10 Things to Know When Visiting Milan

by - Monday, January 15, 2018

Location: Piazza del Duomo, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens

Milan. The fifth largest city in Europe. The fashion capital. Known for the glamour, art, football and fashion. It was definitely one on my bucket list of places to visit, and my bags were packed, and with an open mind, I was excited to explore, shop and eat. Oh how I was wrong. I admit, the main attractions were breathtakingly beautiful, the coffee was just perfection, and the food was delicious; but we left feeling a little disheartened. Not because of the city itself, but because we were uneducated, unprepared and to put it bluntly, really crap tourists! So, here are a few things that you need to know, before you visit Milano. 
Location: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens 

1. Pre-Book
The first thing that I've learnt, is to pre-book everything. Although I had researched the places we wanted to visit, and all the things we want to do; we didn't book anything - as we were non the wiser. I really wanted to visit the Milan Cathedral (Piazza del Duomo), but when we had arrived, we were unable to visit the Cathedral (as the tickets were no longer being sold). They did offer us tickets (at 20 Euro each) to visit the terraces, but walking up 300 steps just to stand at the top to take a photo of the view, just isn't for me. 
One thing that is a must see in Milan is the painting of 'The Last Supper' by Leonardo Da Vinci (at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie). Tickets are between 2-8 Euro, but according to reviews, they only allow a maximum of 25 people in at a time, and you're rushed through in the very small 10 minute window you're allowed. We arrived at around 3pm, and considering you're able to visit the painting until 7:30pm, we didn't think it would be a problem arriving so late. Considering there wasn't a queue, nor were there many people about; we were left disappointed, and a little surprised, when we were told that we couldn't visit as they'd had no more tickets. Instead we tried to pre-book for the following day (which was our last full day before leaving) but they're closed on Monday's. Sadly we couldn't book a visit in before we left, and this is definitely something I'm gutted about missing, so make sure you book it well in advance. 
Location: Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milano, Italy | Captured: iPhone 6

2. Passports
Usually, when I go abroad my passport is locked up in a safe place. So we didn't expect we'd need them when exploring. Make sure you keep your passports on you (albeit, safe and secure) as you'll never know when you'll need it. We were planning to visit San Siro Stadium to watch AC Milan play football, as apparently (can you guess I'm not a football fanatic) it's one of the most famous in the world. I was a little scared as I've never been to a football game, but nevertheless a little intrigued. Shortly after our just-short-of-an-hour journey to the stadium, we were turned away as you're unable to buy a ticket without your passport. A little odd I know, as I've never known you needing your passport to go to a football game, but we were in another country, so we weren't to know. 

Location: Giorgio Armani, Montenapoleone, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens 

3. ATM Travel
If you need to travel around Milan, then get yo'self an ATM travel card. The ATM Card works similar to an oyster card, which allows you to travel as little, or as often as you'd like around the centre (and urban areas) of Milan, via bus, metro or tram, for only 11.30 for unlimited travel during 1 week, or you can buy an Urban Travel Ticket at 4.50 Euro for unlimited travel for 24 hours from purchasing. Considering trams are as frequent as 7 minutes from outside the city, to as little as every couple of minutes (depending on where you're going) when in the centre, this is by far the quickest, and easiest way to travel. Whatever your preferred method of travel, avoid taxi's like the plague, as they are ridiculous expensive - a short 10 minute journey from our hotel to Milan Central Station cost us over 20 Euros. 
Location: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens
4. Basic Phrases
I admit, I find it so rude (on my part) when visiting another country, and not being able to speak, or at least attempt to speak the language. At the end of the day, you're visiting their country, so why would you feel the need to speak your native language and assume they can too? I feel so arrogant when asking "Do you speak English?" and although, at times, there are circumstances where you need to ask the question, the least you (and I) could do is learn a few basic phrases. I usually download an app, research general greetings, how to ask for the bill, or ordering food and drink, and even asking whether they can speak English, just when sometimes communication is a little difficult. Surprisingly, the locals are usually a lot more appreciative when you're at least trying to speak the language, and are really helpful in telling you the right pronunciation, if you get it wrong. 

Location: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens
5. Nothing's Free
Nothing is ever free in Milan, or anywhere for that matter. You'll often find people walking the streets of Milan trying to flog you something, from selfie sticks at the Duomo, and fake bags and scarves through the streets near the Galleria Vittoria Emauele II, to people trying to give you a 'gift' for good luck. But let me tell you, it's not free, and we became quickly aware of this when were left in a slightly scary situation. 

