What to do in Milan in a day

Nikki ParkinsonTravel 18 Comments

Europe is dotted with some of the most incredible cathedrals in the world but there is so much about Milan’s Duomo which is captivating in its design. It makes it impossible not to gravitate towards it.

My gravitation had nothing whatsoever to do with the shops and boutiques lining the streets immediately around the Duomo.

Who me?

Oh, ok you got me.

The Duomo – the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the second largest of all Catholic cathedrals – is indeed worthy of our captivation.

The site dates back to Roman times but building of the Gothic structure started in the 14th Century. It took centuries to complete (largely by the 1880s) but even now some blocks remain untouched to be turned into sculpture.

Given more time we would have climbed to its rooftop as friends had suggested, we may also have tried to get to the World Expo (on until October 31, 2015) but we were on a mission.

What to do in one day in Milan

We’d been strict on our shopping up until this point (my little sojourn into Chanel excepted) as we had two internal European flights with RyanAir and had limited luggage allowance between us.

Monique the Super Travel Agent had booked us on our flight home to Australia out of Milan after our week in Italy’s south (Puglia).

We decided that what to do in Milan in a day would be dedicated to one thing.


Italy was still in Saldi (sales) mode so no further incentive was needed.

Shopping in Milan, Italy

We arrived at our hotel (more on that below) about 12noon, had our luggage stored and, armed with a map with all the big name stores listed on it, hit the streets.

The Duomo was just five minutes’ walk away, which was code for the world’s first shopping centre, The Galleria, being five minutes’ walk away.

It was here that we made our first stop, lunch at the Terrasse Aperol overlooking the Duomo.

Terrasse Aperol, Galleria, Milan, Italy

Terrasse Aperol, Galleria, Milan, Italy

Sure, it’s a touristy thing to do but with limited time it’s all about soaking up the heart of the city and what better way to do that then with a Spritz. This bar/restaurant was like a shrine to my new favourite cocktail. It was a sign indeed.

Mr SY also took it as a sign that there was free wi-fi and he was able to log on to Fox Sports and follow along with the State of Origin rugby league decider.

I took his actions as a further sign to spend time circling on the map all the shops I’d like to visit.

All these signs … so much shopping downstairs.

What WAS girl to do?

Head straight on in to Louis Vuitton, that’s what.

Shopping in Milan, Italy

In the time that it took for Queensland to score its first try (Mr SY was distracted by the free wi-fi at LV and following his beloved Maroons to victory), I’d made a decision to make one investment purchase that afternoon instead of a haul of clothes.

Mr SY loves a haul and haul he did – two blazers, two shirts, a fine knit, polo shirt and a messenger bag – all from the Galleria department store laRinascente.

And collectively we bought a new suitcase … as you do when the previous luggage restrictions are relaxed.

laRinacente is a store made up of many concession stores – it carries many of the high-end, big names in fashion and beauty – but not as big ranges as you’d find in stand-alone stores.

It also has a fabulous food hall and dining options on the 7th floor (open till midnight) where you can dine with a view of the Duomo.

Dining on 7th floor leRinacente, Milan, Italy

Dining on 7th floor leRinacente, Milan, Italy

We heard many more Aussie voices in the shopping crowds than in Puglia. And I may or may not have fan-girled media personality Kate Langbroek (Kate and Hughesy) in the men’s section of laRinacente.

The other main shopping street we tackled was Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Here you’ll find more high street stores than designer – think Zara, H&M, Sephora.

Shopping in Milan, Italy | Corso Vittorio Emanuele

Got a hankering for some luxury (window) shopping, Via Monte Napoleone is your street. All the big designer names in a row.

Shopping in Milan, Italy | Via Monte Napoleone

This is all in a five-minute walk from the Duomo.

But if it’s more you want, and you have time, head to Corso Beunos Aires. A quick trip on the metro will get you then in minutes.

It’s a long street to walk but here you’ll find ALL the household names in fashion retail and more.

Most big-name chain stores are now global. No longer is it a case of heading to Europe or the US for a taste at shopping at places like H&M and Zara. They are everywhere.

The same sparkly pineapple tee I refrained from purchasing in the UK was winking at me from the window in Milan.

Maybe I will see it in Australia soon for our spring?

Where to stay

This was a quality, not quantity, travel situation. I wanted to find somewhere within walking distance – and preferably with a view of the Duomo.

My search started with lastminute.com.au and it didn’t take long to find the Boscolo Milano, a hotel part of the Autograph Group (Marriott).

I was taken by the location – and the ability to book a room with that Duomo view. And I had hoped to dine on the Terrasse but it was booked for a private function.

Sadly there was no time to experience the spa either. Next time.

Boscolo Milano Spa, Milan, Italy

The photos matched what we arrived to – a modern and quirky take on Milan’s leading design reputation.

At each turn was a bold colour, an unexpected juxtaposition of interior décor pieces – often both combined in a powerful statement.

It was surprising, in an exciting, futuristic way.

