Destination: Milan, Italy
Date of Travel: Friday 6th May
Flight Time: 1 hour, 55 mins
Duration: 4 days and 3 Nights
Departing: London Gatwick
Weather: Warm ( Some rainy days in April /May)
Reason for Trip: Two Birthdays
Number of Party: 4 Ladies
72 Hours in Milan
To celebrate two birthdays, we decided to visit one of the style capitals of the world and try the city of Milan ( and Italy) for the very first time. This also included an attempt to travel with Carry on hand luggage only ( Another first..) And Yes, I used my OWN guide to help me..Naturally ( Hand Baggage Packing Guide)
We drove to Gatwick, parked the car with Meet and Greet, handed the keys over and went straight up to security with our boarding passes. We flew with Easyjet, taking full advantage of their Speedy Boarding / Easyjet Plus added option. This is a great option for a low cost airline, as it’ll allow you to get on the plane first ( so no concerns about your bag not fitting anywhere) but also gives you an exit seat which gives you extra legroom. Side Note: London Gatwick Nando’s sells breakfast and it’s good!
Once at Linate airport, a taxi man swept over ( before we got out the door) and gave us a receipt for a cab to our hotel for €55 (Upon reflection – I think this was either that price because we were in the airport or we got completely shafted! Either way I’d look into pre – booking a car or a transfer to see if you can get a better price on this).. It was, however, a wonderful spacious new Mercedes.
We arrived at our hotel, Chateau Monfort 20 minutes later, located next to Piazza San Babila, which is 6km away. You can also get a tram / bus combo if preferred.
Upon our arrival,the staff at the hotel were incredibly welcoming, friendly and helpful, this combined with the most exquisite interior design, We all immediately fell in love with our temporary home. It’s a place you won’t want to leave, it screams elegance and style and the detail is impeccable but you must!
We had some Tea and Pastries in the lounge, followed by a bottle of Ferrari Perle’ champagne and cake for one of the girls birthdays,before going up to our rooms
The bedrooms were just as pleasing to the eye. Everything about this 5 star establishment exuded luxury. With some pretty essential add – ons, (for us ladies in particular when travelling carry on only.)
We then set off in search for Duomo and grabbed a map from reception. In addition to Maps on the iPhone teamed with a great roaming plan from ThreeUK. Duomo was roughly a 10/15 minute walk away and very easy to find. (Probably worth noting to take care when crossing roads. Despite the green man showing, some cars will still turn and a zebra crossing doesn’t automatically warrant cars stopping! )
You’ll first come across the San Babila Fontana which then leads you onto the legendary Corso Vittorio Emanuele II where you will find plenty of shops and eateries but also the stunning Duomo Cathedral. Before you get to the Cathedral, there is a turning on the left where you’ll find: Vanilla – An Italiana Gelati shop. You MUST try Italian Gelato and this place is one of the best to experience it, with a plethora of flavours. I selected White Chocolate
You’ll encounter high street stores
and the more expensive Italian and French designers such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, but also a number of restaurants with Alfresco dining, a great place to people watch. We entered the Galleria ( to the right of the Cathedral) and picked a little restaurant called il Salotto (a few doors down from the Gucci Cafe) and had some divine italian food with some great service.
TIP: Tipping, some places include a service charge, but many do not. You don’t have to leave a tip but if you do just round your bill up and leave “some change” as we were told.
After exploring the area and taking probably far too many photos, We stopped in the centre of the galleria to take part in a tradition of spinning around 3 times on your heel on the Bull’s Balls, which brings good luck! Apparently you’re supposed to spin backwards! Here’s a clip:
The Galleria is truly stunning and was built in 1877 by Giuseppe Mengoni and is well worth a visit but can of course get very busy at peak times
we then headed back to the Chateau dahhling… and freshened up for dinner.
We had pre – booked a table at STK Milan, in the ME Milan il Duca Hotel ( A place we frequent back in London) which was under 10 minutes away by taxi. The food as always, was on point, we did however notice at 8:30pm it was still not very busy, Locals eat slightly later, so from 9pm it started to fill. After dinner we hopped in the lift up to the Radio Rooftop bar for some drinks and took in that wonderful view. If you want a table here, it’s worth pre – booking.
The next morning we decided to visit Lake Como. We checked the approximate train times and timed it to get there with enough time to grab our tickets and a snack. we walked to Milano Centrale Station,courtesy of apple maps which took about 45 minutes. On the way we stopped off at Ca’ppucino for breakfast.
Once at the station, It’s beautiful, trust me you’ll want to take photos. we then headed to the ticket office, which is very busy and what your supposed to do is, take a ticket to be seen, which is then digitally called out on a screen.
I can now save you a bit of time here by giving you instructions that avoid that big queue!
