Milan is a city of startling contrasts between tradition and modernity. It is the core of Italian business and fashion, a city on the cutting edge of new ideas. Yet, its pulsing, innovative heart still preserves extraordinary artistic and cultural gems: the Gothic Cathedral, the Brera Art Gallery , and the famous Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. There’s much to see and if you plan well you can do it all. In this newsletter, we present you with a full day program , from morning till dinner, that includes the very best Milan has to offer. To better understand our directions, please feel free to use the Google Map of the Itinerary Route clicking here.
The Last Supper Mystery
When in Milan your absolute first priority is the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci located in the former refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie Church .
The renowned work, made even more popular with travelers thanks to the Dan Brown’s Da Vinci’s Code , is extremely delicate due to the unusual painting technique chosen by Leonardo. Open only to 25 visitors at a time, the exhibit is often sold out so be sure to secure your tickets by booking them well in advance! Choose the early morning so that afterwards you can make your way downtown to enjoy the vital, bustling city. Or, top off your day with a visit to the Last Supper in the less crowded late afternoon . Getting there is easy. You can reach the Last Supper (300 meters away, stop Conciliazione) from Piazza del Duomo by subway. Or, try the picturesque Tram Line 16 (direction Via Monte Velino) that takes you to and from the heart of the city.
Gothic style from the top of the Cathedral
Next stop is the Duomo Square , dominated by the Cathedral, a recently restored masterpiece of Gothic art. The fourth largest church in Europe, it is rich with amazing spires, pinnacles, buttresses, and terraces. Almost 20 stories high, the spectacular Terraces contain an incredible collection of over 1,800 statues, including that of the Madonnina, the symbol of Milan while offering a stunning view over the city center.
In the Square you will also find the entrance to the alluring Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II , the famed nineteenth century glass vaulted shopping gallery. Brimming with fashionable shops and cafes, it is often called the salotto di Milano or “Milan’s drawing room” for its importance over the years as a common meeting point for the people of Milan. The floor of the mall includes a famous mosaic of Turin’s coat of arms with a bull at its center. Follow the popular ritual of rotating the heel of your right foot three times on the tiled genitals of the bull — it’s said to bring good luck!
Walk all the way through the Galleria and you will come to Piazza della Scala where you will find the Scala Theater , a temple of classical music and a cornerstone of Milanese culture. Book your guided visit to the theater to discover the foyer, the auditorium, the Royal Box, the stage, the orchestra pit – usually inaccessible to the public – and the Museum’s collection of musical instruments.
Back in the Square you’ll find the Royal Palace, former seat of the government, and currently space for art exhibitions, plus the Museum of the 20th Century hosting works by Picasso, Braque, Klee and Kandinsky and above all, the Italians; Modigliani, Boccioni, De Chirico, Morandi, Fontana and Burri among others. If you are in need of refreshment after all the amazing art, visit the Camparino, the world famous Milanese aperitif bar located at the corner of the Square. Or take a walk around the Cathedral to taste a marocchino (a sort of cappuccino) and buy pralines and Panettone, the typical Italian Christmas cake, at the an excellent Taveggia (Via Visconti di Modrone – 2,500 meters from the back of the Cathedral).
Want to see more of Leonardo da Vinci’s work? From the Square it is a short walk to the Ambrosiana Art Gallery, which displays the Codex Atlanticus, the world’s most comprehensive collection of drawings and plans by the master. Take via degli Orefici and Via Cesare Cantù to the Gallery.
You’ll find the Doumo Square an ideal starting point for exploring central Milan on foot. From the Square, take Via Manzoni to the famous Quadrilattero della Moda, the fashion district bordered by Via Manzoni, Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia.
Here, you will find stores featuring famous Italian fashion brands. Visiting the ateliers and window-shopping is an exciting experience, even for non- fashion-addicted. If you are looking for the best, let us guide you with our brand new Milan Luxury Fashion & Design Atelier Tour, a professional service that will take you to outlets where you can shop for brands like Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana . Otherwise, try our classic Milan Outlet Shopping Tour, an equally valuable option for all budgets.
Brera, the bohemian heart
After your fashion tour, take Via Monte di Pietà and then turn right onto Via Brera. Here starts a different Milan, a historic neighborhood with narrow, stone-paved streets where you can lose yourself admiring the discreet luxury of ateliers, great design and antique shops, and historic places where art and philosophy were the main themes. Choose a typical trattoria for lunch (try Risotto alla Milanese and Cassoeula), or make a quick stopover at Caffe Vecchia Brera (Via Dell’Orso 20, specialized in sweet and savory crepes).
Refreshed and ready for more of essential Milan, head for the Brera Art Gallery, the main art museum of the city and one of the most important in the world for its prestigious collections of ancient and modern paintings. Here you will find, among others, masterpieces such as the Dead Christ by Mantegna , the Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio, and Bellini’s Pietà. Your entry is even more convenient if purchased along with tickets for the Leonardo’s Last Supper. If you are tired after a visit to the Brera, we recommend a Wine Tasting to discover Italy’s best regional wines.
Sforza Castle’s gems
From Via Brera, proceed to the junction with via Pontaccio, turn to the left and reach Foro Bonaparte where you will view the massive Sforza Castle. Built in the fifteenth Century by Francesco Sforza over the remains of a fort, it became one of the major military citadels in Europe. Your ticket to the Castle allows you to visit the Art Gallery with a rich collection of paintings with works by Lippi, Mantegna, Correggio, Tiepolo and the last statue by Michelangelo, the Pietà Rondanini . You can also visit the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, the Egyptian Museums, the Ancient Art Museum that includes the Sala delle Asse painted by Leonardo da Vinci , and the Museum of Musical Instruments (one of the largest in Europe). Behind the Castle, you will find the Sempione Park, a classic place for a stroll and people watching.
That’s a lot for one day but now you can say you have truly seen Milan! If it seems like too much to do on your own, please join our Grand Tour of Milan that includes a professional guide and transportation to make your day easier.
Night in Milan
For dinner, discover the Navigli, ancient waterways now the best nightlife destination in Milan with something for everyone. Get there by trolley bus 3 from Piazza Duomo to Porta Ticinese, where the canals begin. The gastronomic offerings are endless. We recommend the Antica Hostaria della Lanterna (Via Mercalli 3) offering homemade cuisine including Gnocchi with gorgonzola and pistachios. On Saturdays (additional days of the week in spring and summer) climb the Branca Tower, the highest point in the city for breathtaking views, the perfect end to an unforgettable day.