Getting off the beaten path in a large city such as Milan can be challenging. But not impossible. Here are some ideas for you:
  • The lake of Como is a popular day trip from Milan. It’s charming and romantic, especially when it’s not overcrowded (so skip summer).
  • Head to Bologna for the best food in Italy. Bonus points: the historic sites are interesting, too.
  • Vigevano is truly an off the beaten path option for a day trip from Milan. It’s where the Italians escape to and has a charming piazza.
  • Parco Sempione in Milan is popular among the locals who want to escape the daily hustle and bustle. When in Italy do as the Italians do, right?

Why you should add Milan to your RTW travel list

Of course, visiting Milan wouldn’t be complete without seeing the sights which make it popular among tourists. Here are some ideas on what to do if you’ve never been there or plan on staying for a while.
  • Duomo is the highlight of your visit. No visit is complete without spending time on the roof.
  • “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci adorns one wall of a former dining hall in the monastery attached to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan. While extremely touristy, it’s certainly a highlight of the trip.
  • And while you are at it, you might want to visit Santa Maria delle Grazie, too (It’s free).
  • See the city from the top of Branca Tower.
  • Football (soccer) fans shouldn’t miss visiting the San Siro Museum.
  • Window shop. If your budget doesn’t allow for shopping, no one stops you from taking a peak at what’s interesting.
  • Food. Oh, good Italian food. While in Milan, stop for a panzerotto (Milanese fast food).

Why you shouldn’t add Milan to your RTW travel list

  • Although the financial and fashion capital of Italy, Milan is not exactly a city which tourists choose to stay longer in. A day here is enough to check out the main sights.
  • Being the financial power horse of Italy also means Milan is an expensive place to visit. From accommodation to food, everything costs a lot here. But there are always ways to save some money.

Overview

Milan is one of Italy's major cities, but isn't necessarily a city that travelers flock to when touring the country. This is Italy's financial center and also one of the great fashion capitals of the world. Those things add up to fantastic high-end shopping and posh nightlife, but they don't do much good for the backpackers. Milan definitely has some interesting sights and plenty of history, but unless you are really a fashion person there might be better choices for those doing a short tour of Italy.

What To Do

Like so many other European cities, the main attraction here is the old cathedral. The Duomo, as it's called, is a massive Gothic church that was built beginning in the late 14th Century. You can get to the roof for incredible views of not only the city, but of the spires on top of the building as well. Speaking of shopping, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuale is just facing Duomo Square and this historic indoor mall is an attraction unto itself.

The Last Supper was painted into a wall in a convent here, but it's not in the shape it used to be in. Da Vinci's masterpiece dates from 1495 and is interesting to see in person, but you must make reservations way in advance to get in. In addition to fashion, Milan is known for its famous football teams. AC Milan and Inter play at a stadium known as San Siro and tickets are sometimes available on game day or at least by scalpers out front.

Getting There

Milan is well situated on the train lines so it's a popular stop for Eurail Pass holders or anyone else passing through northern Italy. If coming from further away than next door you'll want to book a flight into Malpensa airport (code: MXP). This is the largest of three airports and the most common for longer flights. Also check Linate Airport (code: LIN) and Orio al Serio Airport (code: BGY) as each handles some regional and low-cost carrier traffic.

Where To Stay

The center if Milan is fairly compact and the public transportation is good. Since this is a business city occasionally things will be booked up at unexpected times so plan ahead. There are several hostels in Milan and the usual variety of hotels in Milan as well. Finding a cheap bed might be more difficult than finding one at one of the hostels in Rome, but if you start your planning early enough you should have no problems. Prices tend to be very high for the business-oriented places, but during slow times of year these same rooms can be very cheap.