We'd arrived at the San Siro Stadium, and from the moment we walked off the metro we were stopped to find men wrapping a handmade cotton bracelet on our wrist. We did say no (many, many times) but they continued to say it was a gift for good luck. And as there were other people accepting these around us, we didn't think anything of it. But then they continued to ask for money as a contribution, so when we politely said we didn't have any change (as we really didn't want to get our money out), they pulled out a wad of notes and change telling us they'll give us change. I doubt it very much. 

Reluctantly, we gave one a couple of euros for them both, but as we didn't give something to them each, the one who put a bracelet on my arm refused to let go until we gave him some more money. I'm not going to lie, I was scared. I had a big bloke holding on to my wrist asking my husband for some money for me, and quite clearly he wasn't planning to let go. So we gave in, and gave the little change that we had in our pocket. But for the rest of the trip, our hands were tightly in our our pockets, and whenever someone approached we just kept saying no, over and over again and tried to avoid unnecessary eye contact. 

Location: Piazza del Duomo, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens
6. Happy Hour
Everyone loves a good happy hour. However, in Italy, it's a more than just cheap drinks. Most bars and coffee shops have happy hour between 5:30pm and 9pm, where you pay a fixed price for a drink (usually about 8 Euros) and you'll get all you can eat buffet-style tapas for free. So, when you don't fancy a full meal but want a light bite to eat, while enjoying a few drinks, then this is perfect for you. A few of the places we found which had delicious cocktails, and also a good range of food was Pandino il Panino (down a side street near Alcott), Terrezza Aperol which is situated on the third floor of the Il Mercato Del Duomo and has a beautiful view of the Duomo, and Ristorante Charleston which is in betweeen the Nespresso boutique, and Max & Co boutique (off a side street to the left of the Galleria).  

Location: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens
7. Portion Control
If you're not usually a big eater, then I'd recommend sharing a dish with someone, as the food portions are HUGE. Pizza and Pastas are ridiculously cheap, where the average dish costs around 10-12 Euros, but the amount of food you get is crazy. We didn't realise the sizes when we both ordered a pizza, and we wasted nearly half of it each, so the next time we ordered one pizza between us, and a portion of fries, and it was just the right amount, although we still left some. If you're after a lighter lunch, then opt for a salad, or tapas dishes, as you'll get just the right amount. 

Location: Louis Vuitton, Montenapoleone, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens
8. Weather 
No matter what time of the year you visit, make sure you pack in preparation of all weathers. I assumed I was being sensible by checking the weather apps, the weather in Milan shown it would be around 16-18 degrees and sunny, perfect I thought. Having only packed a light cotton trench coat, and a pair of converse, little did I know that the temperature would drop rapidly at night, to near freezing, and even during the day, the wind chill factor was a tad too cold for my liking. Thankfully, I was able to pick up a jumper and a scarf from Zara (where one is practically on every corner), but my feet were still frozen as I just didn't plan properly. My husband had to buy a coat and scarf also, so whatever you do, take a coat and some warm socks just in case.

Location: Piazza de Duomo, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens

9. City Tax
Whether you're stopping in a hotel, hostel or stopping in an apartment, there's one thing that you'll need to be prepared for, city tax. This is a tax which the City of Milan apply to all non-city residents, it's used to finance the preservation of the city's artistic heritage, and towards services for tourists. Depending on the type, class and rating your hotel or accommodation has, you'll need to pay between 2-5 Euros per person, per night (capped at 14 nights). This isn't included in the booking costs, and is usually paid for when checking out directly to the venue. Apparently it's in the terms and conditions, but who reads those anyway? Anyway, it's something I'd recommend adding to your budget, even though you'd have thought booking sites would make this a lot clearer considering it's an additional charge. 

Location: Prada, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milano, Italy | Captured: Olympus Pen E-PL7 with 14-42mm Kit Lens
10. Water 
Usually, in the UK when you ask for water on the table, it's usually free. Probably because it's just tap water with ice, but it's still free. So when we were dining in our hotel and we were asked if we'd like water on the table while we were looking at the menu, of course we said yes. Until the bill arrived and we noticed we were charged 5 Euro for each bottle. I know, I know, it's not the most expensive charge, and we did drink it, and were of course prepared to pay for water, but I do think that 5 Euro for a bottle of water is a little ridiculous, no matter where you are. So for most of the trip we were drinking alcoholic drinks, or coffee (which is just delicious in Italy) as it was more reasonable. 

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