Things I Did Not Hate About Milan

Of all the places I’ve visited in Italy, Milan may be my least favorite. It’s a very generic European big city: expensive, generic and really, really smoggy.

Now if Milan were a city in any other country, I might have liked it more better. Coming off of a two week high in Rome and Bologna though, it just couldn’t stand a chance. Milan was too business-like, too sophisticated, too un-italian to really make much of an impression on me.

I try really hard to see the good in everywhere I go though: I’m an optimist and I think every city has it’s charms if you rummage around enough. Even in a city like Milan which was not my favorite, and not one I’m dying to return to like Bologna, there was still some pretty neat stuff to enjoy.

The Duomo

It may be controversial to say, but I think Milan’s elaborate gothic cathedral blows the Duomo in Florence out of the water. It’s the largest in Italy, took six centuries to build and is full of gorgeous details and towering spires.

Plus, for a small fee you can ascend a giant winding staircase and walk around ON TOP of the church. You can wonder among the stone beams and see the details up close while tourists huddle like ants in the square below. It was one of my favorite activities of the whole trip.

Parco Sempione

Sometimes I forget how much I love wandering around public parks on the weekend and watching the locals enjoy themselves. We accidentally wandered into this enormous green space (which is attached to the medieval Sforza Castle). There was a traveling carnival going on with cotton candy and rides, further afield we found an African drum circle, dogs playing with frisbees and this Napoleonic Arch. Definitely a peaceful way to spend a warm afternoon.

Panzerotti at Luini’s

Our last meal in Italy before we hopped the plane to chilly Germany was panzerotti at Luini’s, a famous shop hidden behind the Cathedral. Panzerotti are a savory pastry stuffed with filling, similar to an empanada or a calzone but with softer dough. You can get them fried or baked, we tried one of each and they were unfathomably delicious with warm cheese spilling out the ends. I’m getting hungry just typing about it.

Actually, we did eat some pretty great meals in Milan, not counting the All-You-Can-Eat-Sushi place I flat out could not resist (I’m only human). Cheap and crisp pizza, softballs of mozzarella and legit pistachio gelato.

Anyways, I would come back to Milan, just for some more Panzerotti.

Have you been to Milan? Am I missing something?

30 Responses to Things I Did Not Hate About Milan

  1. Caroline May 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM #

    It is great to hear someone write something positive about Milan for once, it seems to have gotten a bad rep! (which is not so weird, I am not a big Milan fan myself)

    I loved the Parco Sempione myself, and I also thought that Idroscalo (a man made lake) was pretty neat in it’s own special way.

  2. Thomas Dembie May 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM #

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been to Italy many times and Milan just misses the mark for me. To me it just doesn’t have the same feel as other Italian cities. That said, I had some of my best meals here.

  3. Tom @ Waegook Tom May 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM #

    Milan does have a pretty bad rep, so it’s nice to see that there are at least a handful of worthwhile things to do in the city. Still, if I ever return to Italy, I doubt it’ll be high on my list of priorities unless I have to transfer trains or planes there for some reason! Also I think I might pee myself with fear if I walked on top of the Duomo.

  4. Lindsay May 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM #

    I totally agree about Milan being completely unimpressive, especially when you compare it to cities in Tuscany, the Riviera, the Amalfi coast, Rome, Florence….. BUT, that being said, I will tuck this article away to hit some of your favorite spots there the next time I travel to (or through) Milan! If you’re going somewhere, you may as well try to enjoy it!

    • Grant The Anonymous September 3, 2016 at 8:22 PM #

      The opinion of unimpressive might be true, as for a tourist’s perspective, But the Metropolitan City of Milan, not only the economic miracle of Italy, has more of industrialization and finance tendencies. Italy itself has to be impressed because Milan is the 2nd richest city in the European Union, next to Paris. But other cities or places also have their own beauty, and that’s a big matter to travellers.

  5. Cattail Down May 12, 2013 at 1:51 PM #

    Milan looks awesome and those pictures make me jealous that I haven’t been there yet.


  6. Lindsay May 12, 2013 at 4:19 PM #

    Oh, and I nominated you for three blog awards, because I just love your site!! You can read about and accept them here!

  7. Lindsay May 12, 2013 at 4:57 PM #

    Oops- wrong link to your awards! Here it is!

