Wanderlust: Milan, Italy

J&A Wanderlust

Oct 16, 2018


Travel Tips // Wanderlust // Milan, Italy // Best of Milan

A couple weeks ago, I shared our favorite highlights from this year’s trip to Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Today we’re going to explore more of Milan! There is so much to see and do in this city. It most definitely deserves a blog post of its own!

We landed in Milan around 2:30pm after flying all night/morning. Switching to a European time zone always throws you off a little bit. Thankfully we typically get over jetlag pretty quickly! Since our luggage was on a later flight (it never made it onto ours), we headed into the city center before we needed to be back at the airport to claim our bags later that night.

This was the first picture we took and our first view of the Duomo! It’s ginormous. The spires are extremely elaborate. You can pay extra to go up on the roof and walk among the spires. We didn’t get a chance to do that this trip, but I think it would be a worthwhile experience!

The first thing we did once we awed over the Duomo: find gelato on our way to a castle!

This was my first official Italian gelato, and it was delicious. I’m really not a huge ice cream person (Joel is, though!), and I’ve never understood why gelato is such a big deal. The American versions I’ve sampled tasted pretty much like ice cream. I wasn’t expecting anything too exciting. But…I must now confess that Italy has now converted me to the fact that {authentic} gelato is really scrumptious.

Plus the guy holding the gelato cone is super cute and I really like him.

Onto the castle!

Sforza Castle started as a military fortress before they built on an entire Renaissance palace. There’s a whole collection of museums there that we browsed through, but the biggest reason we went was to see Michelangelo’s final and unfinished Pietà.

Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà.

While we were there and had the full combo ticket anyway, we checked out some of their other museums. My favorite part was wandering through the former castle building. I’m sure it’s been thoroughly renovated, but it looked authentic enough that I could imagine what the castle was like in real “castle days”.

Balconies, intricate tapestries, and an epic little courtyard and fountain hiding inside the castle walls!

After the castle, we enjoyed the sights as we headed over for some pizza to go at Princi Bakery for our trip back to the airport to collect our newly arrived luggage. Great little spot that we highly recommend!

Good morning, Milan!! All my Italian dreams were coming true with a cool morning walk to a local coffee shop in our AirBnB neighborhood. Milano Roastery was actually an Italian coffee shop with an American-German twist, according to the barista.

As we experienced the Italian coffee culture, we figured out what he meant. They don’t have “coffee shops” like we’re used to seeing (and like what this one was). Almost food establishment serves espresso based drinks. Most of our other coffees came from cafes or bakeries. Italians are far more likely to just stand at the counter and drink their coffee before heading on their way.

It was a great first #jacoffeeadventures of our trip!

Ahhh! The Duomo in soft morning light! What a presence.

And inside, it was huuuuge. We’ve been in a lot of European cathedrals, and this was one of the biggest we’ve ever seen.

I put Joel next to just one of the pillars to show you how big everything is. Very impressive place. You have to pay an entry fee, but totally worth it.

Back out to the stunning square for some more exploring! This fascist structure is reminiscent of the Mussolini era.

We headed toward the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is classic Milan. It was built during the Eiffel tower days when Italian unification was a big deal. They built in a lot of decor symbolic of Italy’s new independence, specifically in the dome and floor designs. (info compliments of Rick Steve’s guide book).

I had a great time window shopping Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Hello, Leonardo! The art and history you come across everywhere you go in Italy is simply amazing.

We could have just wandered around for days. Every corner we turned was stunning!

Definitely time for our afternoon coffee!

This is where we discovered that pastries only cost about 1.20 euros. After that, we always ordered pastries with our coffee. Joel decided to try a macchiato this time.  Most Italians seem to automatically put sugar in their coffee. Most espresso drinks are served strong and dark. We didn’t always have to add sugar to our lattes, but the macchiato was one time we definitely did!

But that nutella croissant….I’m still dreaming about it. Croissants were one of our main food groups in Italy. Every day, all day.

Our other food groups were pizza, pasta, and gelato – in case you were wondering.

We wandered out to Parco Sempione to enjoy a little bit of green space. This park had tons of space for people to wander, spread a blanket, or explore historic structures.

If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know that water isn’t usually free. {Neither are public bathrooms.} Most of the big cities we went to in Italy had a few public drinking fountains spread the city. Yay for water!!

The rest of the afternoon was spent just wandering around Milan. It’s hard to take a wrong turn!

We really wanted to check out the Starbucks Milan Roastery, but the line was huuuge. As cool as it would have been, we decided not to spend a hour to get into Starbucks. Maybe next time!

Art everywhere!! This was inside the San Mauizio al Monasterio Maggiore. It’s nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of Lombardy. Stunning!

The ninth century church is built around a piece of Roman wall.

Our last destination of the day was Naviglio Grande (the canal district) for some more gelato before heading back to our AirBnB neighborhood to find pasta for dinner. This was the Orso Bianco, and we recommend their gelato!

Dessert first, right?

The restaurant was really dark and Joel took a bite of his ravioli before I could take a picture, but this was our first legit Italian pasta! Italian pasta dishes are quite a bit different than what we’re used to. We expected that, so it was really fun trying different dishes. Most things were pretty good. We sort of missed the thick, rich, garlicky tomato sauce that we’re used to by the end of our trip, though!

Goodbye, Milan! We headed out early the next morning for Cinque Terre and Pisa. Those two destinations will be hitting the blog next, and we can’t wait to take you along!



{Want to explore another city? Tag along on our adventure to Kaua’i Hawaii or browse the stunning scenery of Nova Scotia, Canada! Craving more Europe? You’ll love Copenhagen, Denmark!}


Our Top Recommendations for Milan

Rick Steve’s Italy guide book <— seriously the best

The Duomo (Cathedral)

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (Church of San Maurizio)

Michelangelo’s Pietá at Sforza Castle

Princi Bakery

Gelateria Orso Bianco (gelato)

Milano Roastery

Just walking around the city!

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