Milan is the second largest city in Italy and the capital of the region of Lombardy. Yet, when compared to Rome, Florence, and Venice; Milan doesn’t get the same attention from foreigner tourists.
Still, Milan is well worth a visit – even if for just a day or two – so here’s how you can make the most out of Milan in just 24 hours. But brace yourself, because it’s going to be a busy day, but it is so worth it and easily doable!
The Morning – It’s all about the buildings
Duomo di Milano
Milan is well known for several important museums, universities, academies, palaces and churches. But the most important of them all is the Duomo di Milano.
The cathedral was built over several hundred years (from 1386 to 1965) in a number of contrasting styles. But in general, the cathedral is designed majorly in an elaborate Gothic style.
It is the 5th largest cathedral in the world and the largest in the Italian state territory (Vatican City is a different country). Its white marble façade contrasts drastically its dark interior, lit with a series of stained glass windows along both sides of the nave.
Visit the roof to see a close-up view of some spectacular flying buttresses and the sculptures that crown the forest of openwork pinnacles and spires – including the golden statue of the Madonna that crowns the entire cathedral.
Don’t miss the most famous statue of the cathedral, located left to the altar. It is the statue of San Bartolomeo Flayed (1562), by Marco d'Agrate, the alien looking saint shows his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a stole.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Just a few steps away from Duomo, you’ll see Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. Built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877, it is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.
Once you go inside the four-storey double arcade, you’ll see everything from high fashion stores to regular coffee shops. Don’t miss spinning on the bull located in the center of the galleria. It brings good luck!
Teatro alla Scala
If you continue walking away from the galleria you’ll see the world-renowned opera house, Teatro alla Scala. Most of Italy's greatest operatic artists, and many of the finest singers from around the world, have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years. You can tour inside the theatre to learn more about its history and appreciate the lavish interior decoration.
San Bernardino alle Ossa
We will backtrack a bit to see one of my personal favorites. Close to Duomo you’ll also find Chiesa San Bernardino alle Ossa, made famous by its small ossuary decorated with numerous human bones and skulls. The ossuary was built in 1210, when an adjacent cemetery ran out of space. The result? An unusual approach to religious decoration with human remains. Don’t miss this. It is the most unusual thing you’ll see in Milan!
Now, you’re not really in Italy until you eat gelato. I recommend you go to Cioccolatitalianito eat some of the best gelatos you’ll find in all Milan. Get ready to queue a bit, as they are quite popular. But again, it’s so worth it! Nom nom nom…
The Afternoon – It’s all about art
Milan has had a great appeal to artist of all sorts for centuries and these are some of the best places where you’ll witness that.
Did you know that Leonardo Da’vinci lived in Milan for 17 years? During his time serving Duke Ludovico (between 1482 and 1499) Leonardo did many paintings, sculptures, and drawings – including the famous Last Supper in 1498.
Seeing the Last Supper is a must-do while in Milan, but be warned, you NEED to make a reservation as tickets sell out with weeks in advance. You can go to the official ticketing website to see if there are tickets available during your visit. What if you don’t have a ticket and are already in Milan? I’d say go for it anyways and try your luck at the front desk. Go early and ask for a ticket. You might be surprised, they might have a few tickets for the last few sessions of the day.
In the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana you could spend the rest of the afternoon watching countless paintings and sculptures from, Botticelli, Bramantino, Caravaggio, Raffaello, and many others; but most importantly, Leonardo Da’Vinci. There are various paintings,sketches,andwritings from Da’Vinci, including the Códice Atlántico – a book full of interesting engineering, military, and anatomical studies done by him throughout the later part of his life.
Quadrilatero della Moda
Milan is not really Milan if you don’t visit the Quadrilatero della Moda – the high-class shopping district in the center of the city. Here you’ll find boutiques representing most of the world’s major fashion houses. The streets forming the quadrilatero (quadrangle) are Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga, and Corso Venezia.
Night – It’s all about the nightlife!
Naviglio IS the place to go to have a true Milanese late afternoon. Go there around 7pm to have the traditional Apperitivo in any of the many cafes and restaurants of the zone. An Apperitivo works like this; you buy an alcoholic drink for 7 to 10 euros (usually) and you get an “all you can eat” buffet of what’s offered that night. These can include various pastas, pizza, cold cuts, vegetables, sweets, and much more.
While many nightclubs and bars are spread all around the city, a street that concentrates a few of them is Corso Como. There are a few good choices to visit here, but beware, Corso Como is not cheap. Otherwise, on weekends you can head back to Naviglio or Porta Ticinese, where you’ll find many more options but in a more laidback environment.Are you ready to experience Milan?