  8. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown May 12, 2013 at 10:10 PM #

    I haven’t been there, but “Cheap and crisp pizza, softballs of mozzarella and legit pistachio gelato.” just convinced me!

  9. Lance May 12, 2013 at 10:51 PM #

    I lived in Milan for summer a few years ago – finishing my Master’s at sda bocconi. Milan does have a bad rap. And Milan lacks a lot of the hard-core tourist sites of a lot of other cities. But if you get out of the tourist zone, Milan has a LOT going for it. It’s very livable, has a great cultural scene and amazing transportation access.

    • Steph May 13, 2013 at 8:26 AM #

      I definitely could see Milan as a good place to live, just not necessarily awesome to visit.

  10. Chris May 13, 2013 at 1:11 AM #

    Can’t say I’ve read up much on Milan. Glad to see you found some enjoyment in some parts even if you didn’t like the place as a whole. πŸ™‚

  11. Just re-found your blog and I know what you mean. I was in Milan two years ago- and I think you got the highlights right. In one of my blog posts about it I went on and on about the panzerotti πŸ™‚ SO TASTY. Wish I had one right now.

    Going to the top of the Duomo would have been amazing! I was so broke all I did was wander around and gaze up at it longingly, haha.

  12. Belen May 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM #

    Milan is very popular in Spain, so when I visited it it was quite a disapointment to me. I live near, in Turin, and in 4 years I’ve only visited Milan twice for tourist reasons, and to anybody that asks me I recommend Bergamo or Como more than Milan (and Turin of course). But I would love to visit all the things related to Da Vinci, the 2 times I’ve gone I was quite broke and Milan is so so expensive!

  13. Laura May 14, 2013 at 3:01 PM #

    Definitely agree that Milan pales in comparison to every other pace we’ve visited in Italy. One thing we really enjoyed there was “going aperitivo.” Aperitvo is basically an extended happy hour on steroids. It exists in other places in Italy but we haven’t experienced any as extensive as Milan — you can basically order one or two drinks at a bar and have a complete meal of heavy appetiers, salads, etc. for free. Highly recommended!

  14. eemusings May 18, 2013 at 9:40 PM #

    I think we MAY be passing through Milan briefly but admit I have no real desire to see it! Glad to see there are things going for it.

  15. Devin May 22, 2013 at 1:57 PM #

    Nice post. MIlan is most romantic and beautiful tourist place in Italy. I Visited Milan 3 years ago and our trip was really amazing and wonderful. I saw there Castello Sforzesco, Milan Cathedral, Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II, La Scala Theatre, Milanese Cuisine and almost all tourist places of MIlan. We will visit there again this year.

  16. Surya Bhattacharya July 8, 2013 at 11:33 AM #

    Haaaa! I wish I had found this post before moving to Milan 6 months ago!! I expected something like Rome (and Florence, and the few other places I’d been to before) and got the shock of my life! It was pretty unpleasant.
    But you’re right… The Duomo is gorgeous. Everytime I look at it (even now), it makes the decision to study in Milan seem a little more worth it than before.
    Got to try out the Panzerotti though!! Can’t wait πŸ˜€

  17. Ross October 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM #

    I never knew so many people disliked Milan. I thought the place was great from my weekend there. I thought the centre of the city with the Duomo, fort, last supper, parks and layout of the streets was great. It is definitely expensive but you know that before you go. I suppose like any city it has its good and bad sides.

  18. kalimero December 1, 2013 at 6:38 AM #

    I visited a lot of places in Italy, but Milano is definitely my favourite place in this beuatiful country. Nice buildings, excellent nightlife, a lot of historical stories, cosmopolitan spirit… Milano is no.1, forever.

  19. Carol Perehudoff January 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM #

    After avoiding it for years, I totally loved Milan! Everything was so close by I could practically reach out and touch it: the Duomo, Galleria Vittoria Emuanele and the chic shopping area. If I hadn’t dragged my (new) husband – it was our honeymoon – into the suburbs looking vainly for a shop of the designer Elisa Cavaletti, it would have been perfect. Oh, yes – and we couldn’t get in to see the Last Supper. Buy tickets ahead, people. And that time we almost missed our train because I couldn’t get out of the cashmere shop … but still.

