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We flew to Mlan via usair connecting in Frankfurt to Milan Malpensa Airport. The Frankfurt airport is huge and it took about 45 minutes to go through passport control and find the gate for our connecting flight. In order to find the gate for your connecting flight, look for one of the information kiosks which allow you to search for your flight. There isn't one central departures board. I didn't much like Frankfurt airport, and would avoid it in the future for making connections due to the large size of the airport and the many security checkpoints that we had to go through. If you have to connect through Frankfurt, I would say 2 hours is a minimum time.
In contrast to Frankfurt, in Milan we breezed through baggage claim and there was no passport control. Milan malpensa airport is about 50 minutes by taxi to the city. Taxi cost 99 euro and was worth it to us for the comfort and convenience of not having to deal with trains,luggage and finding our way to the hotel while jet lagged. At the airport arrival area, there is a place to change money that also sells vodaphone SIM cards. For more on cellphones, see below.
In italy, you need to have a passport to purchase a SIM card. Also, the SIM cards don't activate immediately, you need to wait a few hours. The Vodafone card we purchased at the airport was a little difficult to use as it required a pin code,also, after activating the phone, you need to dial a number to find out your cellphone number, and the menu prompts were in Italian. For another phone, we purchased a card from TIM which was easier to use and required no activation code.
We needed to buy a cheap phone for one of our children, and searched cellphone stores in the Duomo area. After striking out at TIM and Vodafone (which were sold out of the cheap models) we found a basic model for 19.90 euro model at the WIND store at the Piazza Cordusio.
To be honest, I found the whole SIM card process confusing and it would have been a good idea to research phone plans ahead of time in order to figure out which has the best plan, TIM, Vodaphone or Wind.
For walking around Milan, I suggest wearing comfortable shoes, because there is a lot of uneven pavement and trolley tracks. Most Italian women seem to prefer high heeled shoes, but for tourists, I think the better choice is practicality over fashion!
It is a good idea to carry some toilet tissue, paper tools and hand sanitizer , as bathrooms may be lacking paper and/or soap (see below re: our visit to the Castillo).
If you want to blend in and look like a local, for men the dress code seemed to be a long sleeved button down shirt and a double vented jacket, with our without a skinny tie, and a pair of trousers or straight leg jeans, and leather shoes or loafers. For women, some skinny jeans and a top, a pair of high heeled shoes and a fashionable handbag. Shorts and athletic shoes are not commonly seen in Milan, though sometimes sneakers are worn, usually of the Converse style.
This hotel is wonderful!! Located in the historic area steps away from the Duomo and in the heart of the shopping district. The famous gourmet store Peck is right next to the hotel, it was a fun place to look at but the prices are sky high. The Duomo subway stop is also nearby, though we found that walking and taxis were the easiest ways to get around.
This is a smaller hotel but has all the amenities you could ask for, free wifi, comfortable beds, flat screen tv, spacious modern bathrooms, spotlessly clean, the staff is friendly and helpful and English is spoken. The included breakfast is served from 7 :30 to 11:00 am. A wonderful cold buffet of meats, cheeses, fruit, pastries, yogurt, cereal, toast and jams, plus you can have eggs made to order if you like. Fresh coffee and large variety of teas and fresh squeezed fruit juices are served as well. The breakfast area also serves as a bar, you can get a drink and snacks here before dinner. Free English language newspapers. In room safe and hair dryer.
Our room on the seventh floor was quiet and spacious by European standards. There are elevators but they are small. Overall this hotel was a wonderful choice and really helped to make our visit to Milan memorable!
The castle is a cool place to walk around, and while the castle visit is free, you need to buy tickets to visit the museums inside. The cost is well worth it. The ancient art collection includes many sculptures, tapestries and frescos including a ceiling fresco by da Vinci which is in the process of restoration and Michaelangelo's unfinished Pieta Rondanini. If I were visiting again I. would purchase the audio guide as the art collection had few descriptions in English.
The museum of archaeology contains artifacts of early Italian culture including an impressive display of armor and weapons. There is also a small but interesting Egyptian collection including two mummies.
A hidden gem here is a fascinating museum of musical instruments. Whether a musician or not, the collection of instruments was impressive and there were many unique items.
Some negativess: The public bathroom at the Castillo was very disgusting there was no toilet paper, no soap, and no paper towels, the hand dryer did not work, there was no place for women to dispose of used sanitary products so the just left them anywhere. There was another bathroom at the entrance to the archaeology museum that was clean and had paper and soap. Also, on entering the castillo there were many aggressive Africans selling bracelets who got right in your face and tried to sell you things.
The Duomo is a must see in Milan, if you don't have time for anything else, make sure you see this amazing Gothic cathedral and take the time to visit the roof for some amazing views.
Here a a few tips for visiting.
In order to enter the Duomo you must be properly dressed. Shorts, short skirts, tank tops and low cut blouses are not permitted. We were turned away the first day (somewhat rudely) by the guards at the entrance, because our teenagers were is shorts and tank tops. Typical outfits for American teens, but not suitable for this venue.
