The Perfect Weekend in Milan

You’re in Milan for only three days; what are you going to do? Grab a city bike and pedal fast—you’ve got a busy schedule for the next three days. Drink in Milan’s fashion and art and, yes, an espresso or glass of vino at a café table—all while pondering the wonders of 15th-century architecture and deciding in which fabulous Milan restaurant or cocktail bar to luxuriate over dinner.

Piazza del Duomo, 8, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
The Museo del Novecento (Museum of the 20th century) is a visual lesson in one century of Italian art history. Housed is the 1930s Palazzo dell’Arengario by Rationalist architects Piero Portaluppi and Giovanni Muzio. The Novecento also houses an amazing collection, Who’s Who of the 1900s, including Italians Balla, Modigliani, Boccioni, Martini, Morandi, and De Chirico and international artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Klee. In fact, the museum is considered one of the world’s most important collections of Italian and international 20th-century art in Italy—Futurism, Spatialism, and Arte Povera. Keep your eye out for Piero Manzoni’s clever Arte Povera pieces, Arturo Marini’s large stone figures, and Pellizza Da Volpedo’s monumental painting Il Quarto Stato (The Fourth Estate). Martini also did the palazzo’s exterior bas relief. Bonus: The upper level bar/restaurant overlooks Piazza del Duomo.
Piazza del Duomo, Milano MI, Italy
The historic and modern center of the city, the Piazza del Duomo (the square surrounding the cathedral’s base) remains a popular meeting place, hangout and hub of Milanese life. Local vendors setup shop (selling fresh coconut in the summer, toys and tourist wares), kids run and play (free from traffic) and shoppers trickle in from the walking street surrounding the huge plaza. The statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy, is the best place to meet, sit, recharge and watch the city go by.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 43, 20143 Milano MI, Italy
Yes, Mag is a great place for a morning, Saturday brunch, and light lunch, but it is also an excellent spot for those who love a great cocktail. Head to Navigli in the late afternoon to watch Flavio, Marco, and Francesco mix creative concoctions based on old-school recipes and lots of innovation. Drinks to try: the Aviation (gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, crème di violette), One Piece (a modified Old Fashioned), and really, anything they offer.
Naviglio Grande, Italy
While few in number, Milan‘s canals can be charming. Naviglio Grande, the largest, is my favorite to walk along. Lined by shops, outdoor cafes and bars, there is life alongside the water anytime of day. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the Antique Market that fills up the walkways on some Sundays. It is a treasure trove of pottery, jewelry, vintage designer clothes, and Murano glass—Milanese have impeccable taste for both the old and new.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 55, 20143 Milano MI, Italy
Matias Perdomo is an Argentinian with a preference for Molecular Gastronomy, influenced by such greats as the Roca Brothers and Ferran Adrià, running a kitchen and a dining room overflowing till late into the night in an unusual part of Milan. Far from the Duomo and the fashion boutiques of Milan’s trendier areas, Matias has instead chosen to inhabit a former trattoria along the canals in the Navigli District. So far, he has one Michelin Star that’s more than deserved. Could he get more? It isn’t likely. Adorably, Matias doesn’t play the game that so many chefs do in pursuit of Michelin’s good graces. The restroom is out back (as in, next to the deep freeze and where the employees wash their hands), the chairs are uncomfortable, the tables are often shared with fellow patrons you’ve never met, the kitchen itself might be too small to ever meet the full demand of another star or two. Yet Matias is a Michelin Man. He’s creating the kind of food that people will wait any amount of time for, return over and over to enjoy and tell their friends about for weeks, months, maybe even years after. He’s friendly, making his rounds through the dining room and resting a hand on the shoulder of a pretty Italian woman in a way that’s not unwelcome, smiling with a grin that can’t be anything but disarming and generally making friends with any patron who enters his door. Al Pont de Ferr is a place where everyone saves room for dessert and everyone leaves happy.
Corso Como, 10, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
Part café, part gallery, part high-end designer shopping and even part hotel, 10 Corso Como feels like you’ve entered into luxury Italian heaven. Walking through a lush courtyard with a secret garden–type feel, it almost seems like you’re strolling through an Italian’s home. Combining classic Milanese-style architecture with modern, fresh decor, 10 Corso Como takes travelers on a unique experience through its spaces. The café features some of the best espresso in Milan; the bookstore has an incredible selection of high-end glossy magazines; and the store, well, let’s just say it gives many designer boutiques a run for their money. Whether you can only peruse the carefully curated high-end ware, or if you’re one of the lucky ones who can snag an Alexander McQueen piece, this shop is a don’t-miss in Milan.
14 Via Mozart
The Villa Necchi Campiglio, just to the east of the historic center of Milan, may look familiar. The house had a turn on the silver screen in the 2009 Italian movie “I Am Love,” starring Tilda Swinton. Even if you didn’t see the film, anyone interested in early 20th-century architecture should include this gem of Italian rationalism on their Milan itinerary. The house is named for the occupants of most of its history: the sisters Gigina and Nedda Necchi and Gigina’s husband, Angelo Campiglio. The sisters—a glamorous, cosmopolitan pair—commissioned architect Piero Portaluppi (who also designed Milan’s Museo Novecento) to build a house that was the height of fashion at the time, including such novelties as a heated outdoor pool and a tennis court. His rationalist style could be described as a no-expenses-spared modernism—simple, clean lines and rich finishes. Gleaming rosewood paneling, marble bathrooms, and customs pieces give this modernist structure an undeniable elegance. After a brief period when the home was commandeered by the Fascist Party, the sisters returned to their home. Architect Tomaso Buzzi was hired to give the villa some 19th-century touches and a less severe look, reflecting the fashion among upper-class Italians in the 1950s. Still, the home remained largely true to its original design when Gigina died in 2000 (at the age of 99) and left it to Italy‘s national trust. In 2008, it opened to the public as a museum.
Via Giuseppe Meda, 24, 20141 Milano MI, Italy
The newly opened Carlo e Camilla in Segheria is Michelin star chef Carlo Cracco adventure in family style chic cuisine. Everyone eats together on a long table in a former woodworking factory illuminated by Venetian chandeliers. The is a delicious interpretation of contemporary Italian cuisine including dishes such as spaghetti alici, cipollotto, lime e caffè (spaghetti with anchovies, green onions, lime and coffee).
30 Via Paolo Sarpi
Considered by some as a Milan institution, Cantine Isole is a small wine bar/enoteca with a lot of history and great atmosphere. It’s located in the Chinatown neighborhood, near Garibaldi station and the Isola neighborhood. Expect a lot of character.
Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milano MI, Italy
Fondazione Prada reopens its Milan exhibition space in a 205,000 square foot space designed by OMA (by Rem Koolhaas). Prada always has the most engaging shows-- getting the best of contemporary art.
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