OK, let’s face it. No one likes stopovers. If you’re travelling with kids, you hate stopovers. Stopovers generally conjure horrifying images of bleary-eyed travellers dragging their massive suitcases behind them or worse, travellers slumped over cold metal seats at the airport with literally nothing to do. But imagine, what if you could somehow transform this torturous experience into something unforgettable? What if you could turn your layover into a mini travel-adventure?
‘Making the most of stopovers’ is a three-article series where we’ll tell you the best places to stopover and how to truly experience them while flying between UAE and popular destinations like USA and South-East Asia. And now, buckle up for the first part, where we’re stopping over at Milan en route USA!
Here’s how to make the most of your stopover in Milan:
Benvenuti a Milano
An ancient city housing marble buildings with grand arches, pillars, and pinnacles, Milan is the biggest industrial city in Italy. However, the modern day version of this city acts as a magnet for artists, photographers, designers, and models.
Travellers fall in love with the city’s nightlife, its exquisite Italian food, and of course, its fashion shows. On a stop-over of roughly 27 hours in this beautiful destination, here’s what a traveller can do.
Whilst at the Airport
Savour this: you’re in Italy! Take a moment to get your bearings. Milan’s Malpensa Airport offers services like laundry, massages, fast food options, banking, post office, and even a chapel. Find more info regarding these services here.
But you’re not staying at the airport, are you? Because that would be so stupido of you.
Get out of the airport!
The Malpensa Airport is situated just 25 miles from downtown Milan—which means travel is easy and quick. Drop off your excess luggage at the Left Luggage Office at affordable rates (around 3 to 4 Euros per piece per day), and make a beeline for the exit!
To head out, avail the services of taxis (waiting right outside Arrivals), rent a car, or travel via the Malpensa Express, which connects directly to the basement level of the airport. Also, have you considered a Vespa?
Since it’s an overnight transit, checking in is advised, so as to change out of those smelly clothes and to catch a wink or two. Milan can be quite an expensive city to pitch a tent in. While having TripAdvisor at your side is a plus, we recommend the two following pocket-friendly places:
- Ostello Burigozzo 11 is a hostel offering bunks in single sex dorms, with their own showers, along with a communal TV room, laundry, and a large kitchen. Also, it has free Wi-Fi and clean bedsheets, so what more can one ask for? Charges begin from £21 per person, per night. For the hotel options (non-sharing, unless you’re travelling in a group), a single room starts at £50.
- Milan Hostel Colours is another hostel, offering both mixed as well as single sex dorms, a 24h hot water supply, and other basic amenities like a shower and toilet. The hostel is a short distance from the subway station, another plus point. Charges begin from £20 per single bed, per night, inclusive of breakfast. Rooms for a single person start from £40.
Discovering Old Milan
1. Santa Maria Delle Graize: Kickstart your sightseeing journey by checking out the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church has been around since the 1480s, and over the years has seen Dominican monks, Napoleon’s era of suppression, and was even converted into a military warehouse at one point.
The church also houses the mural of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world’s most iconic paintings’ depicting Christ and his disciples at the dramatic moment when Christ reveals that he is aware of his betrayal. However, viewing the painting is hardly possible even with an advanced booking. However, if you can, do book the tickets in advance.
2. Milan Cathedral: Next up, we have the Duomo, also known as the Milan Cathedral, yet another church, but this one cooler than anything you would have ever seen. At a height of 108 metres, and with a capacity of 40,000, this gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. And work is still going on! How crazy is that?
3. Castello Sforzesco: Another must-visit historical site (the list of which never ends whilst in Europe) is Castello Sforzesco or Sforza Castle, with its red-bricked walls, rounded turrets, secret passageways, and expansive courtyards.
Resting inside the castle is one of the city’s most precious artworks—Michelangelo’s Pietà Rondanini, the great sculptor’s final and unfinished sculpture.
Milan is immensely popular for its gastronomical delights. Confused about where to eat? Here are three choices recommended by the locals:
Frida is a place where you are bound to make new friends. A favourite of the locals for their Sunday brunch, the food ranges from delicious pancakes, eggs, homemade cakes, burgers, all accompanied by free coffee. Yes, free coffee. The place itself is a bit of a chore to find hidden behind a graffiti wall in a restored factory, but the inside is pleasantly abuzz with a young crowd of hipsters and students. Cost for two: £30.
Situated in the Navigli district, this sprawling bistro is a café, kitchen, bar, and convenience store all in one, appealing to both the locals as well as the tourists. While the café takes up the front of the restaurant, the back side holds the dining area which has a view of the industrial kitchen—always fun to watch your food being prepared. Step in for some breath-taking coffee, wines, pasta, and omelettes. Cost for two: £60.
Popular for its well-stocked wine bar, the restaurant is very close to the Duomo and is easy on the pockets. The menu features Italian regulars like prosciutto, a variety of pastas, panna cottas and cheesecakes. Cost for two: £60.
For a quick bite, head to Panzerotti Luini, a café existing since 1940, famed for its panzerotti—rounds of dough stuffed with tomato and mozzarella, and then folded and baked or fried. How delicious does that sound?
Want to have dinner on the go? Hop on the ATMosfera, an air-conditioned tram restaurant running from the heart of the city and around the main sights in Milan, like the Sforza Castle, the Duomo, Scala Theatre, and so on. The interiors of the tram are all 20th century, seating up to 24 guests at a time. Unfortunately, this one requires an advance booking, but it is well-worth the effort.
That’s all folks!
..or is it? Did you seriously think we would leave Milan without shopping?
When someone thinks of Milan, they almost immediately think of fashion. But hey, shopping in Milan can’t be very affordable, can it?
Let’s fix that.
- Vicolungo The Style Outlets is located just thirty minutes from Milan, in Novara, and offers designer stores which carry items with up to 70% worth of discounts. Time for a wardrobe make-over!
- For stores like Zara, Footlocker, and Gap, drop by Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, in the Duomo area.
- The Fiera di Senigallia is the city’s best flea market. Expect to find things like old vinyl records, ethnic artefacts, and vintage clothing, all sitting side by side. (Open on Saturdays)
- The last Sunday of every month is booked by the Mercatone del Naviglio Grande, a ginormous antiques market with books, jewellery, furniture, among other things.
- Pay a visit to Viale Fauche on Saturdays for discounted clothes and shoes.
- If you’re visiting in December, Milan’s Christmas Market is a must-visit.
- Apply for a short-stay type C schengen visa well in advance, if you don’t currently hold one.
- On your quest to make the most of your stopover, don’t forget to catch a few z’s. Jet lag is honestly not fun, so try to adjust your body clock so as to not dampen your trip.
- Many heritage sites often require prior booking. Don’t forget to plan it all out.
- Clothing in Milan is often much expensive than its American or Dubai counterparts. Do compare prices in advance.
- Understanding Italian might be an issue, especially whilst in restaurants. A translator on your phone will prove handy. Google Translate all the way!
- The coffee in Milan is a must-try. Don’t fly out otherwise.
- Clear up space on your camera/phone memory card. You will be clicking a gazillion pictures.
So, ditch those direct flights for once! Planning a long journey? Tell us where you’re going, and we’ll come up with a stopover adventure in our next article specially for you.