I would suggest sneakers or comfortable rubber soled shoes as you will want them to visit the rooftop. While entry to the Duomo is free, there are several areas that require payment. The trip to the rooftop is 7 euros try stairs and 12 euros by elevator. To take pictures you need a wristband that costs 2 euros. To visit the treasury costs 2 euros. The baptistery was closed during our visit, it was also an additional charge. There are no bathrooms, but there are some nice public bathrooms close by on the top floor the department store La Renascente.
After visiting the Duomo, we needed to find a bathroom, and happened upon the incredible department store La Rinascente. This is Milan's version of Bloomingdales, very high end beautiful store! We found the bathrooms on the top floor where there was also a wonderful food area including a coffee/ juice bar, sushi bar, champagne bar, chocolate store, and much more. This turned out to be a great spot for a break, it was air conditioned, and we had some delicious cappuccino and a caramel macchiato, which were 2.50 and 3.50 each. This would be a good place for lunch as well.
Nearby the Duomo area, you can visit the La Scala museum, though if you are not an opera lover I think I would skip it. By paying the price of admission (6 euros) you can take a peek inside the beautiful opera house from a gallery entrance, but you can't go inside the theater. On display at the museum is a collection of opera memorabilia that was not well explained in English. There were a few period costumes here as well. This display might be meaningful to someone with more opera knowledge, but for me it wasn't too interesting.
Because we didn't have time on our trip to visit the famous museums in Florence, we decided to spend a morning at the Brera, which proved to be fantastic! The collection of medieval and renaissance Italian art is absolutely amazing. There is a great audio guide in English. The halls of the museum were practically empty, so it was a pleasure to visit. In the courtyard of the pinoteca, there is an imposing statue of Napoleon as the god Mars.
You can hardly walk a block in the historic area of Milan without passing by a gelato store. I happened to be passing by Grom which had a large line so I figured it would be good gelato.I had a delicious cup of pistacchio and dark chocolate. The flavors were intense and it was the best gelato I can remember having!
By the way, in Italy, you generally pay first then choose your flavors.
Luini Panzerotti is a good place for a quick lunch while on the go. What is a panzerotti? Its kind of like a calzone, only a bit smaller. Pick your filling, pay in cash only, and take your sandwich outside to eat on the sidewalk or nearby piazza! A good cheap lunch!
This restaurant was recommended by our hotel, and turned out to be a great choice. It is located on a narrow back street and you may need some help to find it. The atmosphere is upscale, there is a garden area which was full when we arrived, so we were seated in the back room which was nicely decorated. The service was excellent and English was spoken. The menu is typical Milanese cuisine, and I would highly recommend the Osso Bucco with Risotto Milanese. Overall, a great restaurant experience, which felt more authentic than the expensive cafes near the Duomo.
Of all the cafes inside the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, this one seemed the most inviting. As we walked by and looked at the menu, the friendly maitre' d asked us where we were from and made conversation with us. We decided to come back later for dinner, having checked TA and seen the positive reviews. The service is excellent, and the food was very tasty. Two of us went for the section of the menu called "Big Salads" these were delicious meal sized salads- we had one with tuna and the other with beef filet. Another of our party had the milanese risotto in parmesan crust. All in all we were very satisfied with the meal, and it was pleasant to have dinner in the open air inside the Galleria. Recommend.
After visiting the Castillo, we had worked up an appetite and walked over to Via Dante where many cafes line the streets. We chose Cafe Dante as it was recommended in an article I had read on Milan. Three of us had pizzas. The pizzas were large and really share-able between 2 people, so we ended up with way too much food. One of us ordered the panini with spicy salami, arugula and brie, which was a great combination. This cafe seems a bjt touristy, but the food was fine, and it was fun to sit outside on Via Dante. Overall, this was an "OK" place to eat if you happen to be passing by, though I would not go out of my way for it. Probably any of the other cafes on this street would be similar.
For our last night in Milan,I thought we would head over to the Naviglio Grande, the canal district described in one article I had read as "the glowing canals and waterside drinking dens of the Navigli neighborhood. Designed in part by Leonardo, the narrow canals were neglected for decades, but recent preservation efforts have spurred the area's emergence as one of the city's hottest night-life destinations."
Based on this description, I had hoped for a picturesque destination, but the canal is sadly not very attractive, and the still waters are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. For Milan's "hottest nightlife" I had expected an upscale destination, but people here weren't well dressed, and the canal wasn't pretty. There is graffiti everywhere. Needless to say, I was very disappointed in this area.
We had reservations at El Brellin, recommended in several articles. El Brellin had a nice outdoor garden seating area. I wasn't that impressed by the food, the menu was a little peculiar, and I actually ended up having a filet of beef with foie gras and madeira sauce (not very Italian!). This meal was fairly expensive, and while the service and atmosphere were nice, I don't think the food was that exceptional. Overall, I would not recommend either the Naviigli or this restaurant.