Boscolo Milano, Milan, Italy

Boscolo Milano, Milan, Italy

The room we booked was spacious enough to accommodate a roll-away bed for our son with plenty of room to move.

Boscolo Milano, Milan, Italy

The crumpled lime green armchair dominated the room, as did the metallic fretwork on the windows.

This worked cleverly to frame the view across the rooftops to the Duomo. By day or night, it was a surreal outlook.

Boscolo Milano, Milan, Italy

Boscolo Milano, Milan, Italy

What to wear

Milan in summer is hot and a little humid. Lightweight clothes are a must. Most women were wearing summer frocks and sandals. My frocks were in the (growing) washing pile, so lightweight pants and a tee it was. Once again comfortable shoes were key. With limited time, you don’t want your feet giving up your mission before you do. My Frankie4 Footwear sandals (available September) have proved very reliable throughout the trip. They have cushioned my feet and supported my legs, while still looking good.

Bassike tee | Surafina scarf | Mela Purdie pants | Frankie4 Footwear sandals

So, over to you … clearly we’ve not seen nearly enough of this amazing city. I want to know, if you’ve been to Milan, what we need to make time for next time we visit?

Comments 18

  1. Just came back from Italy ourselves. You mentioned purchasing a new suitcase….was that to fly back in addition to yours? Just wondering if there’s a trick to not having to pay the airline for it because the cost is astronomical. Friends flew back from USA with 5 cases – don’t know how they did it!

  2. Life in Italy is like being in an opera. So on our visit to Milan one place we loved was a tour of La Scala the famous Opera House. It was wonderful, with a guide who gave a great insight to ‘opera behind the scenes’ – or curtains! The best part was visiting the ladies room and experiencing the revolving musical seat! When you flushed it rotated to clean and played opera music to you. Fabulous. @brisbanefrannie

  3. All those things Nikki. We stayed in Milan a few nights last time. The thing I am most disappointed that we’ve missed, was seeing The Last Supper. We hadn’t booked our tix in advance and couldn’t get them for the time we were in Milan. The Duomo is certainly very imposing in Milan, fab that you had a room with a view.

  4. We had a quick visit to Milan last year (on way from Paris to Rome, via train).. Loved the Duomo as well as some of the smaller churches around the city (amazing frescoes). The volunteers in the churches were so friendly and helpful, explaining the history and the artists.

    We were also lucky enough to see The Last Supper. Only 15 people allowed in at a time in a sealed, temperature controlled room. Book the tickets as early as possible though – they can sell out in minutes!

    We ogled at the Cacao Lab counter. The kids were gobsmacked that those creations were edible.

    I was disappointed when we had to leave Milan. If I had realised how easy it would have been to tack on a daytrip to Lake Como, I would have allowed time for it. Next time for sure!

  5. Well now we need to go back to Milan! Last time we were there we were in a high speed taxi race.. hehe! Seriously! Which then stopped in the middle of the road where the taxi drivers each got out of their cars to have a screaming match in the middle of the road… #craycray

  6. all just fabulous! thankyou nikki for sharing your photos and great experience with us! … it’s armchair travel at it’s best, when one has visited places before! … in Italy we visited and stayed in the lakes area, LAGO DI GARDA, LAGO LUGANO, LAGO DI COMO, LAGO DI MAGGIORI, PADOVA, VENICE, CHIOGGIA, FLORENCE, ISOLA D’ELBA, VERONA and more! … all beautiful and with their own unique charm! … have to love Italy!
    many deja vu moments! … it’s a cultural smorgasbord!
    btw you did well with shopping at LV!; … also your traveling outfits were all working well for you! … well done hun! … I’m packing lightly for q … hope weather dramatically improves!
    much love m:)X

    1. I want to see all of those places in Italy – it’s a country that has really captured my heart. I was very proud of my packing efforts (a good job for me and it all worked!) … it’s cold here overnight but if you can find a sheltered sunny spot in the day it’s lovely. x

  7. It all looks beautiful Nikki and if I went to Milan I think I would be buying quality over quantity especially as you can get H&M and Zara here,what did you buy in Louis Vuitton ? Maybe a lovely scarf!
    The views from your hotel are breathtaking,thank you so much for sharing your trip with us Nikki Xx

  8. I haven’t been to Milan, but like the sound of laRinascente. Your description reminds me of Harvey Nichols, where I love to just visit and inspect the pretty things.
    The globalisation of the chain stores is not really my style, I prefer something a little less likely to see on someone else. Although I do love the Ines de la Fressange for Uniqlo range.

    1. I do prefer finding something a bit different too Johanne. It really hit home after London, then Sheffield, Paris and Milan, how many of the stores are the same … and that we now have most of them here in Australia.

  9. Not exactly in Milan but head to Lake Como do a cruise on the lake divine And hit the silk factory outlets Also The Castillo was amazing and a tour around FC Milan football ground was great too

  10. Not exactly in Milan but head to Lake Como do a cruise on the lake divine And hit the silk factory outlets Also The Castillo was amazing and a tour around FC Milan football ground was great too

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