12 November 2021
A tour of Milan in one day: is it possible to really see it all in such a short time? No, but nevertheless we want to recommend the main tours that you ought to consider if you only have a few hours to discover the city!
There is a saying in Milanese, “Milan l’è un gran Milan” that sums it all up: the city of St Ambrose, capital of fashion and design and the international representative of Italian quality production in many sectors is one of the highlights of northern Italy and, despite what many people believe, it is a city that has something for everyone.
Whether you are an art lover, a shopaholic or a fan of gastronomic tours, Milan and its many faces will be able to satisfy you and give you also – if you are motivated by culinary curiosity – something to chew on… But what can you see in Milan in a few hours?
A Tour of Milan in one day: here are 10 not to be missed!
1. A Walk in the Cimitero Monumentale
A Tour of Milan in one day: here is the first stop! Just a stone’s throw from the glass towers of Porta Nuova and the Asian street food of Via Paolo Sarpi, the Cimitero Monumentale is a place that all fans of works of art must see: here, strolling along the tree-lined paths, you can admire tombs and tomb effigies of great artistic value. Famous people of the calibre of Manzoni, the writer par excellence of Milan, rest in the Cimitero Monumentale, in the “Famedio” or Memorial Chapel. It is a triumph of funerary art, to learn more about the figures who have contributed to building up the image of Milan in the world.
2. A stroll amidst the “giants” of Porta Nuova
It can be seen from various corners of the city, standing tall and proud: we are talking about the Unicredit Tower which dominates the futuristic Piazza Gae Aulenti, the heart of the Porta Nuova district. Very close by, there is the Bosco Verticale, created by the visionary architecture of Stefano Boeri and the Biblioteca degli Alberi, a large green area protected by these glass “giants”. Going past the skyscrapers of Porta Nuova, we arrive in Corso Como – one of the main areas of Milanese night life.
3. CityLife, shopping and leisure
If Porta Nuova is the most futuristic part of Milan for you, then you still have not seen the more recent buildings of CityLife, the district chosen by the couple Chiara Ferragni and Fedez as their love nest. There are expansive areas of greenery and “glass cathedrals”, built for the Expo 2015: the three towers of CityLife were designed by important architects and are nicknamed “the Straight one, the Twisted one and the Curved one.” Starting from Piazza Giulio Cesare, the large Fountain of the Four Seasons can be admired, together with the three skyscrapers that were designed respectively by Isozaki, Hadid and Libeskind and today surround the CityLife Shopping District, where there is also a food court and a multiplex cinema.
4. In the steps of Leonardo Da Vinci
Not far from the Parco Sempione, after Piazza Cadorna, it is possible to go down Corso Magenta to be in the steps of Leonardo Da Vinci: near the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, you can admire nothing less than the Last Supper he painted the very famous mural also known as the “Cenacolo”. Not far from Santa Maria delle Grazie, there is another masterpiece by Da Vinci… it is not the original, but an equally magnetic copy: we are talking about the Virgin of the Rocks, attributed to the pupil of Leonardo Da Vinci, Francesco Melzi, which today is in the monastic complex of San Michele sul Dosso.
The face-to-face with the great maestro does not end here, because remaining in Corso Magenta, you can also visit his splendid Vineyard, before going towards the Sant’Ambrogio area. A few tram stops and here you can stroll in one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of Milan: the small square of the Colonne di San Lorenzo, where young people gather in the evening for drinks and to hang out together.
5. Discovering Underground Milan
You only have to go down a few yards to discover another fascinating and mysterious face of Milan: a tour of underground Milan will lead you to discover the archaeological area under the Piazza Duomo and the ancient Crypt of San Giovanni in Conca. The Roman ruins which can still be seen in Piazza Missori belonged to its basilica.
Under the streets of Milan you can have an experience of a return to the very distant past, admiring the remains of the Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti – where St Ambrose is believed to have baptized Augustine of Ippona – and the ancient Basilica of Santa Tecla. A fine leap backwards in time!
6. A Saffron-scented tour of the Duomo
The Gothic masterpiece stands proudly in the centre of the large city square and is dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, but it is more simply known all over the world as the Duomo of Milan. The undisputed symbol of the city and impossible to rival, the Duomo claims the record of being the largest church in Italy (obviously excluding St Peter’s in the Vatican) but it is also the fourth largest in Europe and the fifth in the world. Not bad, considering that it is effectively its majesty that is so fascinating, while it can be admired from every angle; its Gothic spires and its interior illuminated through stained glass windows will leave you breathless.
To recover from all this beauty, there is nothing better than to see a cooking demo by our chef who will let you taste the Milanese speciality par excellence, the risotto allo zafferano, or saffron risotto! Legend has it that the recipe was invented by a glazier of the Duomo…
7. Vintage dinner on a vintage tram
Milan at dusk takes on magical colours: admire it from a vintage tram from the 1920s, enjoying a dinner with all the trimmings prepared perfectly by our chef. The star of the menu is the inimitable risotto allo zafferano (saffron risotto), the culinary symbol of the city of Milan. The tram will take you through the old streets of Milan, in its most elegant and refined heart, for a journey through many different styles of architecture that range from the Gothic of the Duomo to the Rationalism of the Italian 20th century and from the baroque to eclecticism. If you want to discover all the types of tour by tram available, click here.
8. On the roofs of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The majestic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is well known for its elegance and sparkling store windows of the most luxurious designer names; we take you to discover the Milanese drawing room from a unique perspective, on a tour of the walkways of the Highline Galleria, above the splendid glass dome.
From here the Palazzo Reale, the more contemporary Museo del Novecento and the Torre Velasca can be admired. It is also an opportunity to hear some anecdotes linked to the history of the gallery, such as that of the good luck rite which people do on a part of the floor where there is an illustration of a powerful bull… Turn round three times on the heel of your right foot on its “attributes” to seek the favours of the blind goddess.
9. The majestic Teatro alla Scala of Milan and the museum of the theatre
Another few steps and you are at the famous La Scala of Milan: the opera house is in the square of the same name, Piazza della Scala and will fascinate you with its neoclassical elegance, which was designed by Giuseppe Piermarini. Over the years, its stage has welcomed the great voices of opera, like the divine Maria Callas and composers and musicians of the calibre of Verdi and Paganini.
Today it is possible to visit the rooms of the Museum of the La Scala where you can relive the magnificence of theatrical seasons of the past, from the times of Eleonora Duse to discover historic objects and unique relics, such as a lock of hair of the very famous Mozart.
10. The Frida Kahlo exhibitions at the Fabbrica del Vapore
Here is the last stop we suggest if you want to do a tour of Milan in one day: a trip to discover the life, the art and the symbolism of the works of the great Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. “Il caos dentro” (“Chaos inside”) is the exhibition that is open until March 2021 in the exhibition area of the Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan, a stone’s throw from Porta Nuova. The exhibition is multimedia and interactive, with reconstructions of the house where the painter was born and personal mementos, such as pages from her diary and love letters to her beloved Diego Rivera. A major exhibition dedicated to one of the icons of the last century.