Follow the signs for: biglietterie ( tickets) Avoid the queues and head to the ticket machine. ( If you don’t have a chip and pin credit / debit card you won’t be able to use this, so look out for the Cash ticket machines instead and use Euros) You can select “English” from this machine also. Select a return ticket to Varenna Esino, it may show as a multi journey ticket, or two singles. Trains pretty much leave every hour and the destination on the Trenord train when leaving Milan will have a destination of Tirano so now you want train your looking for on the departures board. They run from 6:20am in the morning until 9:20pm at night and tickets cost €6.70 each way but what was great was, we were able to return on any train back, so we didn’t have to commit to a specific return time.
Varenna Esino is roughly an hour from Milano Centrale. There is also a first class option if you want a bit more luxury and is €10 each way. If you are issued with a paper ticket, when you get onto the platform ( Likely to be platform 12 if you get a similar 12ish train to us) there will be a little yellow box, you have to place your ticket in there to validate it, before boarding the train. (This is only necessary should you have an unreserved seating ticket. i.e no specific seat on your ticket.) Without validation of your ticket you are liable for a 50 euro fine by the conductor. They will not accept the excuse of being a tourist for this one. Once validated, your tickets will be eligible for use between 3 and 6 hours depending on the distance of travel.(If the ticket validation machine is not working, you can alert the conductor straight away and they will validate it for €5)
Validation boxes could be yellow or green, the ones we saw were yellow, but they almost all say ” Convalida Bilglietti” somewhere. You just put the end of your ticket in there and it’ll date / time stamp in some way.
On the train, if you sit on the left hand side, you’ll get some views of the Lakes before arriving to your destination. Once you arrive at Varenna Esino, most people will depart here.
You need to leave the station and follow the signs to Ferry, there is a blue walk line heading down a slight hill,
then down some stairs, down a narrow road
and then towards and across the bridge
to the ferry port.
Head straight to the ticket office and get a single or return ticket to whichever part of Como you want to visit. There will be a queue. We decided on Bellagio.
Single fares €4.60 and Returns are €9.20. You can also get a free circulation one day pass which is €15 which you can then use to visit other parts of Como, other than Bellagio. We noticed the ferry left in good time in relation to us arriving on the train, giving us enough time to buy a ticket and wait for the next boat.
Bear in mind boats will go to different parts of Como, so listen out for the staff who shout “Bellagio” if that’s where you want to go.
Whilst in Bellagio we ate at Bar Carillon followed by the all important Gelato.
We then jumped on the Trombetta Express which is €5 each which goes up the hill in the vicinity and back down with some nice views. Sit on the left side going up and the right hand side going down if you’re the designated photographer. It can be quite difficult to hear the pre – recorded announcements at some stops but its worth trying it for only five euros. After that we took some snaps of the picturesque scenery whilst waiting for the ferry back to Varenna. Getting back to Varenna in good time for the train back to Milano Centrale Station. There is an eatery at Varenna should you get back there with a wait on your hands for the next train.
Once back at the hotel, Pablo recommended Valentino Vintage where we had more stunning food and fantastic service once again.
Back at the hotel Stefano prepared some custom made cocktails for us to round off our night. At midnight, a cake and a candle was brought in to celebrate one of the girl’s birthdays.
On Sunday, we did an hour walk to Naviglio Grande, The Canals is a must see. This region really comes alive at night, but we headed there in the day. We ate at Posto di Conversazione and grabbed some Gelato from Cioccaliti Italiani and instead of doing a long walk back, we walked down to the main street and jumped on a tram back to Duomo, near the cathedral
Walking around Milan, Most of the trams are Carelli trams which date back to the 1920’s and run from 5am – 1:30am. If you plan to use a tram ( or a bus or the metro you must get your ticket before boarding from anywhere displaying the ATM sign ( which isn’t where you draw cash out) You then validate this ticket before travel at the entrance of the metro. A standard urban ticket ( Bigletto Urbano) is €1.50 for 90 mins and includes 1 tube and unlimited bus / tram trips in that time. These come in 24hr & 48hr versions and are very reasonable.
That evening, we had a table booked at Nobu / Armani, again with good service, though I noticed it was very quiet in there.I’ve come to the realisation that because Italian food is SO good, they frequent Italian establishments much more than the chains.
We returned to our hotel bar once again, where Stefano prepared some drinks and shots for us.
The next day, we had a lunch booked in at the hotel, it was a lovely way to end our holiday, and they brought out a birthday cake for the birthday girl.
The hotel was also hosting a photo shoot, great to see the space being used ( as my work place is used – Plug! www.facebook.com/PrivateHireCWC)
We hopped in a taxi and 20 minutes later and paying only €15 euros ( Remember the taxi at the beginning of the trip!) we were back at the airport. Fear not people, there is a gelato shop in the airport! There is also a huge selection of pasta if you didn’t get a chance to pick any up in the city.
A whirlwind 72 hours but an amazing one. Milan has my heart, our hotel has my heart! I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll definitely be back and two friends of mine are in the process of heading out here to try all of the above.
If you’ve been to Milan before, what else did you do on your visit? Anything else you’d add to the above to help anyone visiting the city? Any questions for me? Let me know below.
Until next time…Ciao… LT x