Milan doesn’t always get the attention of the other major Italian cities but photographer Christine Davis proves that it’s worth a second look. Her swoon-worthy photos had us dying to know where she’d go on her One Perfect Day in Milan.
The reputation of Milan, is that it is usually the least favorite city of Italy, compared to romantic Rome, Venice and Florence. Since it’s the corporate center of the country, it can at times seem “cold” and “closed.” With a few architectural wonders to call its own, it is also internationally known as a fashion and design capital. Milan is quite the opposite as it takes time and patience to discover the gems and history hidden in this city.
I enjoy the city living that Milan offers and its cultural scene—especially art and food—have grown significantly in the last few years. I’m a native New Yorker and a foodie at heart, so I have enjoyed discovering both the city’s classic offerings as well as the international restaurants and cafes. Here is how I’d recommend you spend 24 hours in Milan.
Opening photo by Christine Davis
7:30AM – Viale Papiniano Farmers Market
To me, a perfect day in Milan must start at Viale Papiniano farmers market (one of the largest in Milan). The key is to go first thing in the morning and head straight to the fresh local produce to shop for fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Skip the other part of the market because it also has endless junk stalls that can get crowded and touristy.
Photo by Christine Davis
8:30AM – Riad Food Garden
With a lovely minimalist Middle Eastern decor, Riad Food Garden is one of my favorite places to meet friends for breakfast or lunch. Not only can you get a great breakfast (my usual is cappuccino and brioche), but you can also buy anything in the shop including plants (hello, gorgeous succulents!), flowers, ceramics, and home decor. It’s a quiet hideaway where I can always steal a relaxing moment in the morning.
10:00AM – Fondazione Prada
This is a photographer’s playground—there are all sorts of light and shadows and a constant glowing throughout the day. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, this former industrial complex has been transformed into a beautiful abstract and experimental exhibition space. Most impressive is the golden tower, with almost 9 pounds of gold leaf applied to the exterior of the building, which (fun fact) cost less than it would have if they’d used marble. For a snack or a coffee, pop into Bar Luce, designed by Wes Anderson with a perfectly quirky 50s pastel feel.
1:00PM – Ceresio 7 Pools & Restaurant
If it’s a sunny, warm day, you must dine here. A bit outside the city center and tucket in a street in Milan’s Chinatown, Ceresio 7 is one of the city’s swankiest rooftop bars and restaurant with a contemporary take on midcentury decor and seriously great food. For lunch I usually have their marinated salmon with blinis and goat cheese along with a Ceresio Cobbler (one of their many trendy cocktails).
2:00PM – Corso Como 10 Bookshop
While Italians don’t walk around with coffee in hand, they have no problem eating sandwiches or gelato on the go. So, take your gelato for a walk to the best art bookstore in Milan, 10 Corso Como. It’s not only a bookshop, but also an art gallery, café, rooftop garden and a designer clothing shop. You can spend hours here just browsing through all the wonderful art books and magazines from all over the world.
2:30PM – Brera District
One of the best ways to discover Milan is to “get lost” and the perfect way to do so is strolling among alleys of the Brera District. The closest thing in Milan to Manhattan’s Soho, there’s lots of shopping, art galleries, a museum, boutiques, and restaurants all set in beautiful colorful buidlings.
3:00PM – Cioccolati Italiani
Of course, you can’t go without a gelato and one is conveniently located in the center of Milan near the Piazza del Duomo. Each time I go to Ciocolati Italiani, I try a new treat and this one, Fruit & Chocolate Gourmet Cone of strawberry and dark chocolate topped with gooey fresh meringue, tastes just like Marshmallow Fluff! Buonissimo!
4:00PM – Villa Necchi Campiglio
To make the most of your afternoon, head to Villa Necchi Campiglio, one of my favorite villas in Milan. It is an architectural oasis in the heart of the city—filled with beautiful collections of art and furniture that transports you to 1930s Italy—that I never tire of photographing. This house was the backdrop for the Tilda Swinton film, “I Am Love.” Originally home to the Necchi family (of the sewing machine empire), they donated the home is still stocked with original furniture, art, and even some fo the family’s accessories and clothing.
6:30 pm: Terrazza Aperol
It’s now the start of Italian Happy Hour (or, as I call it, “Spritz O’Clock”). Some locals start sipping Spritz as early as 11AM, but I prefer to enjoy it at the end of a day. Campari was invented in the 1860s when Gaspare Campari moved to Milan and opened a café to serve his homebrewed liquor and now this drink can be found all over the world. Here in Italy, it’s served in a Spritz during Happy Hour (aka aperitivo) with snacks, mini sandwiches, and chips. Yes, it can be found everywhere, but I prefer to enjoy it on the roof terrace that overlooks the Piazza del Duomo. Cin cin!
8:30PM – Ristorante Raw Vegan Milano
Though I not vegetarian, I’ve become more vegetable-focused since moving to Italy. Especailly after snacking at aperitivo, I prefer a lighter dinner like Mantra. This vegan restaurant has main dishes like the zucchini noodles and filling ravioli as well as snacks like cheesy kale chips and granolas. Everything is fresh, delicious and pretty and the restaurant is alfreson and relaxed, which is a perfect way to end a perfect day in Milan.
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