48 Hours: Milan

With new flights and a spring in its step, this elegant city is all the more appealing, says Simon Calder.

Click here for 48Hours In...Milan map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

As spring takes hold in northern Italy, the cultural and commercial hub is moving outdoors. The city's rich array of attractions blends perfectly with al fresco life. And with two airlines starting up new routes this week from Gatwick, Milan is even easier to reach.

Touch down

The new services on Monarch and Air One – along with numerous existing flights on Alitalia, BA and easyJet – land at Malpensa airport, 30 miles north-west of the city. The Malpensa Express is the main rail link into town, serving Cadorna station (1) in about 40 minutes (€11). An hourly train serves Centrale station (2), and takes 50 minutes (€7).

Linate airport, six miles east of the centre, is served by Alitalia and BA from Heathrow and by easyJet from Gatwick. Bus 73 leaves every 10 minutes, taking 25 minutes to Piazza San Babila (3). Buy a €1.50 ticket in advance from the machine adjacent to the stop, and stamp it in the machine on the bus; you can use the same ticket on connecting public transport within 90 minutes. A non-stop version, the X73 (same fare), runs every 20 minutes on weekdays.

Get your bearings

The focal point of Milan is the Duomo (4), one of the largest cathedrals in the world. From this point, the trendy bar-laden districts of Porta Ticinese and Navigli are to the south, and the more genteel Brera to the north – with a shiny new financial district rising beyond Porta Garibaldi station (5). The centre of Milan's fashion universe, otherwise known as the Quadrilatero d'Oro (Golden Rectangle), is north-east of the Duomo (4).

The western edge of the city centre is marked by Piazza Castello, half-encircling the Castello Sforzesco (6), and location for the tourist office (7) at number 1 (00 39 02 7740 4343; visitamilano.it); open 9am-6pm daily, until 5pm on Sundays.

Check in

For location and style, try the new Palazzo Segreti (8) at Via San Tomaso 8 (00 39 02 4952 9250; palazzosegreti.com), tucked away just off the Via Dante. In the 18 individually styled rooms, earthy tones are offset by splashes of colour. Doubles from €275, B&B.

The Bulgari Hotel (9) is tucked away at Via Privata Fratelli Gabba 7b (00 39 02 805 8051; bulgari hotels.com), a gemstone's throw from the Golden Rectangle; €671 for a double (excluding breakfast).

North of the Giardini Pubblici, at the friendly, family-run three-star Hotel Sempione (10) at via Finocchiaro Aprile 11 (00 39 02 657 0323; www.hotelsempione.it), doubles are €80, room only.

Take a view

The best panorama – sometimes stretching as far as the Alps – is from the roof terraces of the Duomo (4), which you can get to either by climbing just over 250 steps (€6), or by taking the lift (€10) (duomomilano.it); 9am-7pm daily. Afterwards, explore the splendid cathedral itself (7am-7pm daily, admission free, no shorts or big bags).

Day one

Take a hike

From the Duomo (4), walk through the elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (11). You emerge in the Piazza Scala, with the Teatro alla Scala (12) (00 39 02 88 791; teatroallascala.org) – one of the world's premier opera houses – looking surprisingly modest. Walk down the street to the right of the Scala, the Via Verdi, which is lined with boutiques and galleries. It continues north as Via Brera.

Lunch on the run

You hear Bar Brera (13) at Via Brera 22 before you see it – the terrace outside is always lively. Pastries, sandwiches and all kinds of Mediterranean delights are on offer for lunch from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Cultural afternoon

The marvellous Pinacoteca di Brera (14), part of the palace at Via Brera 28 (00 39 02 7226 3264; www.brera.beniculturali.it; 8.30am-7.15pm daily except Mon; €6), is a showcase for masterpieces by some of the great artists of the 13th to the 20th centuries. Highlights are Mantegna's Lamentation of Christ and Raphael's The Marriage of the Virgin altarpiece. Caravaggio, Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt and Goya are also represented.

