speakeasy where most of the 11 square meters belong to the WC.Copyright Andrea Mariniello for Pinch Milano http://www.andreamariniello.it/%5B/caption%5D
Beer Lovers: If craft cocktails aren’t your thing, there are some pretty promising drinking holes showcasing some of Italy’s best inventive brews. Lambic Zoon on Via Friuli, 46 is prime for brews from key producers such as Birrificio Italiano and Birrificio Ducato along with burgers, BQ Birra Artigianale di Qualita’ located along the Navigli at Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 44 and offers an impressive selection of both draft and bottled selections and Birrificio di Lambrate on Via Camillo Golgi, 60 who pours their own beer, often unfiltered and unpasteurized.
Travel Tips: If you’re not falling over by then, wander over to the station and for a night train to Florence OR stay overnight thanks to the ease of Airbnb. Areas I’d recommend staying in: Porta Genova or Sant’Agostino, Brera and Porta Ticinese. For info on fast trains, visit Italo or Trenitalia. Play with both sites to see which ones give a better offer. Usually, you can get a discount % off if you book a same day round-trip. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to get 2 one ways, each from different providers. If you are using Italo, pick Porta Genova for the train station in Milan. Book as far in advance as possible for best fares. Once you arrive, get an unlimited ride 24 hour metro pass for under 5euros at the kiosks in the station.
Massive thanks to my friends who took me around this special city and gave me invaluable tips, including Mirella Maestri of Bella Milan Tours. a true jewel in the tour guide world! I’ve been lucky to meet her through different projects over the years and even more lucky to be able to call her up anytime I’m in town.
Have additional questions? Been to any of these spots? Let me know! If you would like additional travel advice, feel free to send a note.
In your big city love,
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