This week’s local guide is Tony from Meglio Vivere blog, where he shares his adventures of reindeer herding in Finnish Lapland and saving stray dogs in Moldova. These days he lives in Milan and today he is sharing his top tips with us!
1. So, you live in Milan. Why do you love it so much?
Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with Milan. It is a pretty big city, so here I feel like I can access almost anything that I need. Also, it is quite a happening place, and there is always something going on here. Just last week I was at a Japanese street food festival – which was really cool and free!
On the other hand, I am from the UK, but my family are from the south of Italy (Sicily). The difference between the north and south of Italy is really noticeable here in Milan. For me, the city is all about money, fashion and business, and those aren’t things that I prioritise in my life.
2. Darsena is your favourite neighbourhood. Why is that?
Darsena is a great place to hang out with friends in the warmer months. The word ‘Darsena’ means ‘port’ or something similar. Near Porta Genova, it is an urban river bank along the fake river ‘il Naviglio’, which is basically a canal that was proposed by Leonardo Da Vinci to aid navigation through the city. Before that, Milan didn’t have a river.
Darsena is really ugly and urban, but still, it is nice to sit on the concrete banks in the summer with a beer and some music. There are also some street food markets nearby as well as ethnic food shops. With good company, I think it’s my favourite thing to do in Milan.
3. Where do all the cool kids hang out in Milan?
I have to say that the cool kids hang out at the Naviglio Pavese (Il Naiglio Piccolo). It’s another part of the fake river where it runs along the centre of a long street. On either side of the street, there are lots (hundreds?) of bars and restaurants. You can pretty much find anything there! Chinese restaurants, Indian restaurants, pizzerias, cocktail bars, sports bars, tapas bars…. you name it and it is probably there. I don’t personally go there myself very much, but it is quite a happening place in the evenings.
4. Where could we buy the cheapest food and drinks in Milan?
Milan is a fairly expensive city. I would say that it’s cheaper than London, but not by much. A basic pizza in most places will cost you 6+ euros, which is not too bad, but other things are more expensive. In my opinion, the cheapest place to buy food is from the produce markets, which you can find all over the city every day of the week. Each day they move from place to place, so you have to know where to go on which day to find them. The produce at these markets is fairly cheap because it comes from the south of Italy, where food grows well.
Apart from that, I would say that you can find some fairly cheap bars and places to eat around the Colonne di San Lorenzo. A lot of the places there offer a ‘happy hour’ (aperitivo) which is where, if you buy a drink (with elevated prices), you can help yourself to the buffet of food that they lay on. The food ranges from antipasti (olives, taralli, pickled onions etc.) to slices of pizza and focaccia, as well as cold pasta salads. I think that a small beer costs around 4 euros from most of these places.
5. What is the best thing to do when it’s raining in Milan?
Good question! Thankfully it doesn’t rain here too much. The worst of the wet weather comes in May, and then again in November. There are quite a lot of free museums to check out – including Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ (Il Cenacolo). In fact, the first Sunday of every month is the ‘museum day’ when most of the museums in the city are completely free to enter. My tip: Don’t go to the aquarium in Milan – it sucks. Go to the one in Genoa instead!
6. Are there any unusual attractions/activities you recommend?
There are a couple of interesting things that come to mind. Firstly, there is a blind wine tasting place called ‘La Cieca Enoteca’. If you can guess the grape variety of the wine, you don’t pay. I haven’t done it yet, but I will soon.
The other day I also read about an old tram still in circulation that has been converted into a moving restaurant! That’s fairly cool. It’s called ATMosfera (ATM is the name of the main transport company here).
There’s also a fake beach here, although I guess that this is not so unusual these days. It’s called ‘Mysland’ near the Domodossola metro stop.
7. Where can we learn more about you?
You can read more about me on my blog, www.megliovivere.com where I write about great things to do in Milan. I also describe my adventures including working in – 30-degree temperatures training husky dogs and working as a reindeer herder with the indigenous Sami people in Finnish Lapland.
Thanks for all of your Milan-related tips and advice, Tony! We can also definitely recommend the aperitivo hack for eating cheaply in Italy!