Swapping our Easter eggs for a weekend in Milan
Making Good Friday a great Friday
We arrived at Milan airport about 5pm and security was pretty quick. We caught the bus to Milan Central which was just €5 and 50 minutes. The ticket kiosk was easy to find at airport too.
It was a short and simple walk to Hotel Ibis. We checked in, dropped our bags off and were back out by 7pm.
We had our first Corona at a bar close to the hotel but I forget the name. Loud reggae music, cheap beers and a dancing barmaid shaking her shimmy for entertainment.
We booked at table at Il Carpaccio through Trip Advisor and got a 20% discount. It’s a contemporary and cosy Italian restaurant with friendly and welcoming staff. We shared a simple but super tasty bread, tomato and cucumber starter followed by succulent rosemary steak for me and linguine with broad beans, bacon and pecorino cheese for Laura. The food was beautiful, but I didn’t realise there was no sides with mine so had to steal some of Laura’s pasta to break it up.
A short walk from the restaurant we turned on to Via Lecco, a busy little street with small and busy bars. The hustle and bustle outside Mono drew us in like moths to a flame. A cool bar with a laid back atmosphere and strong LGBT scene.
Saturday shopping, sites and Aperitivo
We woke late and headed towards Vittorio Emanuele II and Duomo Cathedral.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a stunning shopping arcade decorated inside with classic Italian style. Murals, renaissance paintings and roman sculptures on every wall. A spectacular dome glass roof and high end shops like Prada, Gucci and Versace with price tags to make your eyes water.
Having meandered through the shopping arcade imaging another life where spending €2000+ on a handbag is normal, we stopped at Mercato Del Duomo for a late breakfast.
We sat outside and enjoyed a pot of tea and a superb pastry each whilst watching swarms of people walking around Piazza del Duomo and visiting the cathedral.
We had lunch at Gatto Rosso in the shopping arcade. A nice place in a great location. We sat on the edge people watching, well we paid more attention to the numerous little pint sized dogs in designer coats than the people. We both had decent pizzas and a beer. They were reasonably priced considering the location, but they did charge us €8 for bread. An extortionate amount for something we didn’t ask for!
For weeks Laura had been badgering me about getting a Gucci belt while we in Milan, the home of fashion. We went on the hunt after lunch. Luckily for me, and unluckily for Laura, they didn’t have one small enough! Oh well she obviously wasn’t meant to have one.
While we were hunting for the belt the heavens opened up and for some reason we couldn’t find an open bar. So we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. This included an unexpected hour power nap.
For the evening we got the Metro to Navigli, a bustling hive of restaurants and bohemian cocktail bars. Its a cool place with a laid back vibe. It would make a great base for any trip to Milan and if we were to come again I’d look for a hotel in this areas.
Our first stop was Mag Cafe after reading about it in Lonely Plant guide. A trendy speakeasy with a reputation for excellent cocktails. Dim lighting, cosy and packed with character. It was happy hour when we got there which meant free aperitivo with our drink. Choosing a cocktail was a challenge as the ingredients were all in Italian, but we picked a few ingredients out we could understand and both chose a gin and tonic based cocktail. It was probably the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had. Perfectly complimented by the cheese and ham selection.
A short walk over the bridge to the other side of the canal and into another cocktail masterclass at Ugo. We sat at the bar watching the professional mixologists in action. Painstaking care taken with every ingredient in every cocktail. I had a Money Maker, a Sherry based cocktail and Laura had a Campari based Tram Tram. Once again the drinks were served with delicious aperitivo.
We wondered around the canal looking for somewhere to eat and ended up choosing a traditional Milanese restaurant called Ristorante dell Alzaia 26. Having stuffed our faces with aperitivo we were not particularly hungry, but that didn’t stop us finishing off every scrap of our hand made pasta dishes. I had a tasty Parppadelle with bolognese ragu, but Laura’s gnocchi with sausage and provolone cheese was superb! Simple but great food complimented with an Italian Sauvingnon Blanc.
Another zip across the canal bridge and we were back in cool cocktail heaven at Zog. A young, multinational crowd, dimmed lights, brick clad walls, industrial feel and funky house music. We ordered a Nero with gin, chartreuse and vermouth, and a Polish with Zubrowka vodka, lime and other ingredients I couldn’t translate. The Polish was good the Nero was not to my taste.
Easter Sunday under the Milan sun
The dark clouds and rain had well and truly gone when we woke up on Easter Sunday morning. The sun was shining brightly. We walked back to the Duomo area and found a place called Majestic on the busy Via Mercanti for a late breakfast. Coffee and croissant sat in the sun. Bliss.
A short walk after breakfast and we were at Castello Sforzesco. An impressive medieval castle with vast grounds to wonder around. There are lots of museums and art galleries sprinkled around the castle, but we were enjoying the sun too much to spend the day in the dark. So we just mooched around the castle for a while taking in the scenery, sun and crowds.
For lunch we stopped at Granaio café e Cucina across the road from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was packed to the point where we had to queue for a table. It didn’t take too long though and the staff were working hard to fit everyone in. I had a mozzarella and tomato panini with a large beer and laura had another margarita pizza with a Sauvignon Blanc. Both were good. The pizza had a distinctive smokey taste that I assume came from a wood burner pizza oven.
After lunch we headed towards Navigli to find a nice area to sit outside with a drink. Just before we got to the canals we came across a busy little bar called Dazio with small sun terrace and decent rock n roll music. It looked out on the Porta Ticinese, a neoclassical granite gate, honouring Napoleon. The service was terrible. Slow and inattentive. It took about 25 minutes for someone to take our order. And in that time an Italian family walked in and got served two courses, a cuddle and a couple kisses. The waiter smashed a glass next to our table and just left it there for people to walk on.
Next was a stroll around the incredibly busy Navigli canal trying to find another table in the sun before we eventually got tricked into stopping at Spritz Navigli. We headed for a table in the sun but alas were ushered back into shade! Crap! Quick Sauvignon Blanc and move on!!
Unfortunately the prime real estate in the sun was all taken so we caught the metro back to the hotel. A quick change out of my ripped jeans and back out for the evening.
As it was Easter Sunday and we didn’t want to spend the evening going from restaurant to restaurant we used Trip Advisor to reserve a table. We booked at Ristorante Settembrini 18 which was about half a kilometre from our hotel.
As soon as we walked in we were greeted with the friendliest welcome since arriving in Milan. The excellent service continued despite one chef and two waiters covering the entire restaurant, which was always full and always had more people waiting for tables. Our waiter was amazing handling phone reservations, drinks, food and new comers with a smile. We had yet more pizza and finally had our beloved penne aribiata. You can probably smell the garlic from me as you read this blog!
Arivederci Milan on Monday
Our last breakfast in Milan was at Pandenus Tadino, round the corner from the hotel. A friendly and stylish cafe full of locals enjoying their caffeine fix. Cheap, relaxed atmosphere, pleasant staff and good coffee. Great selection of pastries and the breakfasts ordered by the locals looked amazing.
The highlight of the trip was just after breakfast when we were back in the hotel getting ready to leave. I got a panicked phone call from Laura exclaiming that she was stuck in the toilet and the door wouldn’t open. I went to reception for help but the big queue meant Laura was stuck longer than necessary. The hotel porter managed to prize open the door with a big tug. Disaster averted.Tags: Bars, City Break, culture, experience, holiday, Milan, travel