  20. Matt March 12, 2014 at 12:03 PM #

    Finally! I completely agree. As someone who studied abroad in Milan and lived in the city for the better part of about 3 1/2 months, I ran out of things to do that weren’t generic big-city activities after about 2 weeks. Not to say I hated living there; quite the opposite. It’s a nice place to live and has plenty to offer. But I declared it probably the least Italian city in Italy. It’s extremely cosmopolitan and has a much more “continental” feel and vibe to it. Lots of different cultures in there, but seeing as it’s right up there near the rest of Europe that isn’t very surprising. Yes, it is very expensive, but if you stay there long enough (like I had the luxury of doing), then you can learn pretty quickly how to live cheap, which I had no choice but to do. If anything, it just made wanting to get out of town and fly off to some other country more enticing. Milan isn’t anything special, but it isn’t really all that bad. I don’t ever recommend anyone touring Italy to go out of their way to stop by, because there really isn’t a whole lot to see besides what you mentioned, but it’s not a bad place by any means. Best kebab outside of NYC, though!

    • Florence October 27, 2014 at 7:28 PM #

      I’m moving to Milan in a few weeks and I’m feeling much more apprehensive than I backscatter reading this post! I’d love any advice you have for me… stuff to do, stuff to avoid, how to live cheaply etc!


  21. July 13, 2014 at 1:33 PM #

    Heheh I agree with one thing. After seeing places like Rome, there’s no chance to say Milan is beautiful!
    BUT I have lived in Milan and I have to say two things! One negative: food is really less good in Milan than in many other italian cities! You may have found some good places and liked it because it’s always “italian food” but there’s no comparison with the typical cuisine of central and south italy πŸ˜‰
    And the second positive: if you put Luini’s panzerotti (that are a typical Apulian food exported to Milan) among the best things of the city, it means you didn’t visit everything! just to mention my two favorite attractions in Milan (after the Duomo of course) the church of St. Satiro and the neighborhood of Brera

  22. DocRavi September 14, 2014 at 4:05 AM #

    Ive been living in Milan for 6 months now and all I have to say is that I hate the place. From my experience I wouldnt recommend this city to anyone unless you are a rich upnosin snob with a fat wallet.

    • Marco November 3, 2016 at 1:57 PM #

      I agree. Milan is the worst place in the universe.

  23. Chiara October 22, 2014 at 8:00 PM #

    I was born in Milano and lived there for my first 21 years.
    I won’t lie saying that’s the best city I’ve ever seen in my Country but it’s definitely the most organized and cosmopolitan as well as being the most “touristcentric”. It’s got amazing food as much as any other Italian city: I would just try to stay away from those restaurants built for tourists, but that’s a rule that applies to any city in the World, I guess.
    Also, if you loved Firenze, Venezia or Roma, you’ll most probably know that Milano is definitely NOT very expensive: see, in Italy, when we have to judge if a city is an expensive one or not, we take gelato’s price as an example, or espresso’s sometimes. If you get a two-scoops gelato in Milano, it will probably cost you between €2.50 and €3.00 (I haven’t been around for two years, not sure 100%) : if you get the same in, lets say, Firenze this would cost you around €3.50-4.50.

    If you visit my city, definitely visit the touristy sights (try to make a booking for The Last Supper!) but also try to get lost in it, because this is the best way to discover it’s treasures. Do not expect a typical Italian stereotype, just don’t expect anything, and let it surprise you.
    And get an aperitivo for me as well, I miss it πŸ™‚


    • Florence October 27, 2014 at 7:30 PM #

      I’m moving to Milan in a few weeks and I’m feeling much more apprehensive than I backscatter reading this post! I’d love any advice you have for me… stuff to do, stuff to avoid, how to live cheaply etc!


  24. Casey July 22, 2015 at 5:23 PM #

    Seriously I lived there for a year I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.. what they have to see there you can see in one day.. there isn’t really much to do there as it is so so expensive.. the Duomo is beautiful but that really is all there is the castle is very ugly .. the people are very cold and dull and business like .. go for a weekend but then move onto somewhere else.. the best city in Italy is Florence

  25. Daniele October 26, 2015 at 2:37 PM #

    Of course Milan didn’t looks like any other italian city. Milan, and Lombardy generally speaking, are not Italy! We speak a completely different language and we have a completely differente lifestyle. We are not italians. The fact that Italy has been trying to suppress our national identy for almost a century, by forcing people from the southernmost part of the peninsula to settle here is another business. Don’t come here expecting to find an italian city, ’cause this is not an italian city at all

Leave a Reply