48 HOURS IN...

Milan, Italy

Do your Christmas shopping in Italy's most stylish city, and then reward yourself with its fine food and rich culture

Click here for 48 Hours In... Milan map

WHY GO NOW?

The dynamic and beautiful capital of northern Italy – and national cool – is at its atmospheric best on misty November and December days. Few cities are as geared up for festive shopping as Milan. Whether your loved ones want fashion, furnishings or food, it's all here within easy walking distance, and you can treat yourself to some fine food and culture between shops.

TOUCH DOWN

Try to fly to Linate rather than Malpensa or Bergamo airport, as Linate is well within the city limits, just six miles east of the centre; the other two are 30 miles north-west and north-east respectively. Alitalia (08714 24 14 24; www.alitalia.com) and British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.ba.com) both fly from Heathrow to Linate, and easyJet (0871 244 2366; www.easyJet.com) flies there from Gatwick. A taxi from Linate to the centre costs around €20 (£14) and takes 15-25 minutes depending on traffic. Bus 73 takes you to the metro at San Babila for the flat fare of €1 (70p), though you must buy the ticket in advance from the airport tobacconist and get it validated on the bus. Once you've had it stamped, you can use the same ticket on any public transport for the next 75 minutes.

From Malpensa, you can take the Malpensa Shuttle, which leaves for Centrale station (1) every 20 minutes from 6.20am to 12.15am, and takes 50 minutes outside the rush hour. The fare is €6 (£4.30) single or €10 (£7) return. From Bergamo airport, a bus runs approximately hourly (though with some long gaps) for a fare of €6 (£4.30) single, €11 (£8) return. It drops you at Lambrate, inconveniently suburban but on metro line 2.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

The focal point of Milan is the Duomo (2), one of the largest cathedrals in the world (yet only managing second place in Italy, after St Peter's in Rome). From this point, the trendy bar-laden districts of Ticinese and Navigli are to the south, and the more genteel Brera to the north. The centre of Milan's fashion universe, otherwise known as the Quadrilatero d'Oro (Golden Rectangle), is north of the Duomo. The tourist office (3) is just off the Piazza del Duomo, opposite the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, at Via Marconi 1 (00 39 02 72524301; www.milanoinfotourist.com).

CHECK IN

Milan has more than its fair share of boutique hotels. The most fashionable at the moment is the Bulgari Hotel Milan (4), at Via Privata Fratelli Gabba 7b (00 39 02 805 8051; www.bulgarihotels.com), tucked away in a private garden in the quiet streets of Brera. The decor is minimalist Milan – all soothing browns, beige and black. If you can't afford to stay here, make sure you visit the oval-shaped bar overlooking the garden and have a chocolate martini that is worth the €18 (£13) it costs. Rates for rooms start at a reassuringly high €682 (£487), not including breakfast.

If you're looking for something a bit edgier (and cheaper), the Nhow Hotel (5) in the trendy Zona Tortona in the south at Via Tortona 35 (00 39 02 489 8861; www.nhow-hotels.com) is a good option. Formerly a General Electric factory, it has now been converted into the first design hotel in the Spanish-owned NH chain. Black corridors feature graffiti-covered guest-room doors. A standard double room starts at €147 (£105), excluding breakfast. The Hotel Cavour (6) at Via Fatebenefratelli 21 (00 39 02 620001; www.hotelcavour.it) has a good location at the top of Via Manzoni. Standard double rooms start at €219 (£157), excluding breakfast.

TAKE A VIEW

There is no better view than from the roof terraces of the Duomo (2), which you can get to either by climbing just over 250 steps, or by taking the lift. To the south, the view is dominated by the strange-looking top-heavy Torre Velasca, a symbol of modern Milan built in 1956. To the north, on a clear day, you can just see the snow-capped Alps in the distance.

TAKE A HIKE

Start in the Piazza Scala, with the world-famous opera house, the Teatro alla Scala (7), to your right. From here, walk through one of the most elegant shopping precincts in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (8). Go straight through into the Piazza Duomo, with the huge cathedral (2) on your left. From here, make your way down the equivalent of London's Oxford Street, the Via Torino, where you'll see familiar outlets such as Zara and Benetton. At the Largo Carrobbio (9), peel off to the left down the Corso di Porta Ticinese, where you will see a younger, funkier crowd nipping into more individual shops and brands such as Diesel and Gas. On your left you will pass 16 Corinthian columns that are believed to be from a pagan temple of the 2nd to 3rd century AD – and, behind them, the San Lorenzo alle Colonne, a superb 4th-century basilica (10) at Corso di Porta Ticinese 39. Carry on down the same street under the Medieval Porta Ticinese as far as the Piazza XXIV Maggio.

WRITE A POSTCARD

...in the restaurant after which the most important Italian literary award, the Bagutta Prize, is named because it originated there. The founders of Fiera Litteraria (the Literary Review), who dined regularly at the restaurant, founded the equivalent to our Booker Prize in 1925. Today, Bagutta (11) is a delightful trattoria hidden away in the heart of the Golden Rectangle at Via Bagutta 14 (00 39 02 7600 0902; www.bagutta.it). Murals depicting scenes of Venice and paintings that look more like the work of the French Impressionists cover the walls. It's open for lunch 12.30-2.30pm, and for dinner 7.30-10.30pm, but is closed on Sundays.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

If you don't want a leisurely lunch at Bagutta, there are more than enough bars and cafés to stop at for a quick panino. To fill up, try the deliciously unhealthy panzerotti from Luini's (12) around the back of the Duomo at Via S Radegonda 16 (00 39 02 8646 1917; closed Sundays). It is basically dough stuffed with mozzarella, tomatoes and any number of other fillings, which is then deep-fried.