Window shopping

Lavori in corso, "work in progress", evident everywhere in Milan, is especially irksome on one of the primary shopping streets, Via Montenapoleone, or "Montenapo". Showcases for luxury brands such as Versace, Prada and the flagship Gucci store (15) are half-hidden while the road is dug up. The parallel Via della Spiga offers Miu Miu, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana (16).

To spend rather than merely window-shop, one of the more personal and unusual stores is south of the Duomo (4): for a hand-made handbag, visit Travi (17) at Corso di Porta Ticinese 30 (00 39 02 8940 4202; 9.30am-7.30pm daily except Sundays).

An aperitif

Watch the sun sink over the main square from almost the same viewpoint as you enjoyed at the start of the day, only this time with a glass of prosecco or an Angelo Poretti beer in hand. The open-air Il Bar (00 39 02 885 2454; ilbarmilano.it) is on the seventh floor of the Rinascente (18).

Dining with the locals

At the top of Corso di Porta Ticinese, you can see 16 Corinthian columns from a pagan temple of the 2nd to 3rd century AD – and, behind them, the San Lorenzo alle Colonne, a superb 4th-century basilica.

You can also see ZeroDue (19) at number 6. This stylish restaurant (00 39 02 8942 0241; zeroduemilano.com; open daily except Monday) is named after the dialling code for Milan, 02.

It occupies part of the remains of a 15th-century convent on Roman foundations. Beneath the brick arches, dine on penne alla puttanesca (with tomatoes, capers and olives) for €9, or the house salad, which is laden with chicken, bacon and even blackberries.

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

The artistic pinnacle of Milan – and arguably Italy – is Leonardo da Vinci's fresco of The Last Supper, painted on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (20), in the west of the city. Book by phone (00 39 02 9280 0360) or online at www.cenacolovinciano.net for a 15-minute slot as soon as you buy your flights – don't wait until you arrive in Milan. Tickets are available 8am-7.15pm daily except Mondays and May Day, price €6.

A walk in the park

The 15th-century Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, was the man responsible for both Santa Maria delle Grazie and the reconstruction of the fortress known as Castello Sforzesco (6) (00 39 02 8846 3700; www.milano castello.it; 7am-6pm daily) at Piazza Castello. The castle houses a collection of museums, but on a fine day your attention will be drawn to the vast, elaborate Parco Sempione – the largest green space in central Milan.

Out to brunch

Feast your way through the €30 Mediterranean buffet, served on Sundays from noon to 4pm, at the Cantina della Vetra (21) at Via Pio IV 3 (00 39 02 8940 3843; www.cantinadellavetra.it). This big, busy and very popular enoteca serves an array of charcuterie, seafood, vegetables and sticky desserts in abundant quantities; the price includes coffee.

Take a ride

Milan has recently acquired a bike-rental scheme, named bikeMi, with stables of bicycles dotted around the city – including one outside the Cantina della Vetra (21). Registering for the day costs €2.50, but as long as you keep each individual hire to less than half an hour there's no further charge to your credit card – you can use a bike as often as you like.

The trams in Milan take you back to a different era – many of the 1920s editions are still running. Buy a €1.50 ticket from a tobacconist or metro station, then hop aboard tram 2 or 14 going north from Largo Carrobbio (22), making sure to stamp the ticket at the machine at the front. It zig-zags north, and you should get off where the lines cross Via Paolo Sarpi (23). Then walk a short way east to the final stop.

The icing on the cake

The collector and entrepreneur Carla Sozzani has created a concept store in a former Fiat garage at 10 Corso Como (24), whose name is also its address (00 39 02 2901 3581; www.10corsocomo.com). In a shady courtyard full of greenery, art, home furnishings, books, music and clothes are sold under one roof, alongside a restaurant (half of which spills out into the courtyard) which serves modern Italian fusion food. There is an excellent (and free) gallery.

Additional research by William Severs.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor