Visiting Milan: hotel, restaurant, activities tips - une femme d'un certain âge

A quick travel recap of our first visit to Milan

Red trolley car in Milan, Italy.

In October 2021, we spent almost 3 weeks touring the northern part of Italy. Many of you have asked about our accommodations, itinerary and restaurant recommendations in the area. We stayed in several regions, so for ease of reference, I’m breaking it down and will share in multiple posts over the next few weeks. Our first stop was Milan.

Tips for visiting Milan

First, let me say that I LOVED Milan. It’s a vibrant city, not as ancient as Rome but still with lots of history and unique culture. And it’s one of the world’s fashion capitals, full of stylish people.

My very first recommendation for visiting Milan applies to your arrival. There are two airports that service Milan, Linate and the newer Malpensa. If you have a choice, fly into Linate. It’s a smaller airport, but only a short drive from downtown Milan. Malpensa is over an hour away. If you’ve had a long day of travel, this can make a big difference! (We didn’t know this when we booked our flight, but happened to get lucky.)

Our hotel in the center of Milan

We wanted to be centrally located for ease of exploring Milan on foot and by public transport. We looked at several options and selected Sina the Gray, which was one of the smaller hotels we considered. It’s just a short walk to the Galleria, the Opera house, the Duomo di Milano (cathedral) and many other spots.

The room was a nice size, not huge but well laid out. I really liked the long table/desk against the back wall, which gave me a nice work space. The bathroom was down a short flight of stairs and was relatively well-lit. The decor is mostly modern, though not stark. (I wish I’d taken a photo of the lobby which had a large purple velvet swing bench in the center.)

The staff at Sina the Gray was amazing and could not have been more helpful during our entire stay. We arrived too late for dinner our first night, but they told us they’d be happy to provide drinks and a snack on the rooftop terrace.

They also recommended (and booked us into) two of the three restaurants where we ate dinner the remaining nights in Milan, and wow! We were delighted with the recommendations.

The only, only downside was that our room was VERY warm (for us), and we weren’t able to adjust the temperature except by opening the window.

Milan restaurants

We had what I consider to be three of our best meals EVER in Milan! I apologize in advance as I don’t usually photograph or take notes about every dish, so my recommendations will be more general.

Isola dei Sapori – we were led to our table past a long counter of fresh seafood on ice, a promising start. Our expectations were exceeded…everything including the service was outstanding. We also learned that landlocked Milan is actually an excellent place to enjoy fresh seafood. It’s a transport hub, so most of the fresh catches pass through en route to other destinations.

Ratanà – a more casual atmosphere and style of food, though everything was excellent. We ate on the patio, but the little bit of the interior I saw looked charming. (The building was a former cinema.)

Stendhal – what a delight this was! Fabulous food, friendly staff and a very convivial atmosphere. Would definitely go back!

Seeing the sights

We’d booked a private walking tour for our first day, (arranged through authenticitaly.com) and we covered a lot of ground! We walked through the famous Galleria to the Opera house, where we were able to watch some of a set change for an upcoming performance. Then we toured the Duomo di Milano, including climbing all the way to the top. It’s really magnificent! After lunch, we took a ride to the Armani Museum, which I’ve written about HERE.

The second day we explored on our own on foot, though we were a bit tired and didn’t venture too far.

The third day we met up with our guide again for a half day, and she shared some of her favorite shopping spots in Milan. Two that might interest you are WHYCI Milano (here’s an outfit with a jacket I bought there) and Giosa, which makes luxury crocodile bags and other goods right on the premises.

Late that afternoon we had tickets to see da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which was quite worth the visit, and I’d flag as a “must-see” if you’ll be visiting Milan.

More scenes from Milan (click the arrow to scroll)

I’ll post more recaps from our trip soon!

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26 Comments

  1. M H-H
    February 9, 2022 / 4:29 am

    Lovely
    Thank you.
    The actual skinny .

  2. Ellen
    February 9, 2022 / 4:46 am

    There is a fast train from Malpensa (the Malpensa Express) that goes right into the heart of the city. For many of us Malpensa is the only direct option, and a direct train from the airport is a far better option than changing planes in another city. Early in the morning, it is necessary to buy the tickets from a machine, and it was helpful that we had more than one credit card because it didn’t like my husbands card…other than that, no hitches to the system at all.

    • Susan Blakey
      Author
      February 9, 2022 / 6:21 am

      thanks for that info! We also had a LOT of trouble with our credit cards in automated machines in Italy, even though they worked fine in shops & restaurants.

      • Elizabeth
        February 9, 2022 / 9:20 am

        This suggestion may or may not work…Sometimes, there has to be a certain symbol on the back of the credit card for it to work in some machines overseas. I went into a bank in Europe & they explained this to me.

  3. Teresa Pouncey
    February 9, 2022 / 4:50 am

    This was a delightful post Susan. I’m British but have lived in Italy for over 40 years and as each year goes by I love it more. So glad you enjoyed Milan!

  4. Meg
    February 9, 2022 / 6:11 am

    Thank you for sharing your trip.

  5. Eve
    February 9, 2022 / 6:13 am

    It has got to be exhausting trying to see so many things but worth it. I’m only good for daily trips these days. I love ❤️ Being able to travel along with you though. Where we going next?

  6. CIndy W
    February 9, 2022 / 7:54 am

    What a dream trip! Beautiful !

  7. CarolB
    February 9, 2022 / 7:59 am

    Thank you for this post! Loved the photos and commentary. Very helpful to see your travel wardrobe!

    • Marian
      February 9, 2022 / 8:21 am

      Yes. I love this post!

  8. Adele
    February 9, 2022 / 8:24 am

    we loved Milan also — we were there in 2015. took me quite by surprise and I hadn’t quite anticpated it, but *excellent airfare* so why not? Loved the Last Supper and a visit to the Pinacoteca, as well as a day trip to Varenna for lunch. would definitely go back.

  9. Carole
    February 9, 2022 / 9:02 am

    Remind me when you traveled to Ital and Paris last year – we are planning a similar trip and trying to consider the weather. In 2018 we went to Tuscany and spent time in Rome and it was dreadfully hot – and that was in September. It looked like you had light coats on in your photos. Just curious

    • Susan Blakey
      Author
      February 9, 2022 / 10:04 am

      It was mid to late October.

  10. Elizabeth
    February 9, 2022 / 9:12 am

    We have travelled all over Italy & Sicily, and rented homes for longer stays. But, we’ve never been to Milan, so once we feel it’s safe to travel, we’ll have to visit this city & use your recommendations.
    Susan, I love your videos with the Red Leopard Group, scarf tying ideas, other discussion groups. I’m not on Instagram or Face Book, so would you consider adding a “Videos” link to the top of your daily blog page, along with the About, Style, etc? It would be great to have instant access whenever to review these videos/discussions. Thanks!

  11. Susan Makurath
    February 9, 2022 / 10:12 am

    I wondered if you had any recommendations for No Show socks to wear with sneakers? The ones I have found either show or are more like Peds. Help!

  12. Deanna
    February 9, 2022 / 10:16 am

    Thank you for sharing! So helpful! Love everything from the packing, outfit choices, to the pictures, food and accommodation info

  13. Cath
    February 9, 2022 / 10:25 am

    Well, Milan is now on my list! Thanks for the hotel and restaurant information. And , like you, I do not photograph my meal…can be quite disruptive for fellow diners. The hotel photos show the purple swing.
    I have been to Rome, Venice and Florence with Tuscany in between, but not northern Italy.
    Seeing the lakes and through the Alps to Switzerland would be quite the trip, with Milan as the starting point.

  14. Kay
    February 9, 2022 / 11:25 am

    I love Milan. I haven’t been for years, but I do remember the great shopping!

  15. February 9, 2022 / 12:54 pm

    We hadn’t planned on including Milan in our European itinerary, but ended up overnighting there while traveling from Florence to Paris by train and I’m so glad we did! We arrived early enough in the day to visit the Duomo, including a trip to the top which was absolutely spectacular, and the Galleria.

  16. Britt
    February 9, 2022 / 1:11 pm

    We are traveling to Florence in April to visit our daughter while she is studying abroad. It will be our first real visit outside of Rome, and I can’t wait!

    • Jill Ann
      February 9, 2022 / 5:40 pm

      Was just thinking about Florence! Can recommend a lovely restaurant called Coquinarius, on Villa della Oche near rhe Duomo

      • Britt
        February 9, 2022 / 6:35 pm

        Thanks for the recommendation!

  17. Michelle
    February 9, 2022 / 3:18 pm

    I love your travel recaps so thank you for sharing. Quick question on your Milan hotel: was the bathroom in suite & down a short flight of stairs in your own room? Or did you have to leave your room to access it?

    • Susan Blakey
      Author
      February 9, 2022 / 3:21 pm

      Hi Michelle, it was in our room. The room was sort of a split level deal, with the entrance and bathroom on one level, and the sleeping/sitting area on another. I don’t know if any other rooms in the hotel have this arrangement.

      • Michelle
        February 10, 2022 / 5:01 am

        Thanks for replying! Sounds like an interesting set up. I have friends who used to stay in a hotel in NYC that had bathrooms down the hall. They liked the rooms & the price enough to deal with that—but to me, I prefer my bathroom in my hotel room!

  18. February 11, 2022 / 12:44 am

    I totally agree with you about Milan. It is a splendid town. And that Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is to die for. Did you twist your heel on the bull in the Galleria? Did you have coffee in that cute café at the end of the Galleria with view of the Duomo?
    Greetje

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