TAKE A RIDE

The trams in Milan take you back to a different era. Buy your ticket from a tobacconist or metro station for €1 (70p), then hop on, making sure you stamp the ticket at the machine at the front. The number 1 route is as good as any, going from the Central Stazione (1) down through Piazza Cavour and Via Manzoni, past the Armani store and round towards the Castello Sforzesco (13). Marvel at the tram's wooden seats and fittings and, most of all, at the survival of those beautiful glass lampshades.

WINDOW SHOPPING

Coming from the Duomo (2) along Via Manzoni, turn right down the street that is considered to be the key shopping street: Via Montenapoleone (" Montenapo" for those in the know). Here you'll find Alberta Ferretti, the flagship Gucci store (14), Versace, and several Prada stores. Stop halfway down at the café Cova (15), at Via Montenapoleone 8 (00 39 02 7600 0578; www.pasticceriacova.com), and watch the ladies swathed in fur enjoying their cakes.

Turn left just before you hit the end of Montenapo, down Via Sant'Andrea, home to Armani, Fendi, Costume Nationale, Missoni and Moschino. With Hermès on your left, turn down the most charming of all the streets in this area, the pedestrianised Via della Spiga, with Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Sportmax, Tod's, Roberto Cavalli and, of course, more Prada.

At the end of Via Spiga you will come out at Via Manzoni again, ready to complete the rectangle by finishing off at the Spazio Armani all-in-one megastore (16), which even has its own branch of Nobu.

To Italians – and a few others beside – Peck (17) is, simply, the best food store in the world; Via Spadari 9 (00 39 028 023 161; www.peck.it – closed Sundays). Any gaps in your present buying will be filled here: the ground floor is stacked high with blocks of Parmesan, cured meats and, of course, festive panettone. On the first floor is the patisserie, a chocolatier, and probably every type of espresso coffee bean you could ever wish for. The pace may be frenetic, but you can always reward yourself with a prosecco on the first floor when you've finished.

AN APERITIF

The cult of aperitivi is one of the highlights of life in Milan. Go into any decent bar in the early evening, and you will be faced with an array of free canapés, meats and cheeses. One of the most generous providers is the Yguana Café (18) at Via Papa Gregorio XIV (00 39 02 806 88295), where you could, effectively, have a drink and dine for free from a selection of aperitivi including quiche, rice salad and chunks of Parmesan.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

There are plenty of trendy places to dine in Milan, but for somewhere more traditional, frequented by the Milanese, try Bebel's (19) at Via San Marco 38 (00 39 02 657 1658) in the Brera district. Popular among the journalists from the nearby offices of Corriere della Sera, it offers straightforward Italian food. Bebel's is the type of place that will choose your starters for you – for instance, we sat down to buffalo mozzarella and a salad of puntarelle (chicory) and anchovies. The speciality is simple fish and meat: the tagliata (seared beef) cooked in rosemary with fried potatoes was excellent. For pizza, head to the pizzerias that line the Navigli district, either Pizzeria Tradizionale (20) at Ripa di Porta Ticinese 7 (00 39 02 839 5133), or on the other side of the canal, Officina 12 at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 12 (00 39 02 89 42 22 61; www.officina12.it).

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

It would be irreverent not to visit Milan without seeing Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, painted on the wall of the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (21), on the Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, in the west of the city near the Cadorna metro station (22). Make sure that you book well in advance, weeks in advance in the case of weekend viewings. To book, call 00 39 02 8942 1146; www.cenacolovinciano.org. Tickets cost €6.50 (£4.70) with a €1.50 (£1) reservation fee. Open 8am to 7.30pm daily, except Mondays.

OUT TO BRUNCH

One of the few exceptions to Sunday closing is Carla Sozzani's "concept" store, 10 Corso Como (23) on, yes, Corso Como (00 39 02 653 531), in what was formerly a Fiat garage. Painfully hip art, home furnishings, books, records and clothes are all sold under one roof, alongside a lovely restaurant, half of which spills out into the courtyard, which serves modern Italian fusion food.

A WALK IN THE PARK

Walk down the Via Dante towards the Castello Sforzesco (00 39 02 8846 3700; www.milanocastello. it) at Piazz0a Castello (13) , which opens 7am-6pm daily. The castle is now a museum (open 9am-5.30pm daily except Monday, ¿3/£2), in which you can see the unfinished Rondanini Pieta by Michelangelo, and more works by Mantegna, Bellotto and Canaletto. Behind the Castello is the Parco Sempione, one of the few green areas in central Milan.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

The marvellous Pinacoteca di Brera (24), at Via Brera 28 (00 39 02 722631; www.brera.beniculturali.it), is a showcase for masterpieces by some of the great artists of the 13th to the 20th centuries, including Caravaggio, Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt and Goya. Highlights are Mantegna's The Lamentation over the Dead Christ and Raphael's The Marriage of the Virgin altarpiece. The gallery is open from 8.30am-7.15pm daily except Monday, admission €5 (£3.50).

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

News
news

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are set to welcome second child in spring

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
News
i100
Travel
travel

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

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past